One generally overlooked college basketball statistic is points per possession (PPP), but this season has shown this figure to be a very good predictive tool.
We will look at offensive PPP this week and then defensive PPP next week, to see if the correlations between offense and records against the spread and between defense and ATS records are similar.
Well, looking at the offensive correlations, the returns are certainly encouraging! The top 10 PPP teams in the country right now have a collective ATS record of 95-63-5, 60.1 percent. As great as that record has been, an even better approach has been to play against the bottom 10 PPP teams, as those schools are a collective 53-94-5 ATS for a scintillating fade percentage of 63.9 percent!
Here are the top 10 and bottom 10 PPP teams through games of January 30. For comparison purposes, please note that the national average for all teams is 1.011 PPP.
NCAA TOP 10 Offensive Points per Possession
1 FLORIDA (1.190)
Here is a surprise right off the bat, as the unranked Gators who had to replace their whole starting lineup from last season have been the most offensively efficient team in the country. Because they have flown (or should we say chomped) under the radar, they have a sparkling 9-3, 75 percent ATS mark. Now, the Gators are playing at a much more moderate pace than in past years, ranking 125th in the country with 67.6 possessions per game. Still, they have obviously gotten more out of those possessions than any other team.
2 NORTH CAROLINA (1.180)
This one may or may not be less of a surprise, depending on your perspective. On the one hand, the Tar Heels are the highest scoring team in the country, so they were a virtual certainty to show up on this list somewhere. On the other hand, they play at a high pace with 77.2 possessions per game (seventh in the nation), which some would believe would lower the PPP, with their high point totals being more a result of many more possessions than higher efficiency. The fact that the Heels are able to combine both those factors is a big reason why they are 13-4 ATS despite their high profile.
3 XAVIER (1.178)
Granted, the Musketeers have four losses this season, but that can be directly attributed to playing the 25th toughest schedule in the country, as all four losses have come to RPI Top 100 teams. This is a very underrated team right now, as Xavier actually has the ninth best efficiency rating in the country (offensive PPP defensive PPP), something that will be explored in greater detail next week.
4 KANSAS (1.176)
The Jayhawks finally lost a game this week, but as this season goes on, it will become apparent that losing on the road to Kansas State is no big deal as the Wildcats will be a dangerous team in March. As for these Jayhawks, they are one of only two teams that is currently in the top 10 in both offensive PPP and defensive PPP (Duke is the other), so their 10-6-2, 62.5 percent ATS mark is certainly no fluke.
5 TEXAS (1.169)
The Longhorns have been rather inconsistent on the court, and they are the only offensive top 10 PPP team that is under .500 ATS at 7-8. In their defense however, Texas has played the 22nd toughest schedule in the country, and they may have been a tad overvalued to this point. Despite all this, they have still managed to go 16-4 including wins over UCLA and Tennessee, so we certainly feel that their PPP is a legitimate rating.
6 GEORGETOWN (1.155)
Now people do not think of the defensive-oriented, hard-nosed Hoyas as scoring machines, and with good reason. After all, their PPP is obviously enhanced by the fact that they only average 62.0 possessions per game, which ranks 318th in the nation! Still, the key here is that they do not waste those opportunities more often than not, and they do not turn the ball over often. In that regard, this high PPP combined with their staunch defense should make the Hoyas major players in March.
7 UCLA (1.151)
The Bruins might be considered Georgetown West stylistically, as they rank 257th with 65.4 possessions per game. However, they somewhat surprisingly rank higher than the Hoyas defensively in PPP, which helps explain how UCLA has managed an excellent 12-6, 66.7 percent ATS mark despite being ranked number one at the beginning of the year and hardly being a low-profile team.
8 WASHINGTON STATE (1.148)
Speaking of defense-first teams with deliberate offenses, the Cougars have averaged the fewest possessions of any team in the PPP top 10 with 59.5, which ranks 333rd in the land. This is a very well-coached team that simply does not make mistakes, which makes their high PPP understandable. Still, their 9-8-1 ATS record is a bit disappointing, and the Cougars appear to be going in the wrong direction, going 1-4 ATS in the last five games.
9 OLE MISS (1.146)
Ole Miss has been a surprise this season, and they have maintained this high PPP while playing a fast pace, ranking 26th with 72.9 possessions per game. While their offense has been very efficient, the Rebels are just 7-7-1 ATS, mainly due to the fact that their defensive PPP has not been up to snuff. This looks like the type of team that can score on anyone when they have to, but that should have trouble vs. other teams that possess potent offenses.
10 DUKE (1.140)
The Blues Devils are the second team to rank in top 10 in both offensive and defensive PPP, and the direct result has been a top three ranking for much of the season and a sparkling 11-5-1 ATS record despite being the most popular team in the college world among bettors. What makes Duke different this season than in past years is a newfound running game that has resulted in 73.9 possessions per game, 16th most in the country.
NCAA BOTTOM 10 Offensive Points per Possession
332 PENNSYLVANIA (0.909)
What makes the Quakers low PPP even more disconcerting is the fact that they have actually played at a reasonable pace, ranking 42nd in possessions with 71.8 per game. If this team was just half-decent in efficiency, they would be a lot better than 2-8-2 ATS at this point.
333 BALL STATE (0.904)
The Cardinals own a disastrous combination of a low PPP with a slow pace, ranking 317th with a paltry 62.1 possessions per game. Thus, the fact that they average only 56.6 points per game makes perfect sense. Then, when you throw in a poor defensive PPP, you are left with a team that is 3-16 straight up and 7-10 ATS.
334 PRINCETON (0.900)
The Ivy League looks to be a conference specializing in offensive ineptness, with Princeton joining Penn in the bottom 10. The Tigers are similar to Ball State in that they have been inefficient while playing a deliberate pace and their defense has been just as inefficient. The end result has been a 3-6-1 ATS mark.
335 LOUISIANA TECH (0.897)
Somewhat surprisingly, the Bulldogs have managed to go 7-7 ATS. Still, this is a bad basketball team that is 3-15 straight up while getting outscored by over 12 points per game. Judging by their results, it is probably best to fade Louisiana Tech when they are single-digit underdogs.
336 TOLEDO (0.895)
The Rockets have actually been competitive at home, where they are 6-1 and averaging 65.9 point per game, but their offensive inefficiencies have been much more obvious on the road. Toledo is 0-12 SU and 4-8 ATS away from home while averaging a measly 55.7 points per contest.
337 DREXEL (0.893)
The Dragons are suffering through a transition year, so their low PPP is not really that much of a surprise. Drexel is 9-13 straight up, but they have been burning money to the tune of a terrible 5-13-1 ATS ledger. Their defensive PPP is actually in the top 100 in the country, but that has not been enough to make the Dragons a good investment.
338 CANISIUS (0.880)
This is another team that plays at a slow pace, ranking 205th with 66.6 possessions per game. Thus, few possessions and a poor PPP have resulted in an anemic 58.4 points per game. The Golden Griffins have been golden fades on the road, where they are winless both SU (0-11) and ATS (0-7-1).
339 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (0.870)
The Lions play at a more frenzied pace, ranking 60h with 71.0 possessions per game, but they have failed to take advantage with their poor PPP, meaning they have had far too many wasted trips. They are now 3-17 SU and 3-13 ATS overall, and this is another team that has been atrocious on the road, going 2-10 SU and 1-9 ATS. It has not helped that the Lions play no defense either.
340 UC RIVERSIDE (0.862)
The Highlanders are the only bottom 10 PPP team that has managed to go over .500 ATS at 8-7. That is just about the only good news, as Riverside is 3-15 SU while getting outscored by a whopping 17.6 points per game.
341 RICE (0.789)
Rice is the least efficient team in the country, and the fact that the Owls have gotten 70.5 possessions per game has helped disguise that fact a bit. Still, the PPP number does not lie, so it is no coincidence that Rice is 3-16 SU, and their 7-10 ATS mark is certainly nothing to brag about.
The LT Profits Group are based out of NYC and have had their selections and opinions documented on the internet for over a decade. Specialists in college sports, they also have set records in all pro leagues over the last 10 years for profits earned.