Did a quick look at the O and D efficiency stats per KenPom. I think it’s very clear that, generally speaking, you want to be strong in all areas…that’s not exactly news to anybody. However, the old maxim always was that defense wins championships, but in recent years, there have been some teams which challenged that theory, winning with great offenses but middling to bad-ish defenses. Notre Dame in 2015 and Michigan a year earlier both made Elite Eights despite having defenses in the 90ish range nationally. However, the closest I could find to that kind of equation where a team broke through beyond that was 2013 Michigan, which go to the title game with the #1 offense and the #39 defense…but 39 isn’t an abject failure by any means. It’s just not elite.
Which brings us to UCLA 2017. They’ve been a popular choice to make a Final Four run since early in the season, particularly after they rolled into Lexington and shocked Kentucky. They are (at least for now, with the caveat that the rest of the schedule could and likely will shift their ratings a bit) as extreme an outlier as any team I could find since KenPom’s been doing his ratings going back to 02 (at least among perceived contenders, that is). UCLA is not just #1 nationally this season in adjusted offensive efficiency, they are second over the entire 2002- present in that category behind only 2015 Wisconsin. IOW, they are a historically great offensive team. On defense, however, they are currently at #116. No one who’s made a Final Four has been that bad and looking over the last five years, the only team I could find who made an Elite Eight with a defense like that was Notre Dame last season.
They’re likely going to be a very high seed and a popular pick to go deep. Maybe they will. I know I’ll be keeping this in mind, however. Tough to win at the highest levels when you can’t stop other people, even if your own offense is fantastic. Maybe the Bruins’ O is so good that it overrides everything else?