Editor's note: Please welcome David Cassilo to the team! I'll let him introduce himself in the comments but we're excited to have him onboard.
Only twice since 1973 has a college basketball team repeated as NCAA Tournament champions (Duke 91-92, Florida 06-07). That's raried air. With expected regular roster turnover, and even more now in the one-and-done era, I wanted to look at how many starters each school returned. After all, roster balance is something that coaches can conceivably control (to an extent).
I also looked at the strength of the non-conference schedule. A lot has been made of challenging yourselves early in the season, and since you cannot control your conference schedule, this is an area that may provide some increased experience, which could help a repeat bid.
Finally, I looked at how each team finished the season (i.e. how far they went).
Breaking it down
While prior seasons have little to do with the season ahead, they can show how hard it is to win in the NCAA Tournament. Forget Florida being the only back-to-back champion since 1992. They are also the only reigning champion to even make the Elite Eight since 2000. That means 15 of the last 16 reigning champions have bowed out in the Sweet 16 or earlier.
On the positive side, five of seven reigning champions that have returned at least three starters have made it to the Sweet 16 or further. And as shown, Villanova is challenging itself in the non-conference portion of the season at a respectable rate compared to past champions.
Again, while all this all means very it can set realistic expectations. Given what’s taken place over the last 20 seasons, the Sweet 16 seems like a reasonable goal. But it’s important to also look at this data and realize simply returning talent guarantees nothing. The Wildcats have a chance to make some history, but as we know all too well, the NCAA Tournament can be a crapshoot.