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Daniel Wilco | | March 30, 2018

Villanova is the Final Four team that most resembles past NCAA champions

Dunking our way to the Final Four

After looking at 10 years worth of Final Four stats, one thing stands out about this year's teams: Villanova looks the most like a championship squad.

The Wildcats have the best winning percentage, best RPI, most wins against the Top 50 RPI, and second-best strength of schedule of the field.

Let's take a closer look at the history of what separates champions from the pack.

Here’s what the average team that makes it to the Final Four looks like, compared to the average national champion:

  Record W% SOS RPI Vs. 1-50 RPI W% v. 1-50 Vs. 51-100 W% vs. 51-100 W% vs. 101-200 W% vs. 201+
ALL 27-6 81.75% 28 13.3 7-4 64.49% 7-1 83.33% 93.05% 99.1%
CHAMPS 28-5 84.43% 21.3 6.9 9-4 68.75% 6-1 86.3% 96.89% 100%

Of course, there are outliers. Syracuse in 2016 (as a 10 seed) owns the worst regular-season record for a Final Four team in 10 years, as the Orange entered the tournament 19-13. That team also had the worst RPI of a Final Four team (72) before Loyola Chicago (127). Syracuse also holds the distinction as the only team to make the Final Four with a losing record (3-4) against teams ranked 51-100 in RPI.

In 2013, Wichita State made the Final Four with a strength of schedule at 95, the worst in the 10 years.

In 2011, 11-seed VCU reached the semifinals with a 3-9 record against the top 50 RPI.

All three of those teams lost in the Final Four.

So, how does this year's field stack up?

Villanova's road to the Final Four

Here’s a look at each:

Team Record W% SOS RPI Vs. 1-50 RPI W% v. 1-50 Vs. 51-100 W% vs. 51-100 W% vs. 101-200 W% vs. 201+
Villanova 30-4 88.24% 10 2 13-3 81.25% 4-1 80% 100% 100%
Kansas 27-7 79.41% 2 5 11-2 84.62% 10-5 66.67% 100% 100%
Michigan 27-7 79.41% 55 12 5-4 55.56% 5-2 71.43% 90.91% 100%
Loyola Chicago 27-5 84.38% 127 28 1-1 50% 6-0 100% 82.35% 100%

Not only are Nova's stats better than its competitors this year, the Wildcats' line surpasses the average champion in almost every category.

They even have more wins against the top 50 RPI than any champion in the past 10 years — a good sign of how well prepared Villanova is for tough competition. Only Connecticut in 2011 played more games against the Top 50 RPI than the Wildcats did this year (20 compared to 16). That Huskies team went on to win the championship, by the way.

Unsurprisingly, Loyola’s stats are much worse than the other three. Virtually every one falls behind the average Final Four team over the past 10 years. In fact, a handful of the Ramblers’ numbers are historically worrying.

If it beat Michigan, Loyola would become the first team in the past 10 years to make the championship game with a strength of schedule higher than 80 (the Ramblers’ is 127), fewer than three wins against the Top 50 RPI (they have just one, against Florida in December), and more than three losses against RPI 101+ (Loyola has four).

Loyola Chicago's road to the Final Four

Still, when we compared Loyola to the previous three 11 seeds who made the Final Four (and all lost in the semifinal game), the numbers looked good for the Ramblers, relatively speaking of course.

But predicting Final Four success is always a shot in the dark. There have been multiple champions in the past 10 years with worse stats than the average Final Four team. Will the Ramblers add their name to that list?

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