Breaking down all the numbers that counted for UConn's run to the title
The 2014 national championship was not a good one for the numbers people.
A No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed reached the national championship game, a development that in some ways rendered the regular season moot. UConn also didn’t fit the statistical profile of a team to win the national championship, falling short of efficiency ratings that have been the trademark of every national champion for more than a decade.
This was even a loss for the numbers kept for the NCAA. Only a year after a postseason ban due to poor academic numbers, UConn was on college basketball’s biggest stage — and the Huskies’ best player made sure we took note of the NCAA’s questionable way of tracking academic performance.
We’re still going to look at all the key numbers anyway, the figures that proved this was one of the most unlikely national championship runs in NCAA history.
No. 7. UConn’s seeding on Selection Sunday, lowest to win a title since 1985.
Kentucky would have matched No. 8-seed Villanova’s title in 1985, the first year the field expanded for 1985. Still, UConn is the first team seeded this low to win a championship since Rollie Massimino’s team upset Georgetown 29 years ago.
No. 18. UConn’s rank in the final AP poll of the regular season.
While NCAA Tournament seeding aims to reflect the body of work for a season, the AP poll tends to reward recent performance and momentum. The Huskies ranked 18th in the final AP poll prior to the Tournament, marking the lowest rank for an eventual champion since Danny Manning and an unranked Kansas team won the title in 1988. UConn is the first team outside of the top 10 to win a title since 2003 Syracuse.
21.2. Points per game in the NCAA Tournament for Shabazz Napier.
How close did Napier come to matching his point guard predecessor, Kemba Walker? Pretty darn close. Napier scored 22 points in the championship game to raise his average to 21.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament, 2.3 less than Walker during his championship run in 2011. The raw numbers were lower for Napier, but the 2014 Most Outstanding Player was a more efficient guard during his run to the title.
|Kemba vs. Shabazz|
|Kemba Walker, 2011||Shabazz Napier, 2014|
|23.5||Points per game||21.2|
|6.0||Rebounds per game||5.5|
|5.7||Assists per game||4.5|
|1.5||Steals per game||2.5|
|43-of-107 (40.2 percent)||Field goal shooting||38-of-82 (46.3 percent)|
|32-of-69 (46.9 percent)||2-point field goals||18-of-39 (46.2 percent)|
|11-of-38 (28.9 percent)||3-point field goals||20-of-43 (46.5 percent)|
|44-of-49 (90 percent)||Free throw rate||31-of-33 (94 percent)|
|45.3 percent||Effective field goal rate||58.5 percent|
|54.8 percent||True shooting percentage||65.8 percent|
7-0. Kentucky’s edge in McDonald’s All-Americans over UConn on Monday.
The Huskies became the first team since 2002 Maryland and only the second since 1979 to win a national title without a McDonald’s All-American. Granted, UConn has a McDonald’s All-American on the roster in Rodney Purvis, who sat out the season after a transfer from NC State.
3. Players with two national titles from UConn.
This isn’t exactly 2006-07 Florida when every key player returned to win back-to-back titles, but the list of players with two titles in the 64-team era is a short one. Shabazz Napier was an up-and-coming freshman on UConn’s 2011 title team. Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander were seldom used in 2011, but became valuable role players in 2014.
31 points. Margin of defeat for UConn against Louisville on March 8.
The Huskies became a No. 7 seed in part because of an 81-48 loss to Louisville on March 8. Before UConn, no eventual national champion lost a game by 30 points during the regular season. Only seven national champions endured a 20-point loss during the season, according to Patrick Stevens of d1scourse.com.
For those wondering, the full list of national champs who lost by 20+ (which will probably take three tweets) ...— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) April 8, 2014
2014 UConn (lost 81-48 to Louisville) | 1965 UCLA (lost 110-83 to Illinois) | 1993 North Carolina (lost 88-62 to Wake Forest) ...— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) April 8, 2014
1985 Villanova (lost 85-62 to Pittsburgh) | 1975 UCLA (lost 103-81 to Washington) | 1991 Duke (lost 96-74 to North Carolina) ...— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) April 8, 2014
2002 Maryland (lost 99-78 to Duke). Seven champions total with a 20-point loss to their name prior to the NCAA tournament.— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) April 8, 2014
0-2. Record for the NCAA champion against the NIT runner up.
Perhaps this is yet another sign UConn’s title is a shock or a sign that Selection Sunday snub SMU should have been in the field. Either way, NIT runner-up SMU twice defeated UConn during the regular season. The Mustangs defeated the Huskies by nine points in each game at home and on the road.
39. UConn’s rank in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings on offense.
If the seeding, the record against SMU and the Louisville rout weren’t enough to make UConn an unlikely national champion, UConn bucked the trend in advanced statistics, too. Every national champion since 2003 ranked in the top 20 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency. At least until UConn. UConn ranked only 39th nationally in offensive efficiency on KenPom, making the Huskies the least-balanced national champion in at least 11 years.
8-of-25. UConn’s performance from the field in the second half against Kentucky.
Perhaps this speaks to UConn’s defense, the Huskies’ hot start in the first half (50 percent from the field) or Kentucky’s free throw shooting. In any event, UConn shot 32 percent from the field in the second half, including 5-of-16 from 2-point range and still won.
62.5. Free throw shooting rate by John Calipari teams in national title games.
John Calipari has led three teams at two programs to the national championship game, and two included subpar performances from the free throw line. On Monday, Kentucky went 13-of-24 from the line, reminiscent of Memphis’ 12-of-19 performance, including 1-of-5 in the final 1:15, that allowed Kansas to force overtime for the 2008 title. Calipari’s 2012 Kentucky team went 15-of-21 from the line in the championship game against Kansas.
97.5. Free throw shooting rate by Kentucky’s opponents in the Final Four.
Kentucky’s failures at the free throw line were only magnified by their opponents’ success. The Wildcats didn’t foul late against UConn as the Huskies went 10-of-10 from the line. Two days earlier, Wisconsin went 19-of-20 from the line and still lost to Kentucky.
87.8. UConn’s free throw shooting rate in the NCAA Tournament.
Not to belabor the point on free throws, but the Huskies missed only 14 free throws in the entire NCAA Tournament, going 101-of-115 from the line. By the time UConn got to the Final Four, Florida and Kentucky knew better than to send UConn to the line. The Huskies attempted at least 20 free throws in each of their first four games of the Tournament before attempting 23 total in the Final Four.
5. Freshman starters for Kentucky.
That number didn’t surprise anyone, but it’s a notable mark for the Wildcats. Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young and Dakari Johnson became the first all-freshman starting five in the title game since Michigan did it in 1991.
2. Coaches in their first or second season to win a national title.
UConn’s Kevin Ollie joined Michigan’s Steve Fisher in 1989 as the only two coaches to win a national title in only their first or second year as a head coach. Fisher, now at San Diego State, won his title when he replaced Bill Frieder in 1989. Frieder had accepted the Arizona State coaching job after the 1989 season but was fired by athletic director Bo Schembechler. Frieder's replacement Fisher went on to win the national championship.
889. UConn’s four-year Academic Progress Rate as of 2011.
Napier’s mention of the postseason ban probably wasn’t the image the NCAA wanted in the afterglow of a national championship. UConn is a year removed from NCAA sanctions due to poor performance in the Academic Progress Rate, which the NCAA uses to measure athletes’ progress toward earning a degree. UConn dipped below the required four-year score of 900 from 2007-08 through 2010-11 and missed the 2012-13 Big East and NCAA tournaments.