basketball-men-d1 flag

Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | November 6, 2018

College basketball's best defenses this decade

USA Today Sports Images Stephen F. Austin defense Stephen F. Austin has been Division I's best defense this decade.

Sure, a powerhouse offense might be more exciting, but lock your opponents down and you won't need to score 100. Since 2010, which teams are the best at keeping their opponents off the scoreboard?

If we wanted the simplest answer, it’d be Virginia. 

Over the past nine seasons, Division I teams have held their opponents to an average of 72.2 points per game. In that same span, Virginia leads the nation with an average opponent PPG of 56.9, making them the only school in Division I to hold its opponents under 60 points per game over the course of the decade.

But Virginia obviously has an advantage here: as we discovered in a previous article, the Cavaliers are the slowest team in Division I since 2010. No team has played fewer possessions per game this decade. Therefore, no team has given its opponents fewer chances to score.

RELATED: Pace can tell us a lot about a team, but not whether it will win. Here’s why

Now, one could argue that a methodical offense that keeps the ball out of its opponents hands is an extension of a good defense. But we want to know which team is best when actually on the defensive. Who is the best without the ball in their hands?

So, to level the playing field for pace, we’ll turn to a more advanced statistic: Offensive Rating. It’s a pretty complex statistic, but the idea behind it is simple: How many points does a team score per 100 possessions?

So, which teams are the best at minimizing their opponents’ offensive ratings?

That’d be Stephen F. Austin. While the average offensive rating for the opponents of all Division I teams since 2010 is 101.8, the Lumberjacks’ opponents have an ORtg of just 91.62.

Virginia isn’t far behind, coming in at No. 3 in this ranking, with an average opponent ORtg of 92.81. In total, the Cavaliers have allowed just 17,371 points since 2010 — the fewest of any school that has played at least 300 games in that span. A crazier stat? Of the 351 teams we looked at, 12 have only been in Division I for eight years. Nine of those have allowed more points than Virginia has in nine years:

School Seasons Games Total points against Opponent PPG
Virginia 9 305 17,371 56.95
Seattle 8 248 17,398 70.15
Presbyterian 8 249 17,668 70.96
Bryant 8 248 18,556 74.82
Florida Gulf Coast 8 271 18,728 69.11
South Dakota 8 255 18,734 73.47
North Dakota 8 260 18,784 72.25
South Carolina Upstate 8 264 18,834 71.34
Houston Baptist 8 247 18,886 76.46
Central Arkansas 8 241 19,492 80.88

Here’s the full ranking of all 351 Division I teams prior to the 2018-19 season:

Rank School Opp. ORtg Opp. PPG Pace
1 Stephen F. Austin 91.62 61.33 66.33
2 San Diego State 92.27 60.74 65.46
3 Virginia 92.81 56.95 61.03
4 Cincinnati 92.84 60.34 64.33
5 Louisville 93.19 63.48 67.59
6 Wichita State 93.31 61.80 65.87
7 Gonzaga 94.31 64.26 67.96
8 North Carolina Central 94.53 63.39 66.65
9 Ohio State 94.72 62.98 66.21
10 Kentucky 94.87 64.83 67.93
11 Florida 95.49 63.41 65.86
12 Middle Tennessee 95.52 63.95 66.37
13 Kansas 95.69 66.52 68.99
14 Stony Brook 95.91 63.37 65.70
15 Vermont 95.93 62.77 65.08
16 Syracuse 96.10 63.46 65.68
17 Michigan State 96.16 63.93 66.01
18 Harvard 96.26 63.03 64.80
19 Old Dominion 96.27 61.63 63.68
20 Virginia Commonwealth 96.29 66.39 68.22
21 Sam Houston State 96.43 66.49 68.36
22 Arizona 96.76 65.48 67.06
23 Louisiana Tech 96.78 67.99 69.88
24 Coastal Carolina 96.79 66.13 67.77
25 Hampton 96.84 68.71 70.03
26 Wisconsin 96.86 59.88 61.32
27 Saint Louis 96.88 63.58 65.18
28 New Mexico State 97.03 66.69 68.18
29 Clemson 97.08 63.24 64.71
30 Nevada-Las Vegas 97.10 67.96 69.18
31 Purdue 97.17 65.47 66.88
32 Princeton 97.17 62.94 64.16
33 Alabama 97.19 63.86 65.27
33 Wright State 97.19 63.99 65.59
35 Southern Methodist 97.24 61.96 63.56
36 Texas A&M 97.30 64.43 65.51
37 Villanova 97.33 66.34 67.58
38 Florida State 97.34 67.42 68.77
39 Memphis 97.43 67.51 68.77
40 North Carolina 97.51 69.94 71.46
41 Brigham Young 97.53 70.69 71.99
42 Texas 97.58 66.80 67.67
43 Texas-El Paso 97.59 66.00 66.92
44 Eastern Michigan 97.64 65.31 66.34
45 New Hampshire 97.74 64.34 65.17
46 Northern Iowa 97.82 61.37 62.41
47 Saint Peter's 97.86 63.68 64.54
48 Butler 97.92 65.19 65.89
49 Kansas State 97.93 65.90 66.77
50 Duke 98.01 66.95 68.18
51 Valparaiso 98.06 66.17 67.16
52 New Mexico 98.08 66.93 67.69
53 Southern 98.09 67.17 68.12
54 Murray State 98.17 66.64 67.37
55 Texas-Arlington 98.21 70.41 71.14
56 Maryland 98.23 66.94 67.84
57 Georgia State 98.34 65.21 65.49
58 Savannah State 98.38 68.82 69.29
59 Baylor 98.42 65.85 66.41
60 Georgia Tech 98.43 66.15 66.73
61 Saint Mary's (CA) 98.46 63.40 64.07
62 Dayton 98.47 66.02 66.58
63 Connecticut 98.56 65.16 65.41
64 Illinois State 98.58 65.93 66.22
65 West Virginia 98.73 67.27 67.58
66 Jackson State 98.82 66.31 66.44
67 UC-Irvine 98.87 67.24 67.46
68 Grand Canyon 98.92 68.15 68.78
69 Bucknell 98.93 66.51 66.72
70 Alabama-Birmingham 98.94 67.20 67.03
71 Winthrop 98.94 68.03 67.94
72 Akron 99.04 67.07 67.03
73 South Carolina 99.10 67.65 67.83
74 Miami (FL) 99.12 64.55 64.54
75 Boise State 99.14 67.99 67.88
76 Tulsa 99.22 67.13 67.00
77 Wagner 99.23 67.84 67.97
78 Florida Gulf Coast 99.24 69.11 69.08
79 Georgetown 99.42 66.83 66.42
80 Wyoming 99.44 66.92 66.33
81 Green Bay 99.46 69.31 68.92
82 Fairfield 99.48 67.54 67.22
83 Utah Valley 99.51 68.52 68.18
84 Tennessee 99.67 66.71 66.53
85 Belmont 99.71 69.32 69.27
85 Utah 99.71 66.27 66.07
87 Rhode Island 99.76 67.38 66.93
88 Yale 99.77 66.61 66.42
89 Texas State 99.77 69.36 68.86
90 Xavier 99.81 68.54 67.79
91 University of California 99.82 67.86 67.44
92 Oklahoma State 99.82 68.62 67.88
93 Robert Morris 99.86 67.75 67.56
93 Southern California 99.86 68.23 67.30
95 NJIT 99.87 69.86 69.29
95 Prairie View 99.87 70.18 69.58
97 Seattle 99.88 70.15 69.80
98 Illinois 99.90 67.14 66.58
99 Montana 99.93 66.14 65.32
100 Seton Hall 99.93 68.90 68.22
101 Oregon 99.97 69.23 68.64
102 Temple 100.03 66.98 66.37
103 Louisiana 100.07 71.67 70.88
104 College of Charleston 100.12 66.19 65.48
105 Georgia 100.13 66.28 65.31
106 Fresno State 100.14 67.68 66.56
107 Cal State Bakersfield 100.16 67.52 67.03
108 Ohio 100.19 69.71 68.91
109 Stanford 100.20 68.45 67.87
110 Vanderbilt 100.21 66.75 66.11
111 Indiana State 100.22 67.97 66.81
112 Michigan 100.24 63.94 63.13
112 North Dakota State 100.24 66.68 66.03
114 Western Illinois 100.27 65.41 64.87
115 Wofford 100.28 65.60 64.83
116 Buffalo 100.33 70.29 69.51
117 Arkansas 100.33 71.72 70.74
118 East Tennessee State 100.37 69.58 68.92
119 Morehead State 100.44 68.70 67.90
120 Nebraska 100.46 66.03 65.23
121 North Carolina-Asheville 100.48 71.37 70.30
122 George Washington 100.50 67.04 66.44
123 Loyola (IL) 100.51 64.62 63.92
124 Mississippi State 100.52 68.69 67.89
125 UCF 100.56 66.66 65.89
125 Hawaii 100.56 70.19 69.33
125 Weber State 100.56 68.18 67.13
128 Lehigh 100.57 69.52 68.47
129 St. Francis (NY) 100.61 68.76 67.76
130 Albany (NY) 100.62 65.22 64.42
131 Utah State 100.63 65.65 64.89
132 Kent State 100.63 68.42 67.27
133 Evansville 100.67 67.74 66.64
134 Manhattan 100.69 68.97 67.67
135 Missouri 100.72 69.10 68.27
136 Southern Mississippi 100.74 66.48 65.47
137 Mercer 100.76 66.76 65.40
138 Bowling Green State 100.81 68.28 67.04
139 Texas Southern 100.81 69.47 67.99
140 Minnesota 100.86 67.84 66.59
141 Arkansas State 100.89 69.43 67.93
142 UCLA 100.90 70.38 69.03
143 Gardner-Webb 100.96 70.21 68.54
144 UC-Riverside 100.97 67.81 66.49
145 Alabama State 100.98 69.66 68.27
146 Navy 101.07 66.62 65.43
146 UC-Santa Barbara 101.07 66.84 65.58
148 Boston University 101.08 67.94 66.71
148 Richmond 101.08 67.10 65.62
150 Iowa State 101.19 71.45 70.08
151 Army 101.22 70.95 69.26
152 Marquette 101.24 69.51 67.92
153 Pittsburgh 101.24 65.05 63.53
154 Mississippi 101.27 71.12 69.48
155 Indiana 101.28 68.91 67.63
156 Morgan State 101.28 70.35 68.74
156 Southeastern Louisiana 101.28 69.43 68.01
158 Norfolk State 101.30 70.74 69.21
159 Western Kentucky 101.32 69.35 67.84
160 Colorado 101.34 69.56 67.99
161 Cleveland State 101.36 67.03 65.92
162 Little Rock 101.37 68.21 66.47
163 Ball State 101.42 68.32 66.30
164 St. John's (NY) 101.49 70.48 68.87
165 North Texas 101.50 71.11 69.37
166 Monmouth 101.51 71.18 69.33
167 Massachusetts 101.60 72.37 70.62
168 Creighton 101.62 68.86 67.58
169 South Alabama 101.64 70.68 68.66
170 Charleston Southern 101.74 70.66 68.66
171 George Mason 101.74 68.99 67.03
172 Columbia 101.77 66.83 65.26
172 Iowa 101.77 69.72 67.91
174 Oklahoma 101.82 71.34 69.40
175 Drexel 101.88 66.81 64.74
175 Virginia Tech 101.88 68.96 66.89
177 Chattanooga 101.92 70.92 68.91
178 Southern Illinois 101.93 67.08 65.30
179 Liberty 101.94 67.67 65.99
179 Mount St. Mary's 101.94 69.05 66.97
181 Washington 101.96 72.74 70.88
182 Missouri State 101.96 66.26 64.33
183 Tennessee State 101.99 69.55 67.39
184 Northern Illinois 102.00 68.65 66.67
184 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 102.00 68.57 66.90
186 Houston 102.04 69.70 67.47
187 Louisiana State 102.04 71.07 68.92
188 Bradley 102.06 67.41 65.71
189 Lamar 102.08 72.81 71.18
190 Arizona State 102.10 69.53 67.43
191 Radford 102.11 69.51 67.31
192 St. Bonaventure 102.17 69.81 67.59
193 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 102.18 69.30 67.31
194 Saint Joseph's 102.23 69.32 67.24
195 New Orleans 102.27 72.46 70.41
196 Rider 102.29 71.00 68.84
197 North Dakota 102.30 72.25 69.83
198 Tulane 102.31 68.49 66.29
199 Providence 102.32 70.62 68.34
200 Davidson 102.34 69.89 67.78
201 Georgia Southern 102.40 70.71 68.37
202 Oregon State 102.41 69.59 67.37
203 Penn State 102.41 67.40 65.34
204 Iona 102.48 73.31 70.64
205 South Dakota State 102.56 70.19 68.01
206 Western Michigan 102.57 69.65 67.29
207 Furman 102.58 67.83 66.00
208 Colorado State 102.60 69.32 67.01
209 Long Beach State 102.61 71.68 69.18
210 Marshall 102.63 74.34 71.67
211 Quinnipiac 102.70 71.97 69.17
212 Auburn 102.74 72.02 69.44
213 Loyola (MD) 102.77 68.49 65.97
214 Northwestern 102.77 65.70 63.33
215 Texas Tech 102.79 69.63 67.13
216 American 102.83 64.58 62.30
217 Milwaukee 102.90 69.21 66.54
218 Notre Dame 102.94 67.09 64.31
219 Rutgers 102.98 69.45 66.98
220 San Diego 102.99 67.54 65.23
221 Denver 102.99 64.39 61.97
221 Elon 102.99 72.08 69.19
223 High Point 103.00 69.83 67.02
224 Nevada 103.01 71.15 68.26
224 San Francisco 103.01 70.71 68.06
224 Western Carolina 103.01 71.55 68.88
227 Texas Christian 103.03 69.69 67.10
228 La Salle 103.08 70.85 67.87
229 Siena 103.10 70.82 67.92
230 Pennsylvania 103.10 69.16 66.49
231 Jacksonville State 103.11 67.80 65.34
232 Florida Atlantic 103.11 69.95 67.14
233 Hartford 103.13 68.84 65.89
234 East Carolina 103.13 69.62 67.07
235 Alcorn State 103.17 72.34 69.97
235 Tennessee Tech 103.17 72.13 69.31
237 Bethune-Cookman 103.19 69.23 66.48
238 Northeastern 103.23 67.70 64.67
239 Alabama A&M 103.41 70.75 67.93
240 Howard 103.44 70.34 67.26
241 Northern Kentucky 103.47 69.51 66.78
242 Eastern Illinois 103.48 68.23 65.32
243 James Madison 103.50 69.22 66.33
244 Holy Cross 103.52 67.13 64.28
245 South Florida 103.52 67.25 64.44
246 North Carolina State 103.53 70.60 67.94
247 Fort Wayne 103.56 72.14 69.29
248 Dartmouth 103.56 68.15 65.54
249 Cal State Fullerton 103.58 72.23 69.04
250 Abilene Christian 103.62 71.68 68.58
251 UC-Davis 103.64 70.65 67.27
252 Campbell 103.68 70.04 67.02
253 Florida International 103.68 70.98 67.58
254 Eastern Kentucky 103.72 69.59 66.66
255 Illinois-Chicago 103.79 71.11 68.06
256 Miami (OH) 103.87 68.82 65.48
257 Louisiana-Monroe 103.88 68.73 65.71
258 North Carolina-Greensboro 103.89 72.40 69.34
259 Jacksonville 103.91 72.73 69.34
260 North Carolina A&T 104.00 71.69 68.34
261 Charlotte 104.04 73.57 69.72
262 Duquesne 104.14 73.15 69.57
263 Brown 104.18 72.09 68.60
264 Incarnate Word 104.18 75.62 72.00
265 Texas-San Antonio 104.19 72.11 68.79
266 Detroit Mercy 104.20 74.39 70.86
267 Idaho 104.26 70.06 66.57
268 Cal Poly 104.30 66.91 63.42
269 South Dakota 104.33 73.47 69.93
270 Air Force 104.40 68.15 64.67
270 Rice 104.40 71.26 67.60
272 Long Island University 104.40 74.91 71.03
273 Appalachian State 104.43 72.59 69.06
274 Pacific 104.47 68.07 64.67
275 Hofstra 104.56 71.41 67.76
276 North Carolina-Wilmington 104.72 72.03 68.09
277 Toledo 104.73 70.84 67.06
278 South Carolina Upstate 104.74 71.34 67.93
279 Lipscomb 104.74 76.74 72.40
280 Florida A&M 104.80 73.95 69.71
281 Maine 104.82 73.56 69.54
282 Delaware State 104.84 68.43 64.19
282 Oral Roberts 104.84 71.38 67.56
284 Canisius 104.97 71.88 67.82
285 Cornell 105.09 71.72 67.77
286 Houston Baptist 105.10 76.46 72.20
287 Towson 105.11 69.96 65.97
288 Central Michigan 105.13 71.65 67.34
289 Troy 105.13 72.30 68.06
290 Wake Forest 105.16 73.60 69.59
291 Northwestern State 105.36 78.73 74.29
292 Central Connecticut State 105.41 71.96 67.49
293 Santa Clara 105.46 69.97 65.92
294 Sacred Heart 105.50 74.27 69.54
295 Binghamton 105.53 69.26 65.31
296 McNeese State 105.53 73.14 68.74
296 Nicholls State 105.53 73.53 68.90
298 Texas-Rio Grande Valley 105.57 73.80 69.24
299 Washington State 105.58 71.10 66.80
300 Portland 105.72 71.69 67.13
301 Drake 105.74 70.31 65.87
302 Northern Colorado 105.76 72.10 67.79
303 Oakland 105.87 75.66 70.99
304 Fordham 105.93 72.62 68.24
304 North Florida 105.93 73.95 69.31
306 Austin Peay 105.93 74.61 69.62
307 Sacramento State 105.97 70.42 66.02
308 Northern Arizona 105.99 72.60 67.76
308 Southeast Missouri State 105.99 73.63 68.91
310 Cal State Northridge 106.00 74.90 70.02
311 San Jose State 106.02 72.86 68.00
312 Loyola Marymount 106.02 72.67 68.00
313 Youngstown State 106.08 75.31 69.86
314 Grambling 106.08 73.01 68.49
315 Missouri-Kansas City 106.13 72.94 68.26
316 Boston College 106.21 70.75 66.09
317 Niagara 106.22 74.93 69.83
318 Mississippi Valley State 106.29 76.59 71.37
319 Colgate 106.31 70.43 65.50
320 SIU Edwardsville 106.34 73.73 68.78
321 Eastern Washington 106.34 74.13 68.99
322 Montana State 106.51 73.25 67.79
323 Coppin State 106.57 75.34 69.77
324 Saint Francis (PA) 106.63 71.36 66.44
325 William & Mary 106.66 70.90 65.86
326 Delaware 106.72 71.76 66.49
327 VMI 106.86 80.85 75.18
328 IUPUI 106.89 72.43 67.08
329 South Carolina State 106.96 73.83 68.44
330 DePaul 107.16 74.23 68.71
331 Pepperdine 107.20 71.89 66.42
332 Maryland-Baltimore County 107.29 74.08 68.22
333 Tennessee-Martin 107.30 74.11 68.49
334 Maryland-Eastern Shore 107.43 73.04 67.42
335 Massachusetts-Lowell 107.46 75.78 69.68
336 Chicago State 107.52 76.47 70.41
337 Portland State 107.56 75.98 69.90
338 Samford 107.60 71.71 65.74
339 Fairleigh Dickinson 107.64 75.02 69.13
340 Omaha 108.07 80.68 73.98
341 Marist 108.11 73.98 67.80
342 Stetson 108.21 76.13 69.71
343 Lafayette 108.54 73.69 67.33
344 Idaho State 108.78 72.78 66.22
345 Southern Utah 108.96 75.90 68.96
346 Presbyterian 109.24 70.96 64.64
347 Kennesaw State 109.24 74.60 67.77
348 Central Arkansas 109.43 80.88 73.20
349 Bryant 109.48 74.82 67.65
350 Citadel 109.64 77.17 69.54
351 Longwood 110.39 78.85 71.27

MORE: A bracket geek's take-it-to-the-bank 2019 March Madness predictions