The Division III Men’s Basketball Championship will tip off this weekend in Salem, VA. The participants include the 2011 champs, St. Thomas, the 2013 champs (and requisite NESCAC team) Amherst along with Christopher Newport and Benedictine who combined for exactly one loss this season.
We crunched some numbers from the participants over the last five years and a couple of things stood out. First, the most efficient offensive team (points per 100 possessions) hasn’t won during that span, which doesn’t bode well for St Thomas (119.5) who just edged out unbeaten Benedictine (118.9) in this category. Second, only once in the last five years has the best defensive efficiency team won it all, Wisconsin-Whitewater two years ago.
Next we looked at the difference between the two numbers meaning the average amount by which one of those teams would outscore an opponent over 100 possessions. Only once in the last five years does the worst team in this category win it all, 2011 St Thomas. Otherwise, the first or second best team in this category won it all including each of the last two season. This year Benedictine is second in offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency leading to a group leading difference of 26.2 points per 100 possessions. In fact, that’s the highest difference among all participants over the last five years.
One challenge in Division III is being able to compare conference to conference. Amherst is last in this category but any fan of Division III basketball on the men’s or women’s side will tell you the NESCAC is one of the best conferences in the country which would lead to Amherst playing tougher games on their road to Salem. The same could be said for St Thomas and the MIAC. Nevertheless, from a statistical standpoint, the unbeaten Eagles certainly have the look of a champion.