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NBA Draft vs. NCAA Tournament success


After seeing Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller taken as a pair in the top five of the 2013 NBA Draft last week, it dawned on me… Tom Crean had two top-five players on his team and couldn’t get past the Sweet Sixteen. In two tries. That seemed unusual to me; for a team to have so much individual success but relatively little team success by comparison. So I devised a simple scoring system and plotted the last five years to see just how out of place Indiana was.

Note: this data only counts the final year each draft pick played. So for Juniors and Seniors, it does not total all three- or four-years. Just their final year.

The scoring system I used for the NCAA Tournament is not too dissimilar to how March Madness brackets work:

National Champions = 40 points
Runner-up = 32 points
Final Four = 16 points
Elite Eight = 8 points
Sweet Sixteen = 4 points
Round of 32 = 2 points
Round of 64 = 1 point
NIT appearance = -5 points
No post season = -10 points

As far as the NBA Draft goes, the scoring looks like this:

No. 1 overall pick = 35 points
Picks 2-5 = 25 points
Picks 6-14 = 15 points
Picks 15-23 = 10 points
Picks 24-30 = 5 points
Picks 31-60 = 2 points

Using this scoring system, I calculated which team is best in the NCAA Tournament and has the most success in the NBA Draft. Here’s what I found.


Kentucky, as you probably expect, far and away has the most NBA Draft success versus NCAA Tournament success in the last five years. John Calipari has created a monster and the recruiting sells itself. In total, Cal has churned out 14 NBA players in his short four-year tenure at UK, 12 of who were 1st-rounders.

— 2013 Indiana, 2012 Kentucky, and 2010 Kentucky are the only three teams to have multiple top-five picks. Indiana had the least amount of NCAA Tournament success, failing to advance to the Elite Eight.

— Among the rest of the top of the list are the usual suspects: Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina. All well behind Kentucky, however.

— A total of 30 teams have had multiple draft picks over the last five years, but the distribution across the power six conferences was fairly even. The Big East totaled six teams, the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 each had five teams, the SEC had four, and the Big Ten had three.

— Not counting total score, the Pac-12 has more teams higher ranked. Meaning the Pac-12 was the first conference to total five teams counting down the list. Although strangely, the top-ranking Pac-12 team is No. 12 Arizona, and each conference is already represented, including three each for the Big East and Big 12. Perhaps this hints at the Pac-12 being more balanced.

Kentucky scored more points than any entire conference combined, with the ACC and Big East coming in with a tie at 282 points apiece. In total, Kentucky carried the SEC to a conference total score victory with 328 points.

The conference breakdown looks like this:

SEC = 328 points
ACC = 282 points
Big East = 282 points
Big 12 = 268 points
Big Ten = 115 points

— Only two non-power six conference teams have had multiple NBA Draft picks in the last five years. Nevada, and a John Calipari-led Memphis team.

— Four straight blue-bloods lead off the team rankings, and they are as follows:

1. Kentucky = 292 points
2. Kansas = 152 points
3. North Carolina = 135 points
4. Duke = 92 points
5. Louisville = 90 points
6. Syracuse =  78 points
7. Connecticut = 74 points
8. Texas = 55 points
9. Indiana = 54 points
10. Michigan = 52 points
11. Oklahoma = 39 points
12. Arizona = 37 points
13. Memphis = 31 points
15. Arizona State = 29 points
15. Georgia Tech = 29 points
16. UCLA = 28 points
17. Wake Forest = 21 points
18. West Virginia = 20 points
20. Southern California = 19 points
20. Vanderbilt = 19 points
21. Baylor = 17 points
22. Washington = 15 points
24. Florida = 12 points
24. Pittsburgh = 12 points
25. Purdue = 9 points
26. Marquette = 8 points
27. Nevada = 7 points
30. Florida State = 5 points
30. Georgia = 5 points
30. Missouri = 5 points

I stopped at five years, but I would be willing to dive deeper, going 10, possibly 15 years back to gather more data after I receive some feedback here. Should the scoring system be adjusted, or should I consider more variables? I wanted to keep this simple and easy to understand, and omitted including individual player awards are part of the judging.

All in all, the final results aren’t shocking. But the massive gap between Kentucky and the rest of the pack is. As part of Big Blue Nation, watching young talent come to Lexington, (for the most part) thrive, and then fly off into the NBA is the norm. And it seems Calipari is unquestionably doing it better than the rest. This is the perfect recruiting pitch: Come to UK where you can win a lot of games, and get drafted highly. It’s not a new concept by any means, but this is just another way to showcase that is exactly what is happening.

Next season we’ll be needing to do a recount, and we will watch the gap between Kentucky and the rest of the pack widen even more.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

26 Comments for NBA Draft vs. NCAA Tournament success

  1. Laker Cat 18
    3:08 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    One, that was actually pretty interesting. Two, you have a lot of spare time on your names.

  2. Laker Cat 18
    3:08 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink


  3. tom
    3:09 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    1. amen about time on his hands. My head hurts.

  4. likeitalot
    3:13 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    How bout adding a value for “active NBA player”? +3? NBDL/Europe +1? Out of league -2? Good work. Fun waste of time.

  5. CATS BY 90
    3:13 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    It would be interesting to see you compare these two sides. Compare “NBA Draft pick vs NCAA Tourney ranks” of these top teams.

  6. likeitalot
    3:14 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    And ten years would be cool, if you’ve got the time, which obviously you do.

  7. Musehobo
    3:14 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    Ok, so I could be totally misreading this info here, but I believe your number correlation doesn’t measure what you want it to. For example:

    Player A receives 37 points. This doesn’t determine whether he was the #1 pick who got to the round of 32, or Nat’l runner-up who went 24th-30th in the draft.

    While both of these are pretty good, it doesn’t actually show the correlation between how good the draft pick is and the rate of success. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Working on a different formula.

  8. Smiley Pete
    3:20 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    This isn’t Draft success *vs.* NCAA tournament success at all. It’s more Draft success *plus* NCAA tournament success. I’d be interested to see teams success in the tournament compared to draft sucess

  9. classof68
    3:21 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    You really need to go back to the 1940’s Stuart, to make this study accurate as well as interesting.

  10. Musehobo
    3:21 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    8) Exactly. I’m trying to work on the formula, but it’s hard. The correlations have to be opposites of each other.

  11. Go Cats
    3:23 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    My two-cents: Use NBA pay is to quantify instead of notional point system for NBA draft. By dollarizing this variable, you can get away from the notional system that you originaly presented.

  12. ky colonel
    3:27 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    uhhhhhh……. KSR put a count down clock at the top of the page for start of football season and midnight maddess, that would be better than some of these post for filler.

  13. Right
    3:55 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    This is pretty neat, but there are a few things that Stuart should think about if he plans on developing this measure further.

    Most important is the arbitrary assignment of value to various stages of success (i.e. championship = 40pts etc.). Its arbitrary in the sense that the differences in the values are unclear. What does it mean for UK to be 140 points better than Kansas on the final score? Its really an issue of magnitude.

    Also, the difference between the teams can be greatly reduced by scaling down the arbitrary values assigned to each stage of success. For simplicity, take the natural log of the scores. For example, (UK = 292, converted using the natural log = 2.46), while (Kansas = 152, converted using natural log = 2.18).

    The point is that the difference between the schools on this measure can be greatly reduced by scaling down the measures of success (i.e. the difference in magnitude is much smaller. The result is that what once seemed to be a large difference between UK and the other schools is now much smaller, giving the impression of a much tighter race for college basketball supremacy. However, the substantive result is still essentially useless because the measures themselves are arbitrary. How could you possibly assign meaning to these values when they are so easily manipulated?

  14. luda
    3:57 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    While I like this outcome, it seems you are way overvaluing the NIT and missing the tourney, from a fan perspective (admittedly skewed), going to the NIT is a tragedy, you too closely weigh the difference between the National Champion and going to the NIT (45 point difference) and the first round pick and a late second round NBA pick (33 point difference). the NIT compared to the champion as expressed this year, is the bottom versus the top, (i.e. UK had our worst year in b ball tourney wise while Louisville had their best) but being drafted in the second round is still an enormous achievement, i.e. taking Josh Harrellson and getting him into the NBA…

    I may be off here, but it seems the NBA draft number 1 pick value could go up and NIT value should go down so those differences are greater

  15. Will Jacobs
    4:04 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    How is Ohio State not on the list? A final Four, a Sweet 16, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger should have them at least tied with Texas, right?

  16. Smiley Pete
    4:08 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    10. It’s KSR math, just half-ass it amiright?

  17. Lamont
    4:15 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink


    Please outsource your writing department to India

  18. hoo ha
    4:15 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t know where to begin with this silly post. The way it starts, I was thinking it would be about talented teams that didn’t do well in the tournament, and relatively less-talented teams that did well in the tournament. That actually would’ve been interesting and what the title and opening paragraph about IU implied. But that’s not what was done. You could rather easily do this with a ratio comparing draft picks with tournament success. Then you’d get ‘NBA draft vs. NCAA tournament success.’ Or just replace the ‘vs.’ with ‘plus’ as 8 suggests.

  19. wazzup
    4:18 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    ‘Kentucky, as you probably expect, far and away has the most NBA Draft success versus NCAA Tournament success in the last five years’

    The way this is written suggests it is not something we should be proud of. Makes it sound like we’ve had a lot of high draft picks but comparatively little tournament success. Poorly done.

  20. luda
    4:29 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    #19 it is an interesting thing to look at, in that short 5 year span we have been both att he bottom and the top, 1 NC, 1 FF, 1 EE 2 NIT’s… it is balancing it out…

  21. luda
    4:30 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    We have been DOMINATING the draft, have we been dominating the tourney? I don’t really think so, have we had success yes, but not as much as on draft night, take this past season for example, NIT 2 1st Round picks….

  22. luda
    4:31 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    Name the last time an NIT team had a single draft pick let alone 2, and two in the 1st round one in the top 6…

  23. really?
    4:34 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    This is lame. Take out the draft success and UK looks awful.


    09: -5
    10: 8
    11: 16
    12: 40
    13: -5

    total: 54


    09: 8
    10: 1
    11: 1
    12: 16
    13: 40

    total 66

    Even without the negative points for BCG, UK still looks weak. Worst Post Ever.

  24. Might I suggest a stats class?
    4:40 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    So many problems…
    First, as others have already indicated, you want to correlate your two variables. You are hypothesizing that nba draft success should lead to tournament success. Therefore, there should be a positive correlation btw the two variables.
    While the scales are arbitrary, a correlation will minimize the bias. The scales should be continuous. The tournament scale is (at least as continuous as possible), but the draft scale is not. I suggest using something similar to the nfl draft value chart – it takes into account the relative difference in value between each pick.
    Once you have valued each variable for each team, and regressed the data, the result you are interested in is the RESIDUAL tournament success for each team. Calculate the difference between predicted and actuall success. An efficient team will have a positive residual. My guess is UK will have a small residual, since they got a lot out of a lot of talent.

  25. Ben
    5:04 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    Looks like you have the possibility of doing a simple regression with your data. What is your r-squared? Does NBA Draft success translate to NCAA tournament success? Dive deeper!

  26. oregon cat fan
    5:18 pm July 3, 2013 Permalink

    you said you were looking for feedback. I think you got it – give it up.