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Stat Watch: Who deserves No. 1 between Michigan and Virginia?

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The Cavaliers are 15-0, while the Wolverines are 17-0. Which team is better when looking at the numbers?

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Out of 353 Division 1 teams, only Michigan and Virginia remain undefeated on the season.

The Wolverines (17-0) and the Cavaliers (15-0) both expect challenges this week. The former travels to the Kohl Center Saturday for a tilt with Wisconsin. The latter gets a one-two punch: first today against No. 7 Virginia Tech and then Saturday at top-ranked Duke.

With the Blue Devils dropping Monday’s overtime decision to Syracuse, the path to No. 1 is open for both programs. Who deserves it more based on the numbers*?

*All stats are from Ken Pomeroy. The team rankings reflect his calculations, as well.

No. 6 Michigan (17-0)

  • 1.14 points per possession (No. 20 efficiency offense)
  • 54 percent effective field goal offense (No. 54)
  • .878 points allowed per possession (No. 3 efficiency defense)
  • 44.1 percent effective field goal defense (No. 13)

Outside of the raw numbers, the Wolverines also sport a 4-0 record against the Kenpom top-50, as well as an 8-0 mark versus the top-100.

Against the top-100, the average margin of victory is by 16 points. This includes a 27-point rout at No. 21 Villanova and a 17-point cruising past No. 10 UNC.

No. 1 Virginia (15-0)

  • 1.18 points per possession (No. 6 efficiency offense)
  • 55.1 percent effective field goal offense (No. 33)
  • .851 points allowed per possession (No. 2 efficiency defense)
  • 41.2 effective field goal defense (No. 2)

Like the Wolverines, the Cavaliers share a 4-0 record against the nation’s top-50. They have two less wins overall, reflected in their 6-0 mark versus the top-100.

Tony Bennett’s team beats the top-100 by an average of just 10 points a contest — six points less than John Beilein and company.

Virginia’s top-ranking per Kenpom is bolstered by absolute domination of the dregs of the schedule. Outside the top-100, the Cavaliers obliterate the competition to the tune of 31 points a night.

Michigan, by the same metric, bests its lesser foes by 17.8 points a game.

Conclusion

On paper, Tony Bennett’s club scores, shoots and defends better than John Beilein’s. The nation may still snicker at Virginia after the infamous loss to UMBC in the NCAA Tournament, but analytics still love the Cavs.

Your side in the debate for the No. 1 ranking depends on your perspective. Should Michigan be punished for a month of working out kinks against WMU, Air Force and Binghamton?

Do you downgrade Virginia for merely edging out its top opposition, while the Wolverines defenestrated theirs like Longshanks in Braveheart?

The copout answer is to wait for this week’s results. Even if Michigan triumphs for the second straight year in Madison, it’d be hard to deny the Wahoos the pole position if they dispatched two top-10 teams in a week.

Fall to either the Hokies or Blue Devils, though, and expect Michigan to earn its first No. 1 ranking since 2013.