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What the stats say about Baylor’s chances in March

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Baylor vs Gonzaga IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

With all the game previews and bracket prognostications going around this week, I wanted to take a step back and look at the big picture for the 2023 Baylor Men’s basketball team. How does our offense rank in the recent history of the tournament? What about our defense? Is there anyone else quite like us?

Let’s start with the data. I’m using KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings from 2002 to 2023. As a reminder, efficiency ratings are adjusted for strength of schedule and tempo. Not only are the KenPom ratings considered the gold standard in college basketball analytics, they offer simple measures for comparing hundreds of schools all at once.

First, some good news. Baylor’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating is 121.85, which means the Bears are expected to score almost 122 points in a 100-possession game against an average opponent. Since 2002, only 33 teams entered the tournament with an offensive rating this high (including Baylor’s 125.0 in 2021).

121.8 is good enough to win a championship; in fact, 14 of the last 20 champions had a lower offensive efficiency rating. Don’t get too excited, though. March Madness has its name for a reason, and 40% of teams with an offensive efficiency rating this high didn’t even make it out of the first weekend.

As good as Baylor is on offense, they leave much to be desired on defense. Their defensive efficiency rating is a mediocre 101.88, which means Baylor is expected to give up 102 points in a 100-possession game against an average opponent. Since 2002, only 171 teams have played in the tournament with a worse defensive efficiency rating.

No team with a defensive rating as poor as 102 has made the Final Four in the last twenty tournaments. Of the aforementioned 171 teams, 91% lost in the first round, and only 5 made it to the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight.

Is our offense strong enough to carry our defense into the second weekend? Only one team, Oklahoma State in 2017, had an offense as efficient as ours and a defense as bad as ours; they lost in the first round against Michigan, 91 to 92.

Color denotes tournament depth. Baylor’s 2023 ratings denoted by dashed lines.

Baylor has shown they can beat almost any team in the country, even with their lackluster defense. If there’s anyone that can push the frontier and make a deep run with a high-powered offense leading the way, it’s your 2023 Baylor Bears.