Historically, it takes three stars to make a Final Four run. For purposes of this article, I will define stars as players who will be drafted by the NBA after the season in question, or the following season.
This is the best predictor of which teams will make a deep NCAA run that I have found. When going through all Division I teams from the 2000-01 season to last year, there have been 46 teams with three or more future NBA draft choices and almost half of them – 46% - have made the Final Four. By contrast there have been 91 teams with just two future NBA draftees, and only 3 of them (3%) have made the Final Four. Texas and Kansas in – gulp – 2003, and LSU in 2006.
Granted, teams with MORE THAN 3 stars have been almost a sure lock for the Final Four, but even teams with exactly 3 future draftees have made the Elite Eight 48% of the time and the Final Four 35% of the time. The following is the breakdown:
|Drafted players||Total Teams||Elite 8||%Elite 8||Final Four||% Final Four||NCAA Champions|
|4+||15||13||87%||10||67%||Du 01, Md 02, Fl 06-07, Ka 08|
|3||31||15||48%||11||35%||UCon 04, NC 05|
So the question now is, does Marquette belong in the “3” row, with an even shot at the Elite 8 and a better than 1-in-3 shot at the Final Four, or in the “2” row where an Elite 8 is a longshot?
With Jerel McNeal knocking on the door of the 1st round at No. 32 in the latest nbadraft.net mock draft, and Wes Matthews closing fast at No. 50, Marquette clearly has two stars ready for the big dance. The variable here is Lazar Hayward, who has been in and out of the 2010 mock draft at nbadraft.net. I believe the NCAA run hinges on whether or not MU gets the ball to Lazar and he plays at that NBA-draftee level down the stretch.
If Lazar is NBA draftee No. 3, then we belong in this group:
This wouldn't be the list I'd draw up of the 10 teams most likely to make the Elite 8, but based on the strong correlation between draftees and the NCAA bracket, you may want to put a couple of these down for extra upset wins.
If not, and it’s just Wes and Jerel, then we belong in this group.
Certainly Oklahoma and other one-draftee teams can remember Syracuse’s 2003 run behind Carmelo Anthony as the only time a team with fewer than 2 NBA draftees made it all the way, but the odds are against them.
I’m looking forward to Lazar playing like the true superstar that he is for this big run.