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Washington Post: Statistically, Purdue Is The Championship Favorite

A closeup of Purdue basketball player Isaac Haas

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 10: Isaac Haas #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers walks off the court after the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Breslin Center on February 10, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Purdue basketball is extremely balanced this year, and Washington Post writer Patrick Stevens likes the Boilermakers as a title favorite.

Ken Pomeroy's college basketball ratings measure teams' offensive and defensive efficiency. They are also useful when predicting national championship contenders. Purdue basketball fans should love that fact right now.

As of today, only one college basketball team is in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency. Stevens thinks that it should be considered the national title favorite right now.

Purdue is No. 2 overall in Pomeroy's rankings. The Boilermakers are a very balanced squad.

KenPom has Purdue is No. 4 in adjusted offense and No. 3 in adjusted defense. Villanova, the nation's top offense, is ranked No. 1 in KenPom overall.

However, the Wildcats' defense is down at No. 26, still probably good enough to capture a title, but not an elite unit. 'Nova gave up 101 points in its sole loss on the year at Butler, and some other teams have put up big totals against Jay Wright's team.

Purdue plays at a slightly slower tempo than Villanova. However, they have no surrendered more than 78 points this season, and that was in an overtime loss to Tennessee.

Stevens wrote about Purdue today for the Washington Post. The Boilermakers fit a profile that also includes national champions like 2008 Kansas, 2010 Duke, and 2016 Villanova.

All three of those teams won the national championship, which is the sort of thing certain to boost a ranking that includes NCAA tournament performance. For example, Villanova was 15th in adjusted offensive efficiency and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency heading into the 2016 postseason. It finished third in offense and fifth in defense.

The point of this brief history lesson is to take note of a team that’s already in the top five in both categories a week or so past the midpoint of the regular season (No. 4 offense, No. 3 defense). That would be Purdue, which hasn’t lost since Thanksgiving and has won 10 of its last 11 games by double-digit margins.

Balance and efficiency don't make Purdue invincible, but it does help prevent dud performances during the year. That checks out; so far Purdue's only losses came by three and four points, in back to back games against Tennessee and Western Kentucky back in November.

The Boilermakers might not prove to be the best team in the country, though they have developed into Painter’s best bunch despite the departure of Caleb Swanigan after last season. At the very least, Purdue’s combination of balance and strength at both ends of the floor suggests it will take an exceptional performance for anyone to get the better of it in the postseason. The Boilermakers aren’t unbeatable, but they’re highly unlikely to produce a dud, either.

Only two other programs in the country rank in the top 20 on offense and defense. Michigan State is 9th on offense and 10th on defense, and North Carolina is 17th and 18th, respectively.

Stevens, and the KenPom numbers, aren't alone in their Purdue basketball praise. Andy Katz recently wrote that he believes the Boilermakers will make a run to the Final Four.

[Washington Post]