There’s no surefire way to tell how deep a team will make it in the NCAA tournament, but we tried. Experience matters in March, so we looked at the teams who made it to the Elite Eight last season to see what they have returning in terms of on-court production.
Obviously all of these teams are adding new players (freshmen, transfers, or redshirts) whose impact won’t show up in this analysis. But it gives us a good look at what these eight teams can count on as they look to repeat their Elite Eight run this year.
So what did we find out?
Kansas State is coming back strong. Really strong. In total, we looked at 18 different statistics. Kansas State ranked first in every single one. Last year, the Wildcats were a 9 seed and lost to 11-seed Loyola 78-62 in the Elite Eight. But Kansas State is the only one of these eight teams to return every single starter and all six of their top scorers.
Duke is the opposite. Of course, the Blue Devils have an amazingly talented group of freshmen this year, but the team that made it to the Elite Eight last year is almost all gone. Duke returns just 22.1 percent of its minutes from last year, and the players left on their roster started a combined eight games (out of a total 185 possible starts). Obviously, their score sheets will look a lot different this season, too. The average percentage of returning points for the other seven teams was 53.3. Duke is bringing back just 13.8 percent. Their entire returning roster combined for an average of just 11.7 points per game last year. All of this fits a trend for the Blue Devils. Of the eight teams, Duke had an average rank of 7.89 in the 18 categories, coming in dead last in all but blocks (of which they ranked No. 6).
Last year’s champion, Villanova, ranked No. 7 overall. The Wildcats will need some elite scorers to emerge this season, as they return just 29.5 percent of their points scored last year. Losing Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo will do that to you.
The 2018 Cinderella — Loyola — comes in as the No. 3 team in returning production, behind Kansas State and Florida State. The Ramblers were the only one of those three to advance to the Final Four. No one will be sleeping on Loyola this year, but the team that made the most improbable run of the 2018 tournament will be mostly intact this season. That’s scary.
Here’s where each team stands in some of the most important stats: