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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Iowa State Cyclones

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Kicking off this season's preview action with a strong team from a conference that used to play football!

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

RPI information courtesy of
All other statistics are courtesy of, Ken Pomeroy’s outstanding basketball analytics site.

Wait, what?

In case you missed it, Processing the Numbers will continue into basketball season. You were probably tailgating when the Primer went up.

So, how’d last game go?

The first ten minutes were the Levi Randolph show. The senior guard hit his first six shots on the way to grabbing 18 of the Tide’s first 29 points all by himself, including three free throws in a row after being fouled on a three point attempt. Randolph went pretty quiet after that, ceding the show to newcomers Ricky Tarrant and Justin Coleman, as well as junior Shannon Hale. Tarrant, the Tulane transfer, had a fantastic game tallying 18 points on 75% shooting off the bench. Southern Miss survived the early onslaught to keep it within 8 points at the half, but this game was never really in doubt — the Tide led the whole way to a 81-67 victory, their third straight game scoring over 80 points.

For a more detailed review of the game, check out Roger_RBR's game recap.

The Goods

Overall Quality
RPI 0.6822 (32) RPI 0.3780 (271) ALABAMA
PYTH 0.7647 (59) PYTH 0.8403 (27) IOWA STATE
Luck 0.079 (74) Luck 0.023 (116) ALABAMA
Spread +6 Spread -6 IOWA STATE

Efficiency Ratings
OE+ 104.3 (52) DE+ 94.0 (62) ALABAMA
DE+ 94.1 (68) OE+ 108.6 (10) IOWA STATE
T+ 68.2 (128) T+ 71.2 (35) IOWA STATE

Schedule Ratings
Sched. PYTH 0.3121 (284) Sched. PYTH 0.3920 (240) IOWA STATE
Opp. OE+ 95.6 (275) Opp. OE+ 100.9 (109) IOWA STATE
Opp. DE+ 102.4 (286) Opp. DE+ 104.8 (324) ALABAMA
NCS PYTH 0.3121 (284) NCS PYTH 0.3920 (240) IOWA STATE

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of 23 November 2014.

Wondering what all these terms are?

  • RPI: The Ratings Percentage Index, a measure of team strength based on winning percentage, the winning percentage of a team’s opponents, and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents. For a more detailed excoriation discussion of RPI, check out this section of the PTN Basketball Primer.
  • PYTH: The Pythagorean Rating, a measure of a team’s expected winning percentage against an average D-I team, which is based on the concept of Pythagorean Expectation. For a more detailed discussion of PYTH ratings, check out this section of the PTN Basketball Primer.
  • Luck: A measure of how a team’s actual performance has outstripped that of its expected performance based on PYTH rating.
  • OE+: Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, a measure of a team’s offensive performance on a possession-by-possession basis, adjusted to provide the expected performance against an average D-I team. Expressed in points scored per 100 possessions.
  • DE+: Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, a measure of a team’s defensive performance on a possession-by-possession basis, adjusted to provide the expected performance against an average D-I team. Expressed in points allowed per 100 possessions.
  • T+: Adjusted Tempo, a measure of a team’s expected pace against a team that wants to play at an average D-I pace. Expressed as possessions per game.
  • Sched. PYTH: The Schedule PYTH Rating, a PYTH rating based on the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies of a team’s opponents, used as a strength-of-schedule rating.
  • NCS PYTH: The Non-Conference Schedule PYTH Rating, simply the schedule PYTH calculated for non-conference opponents only.
  • Opp. OE+: Opponents’ Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, the average adjusted offensive efficiency of a team’s opponents.
  • Opp. DE+: Opponents’ Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, the average adjusted defensive efficiency of a team’s opponents

Wondering what all of this means? Check out the PTN Basketball primer!

The Disclaimer

For the first several weeks of the season, these metrics are based partially on preseason projection factors, namely recent program performance, the effects of roster attrition, the impact of Top 100 recruits, and sweet, sweet voodoo1.

As the season progresses, data from games played will be factored in, with a progressively lighter emphasis on the preseason ratings. Starting around the middle of January (usually the start of conference play), preseason ratings will be removed and the metrics will be based purely on this season’s games.

1 | This last one's not true.

So, what do we know?

Boy, RPI sure loves the Tide, where Alabama currently rates out 32nd in the country. KenPom’s PYTH rating is a little less enthusiastic, pegging ‘Bama at 59th overall. Iowa State’s situation is in reverse, as RPI has them at a shockingly-low 271st, despite two wins over RPI top 100 teams, versus a more reasonable 27th in PYTH2. The Tide’s outperformed expectations a bit this year, but not much more so than the Cyclones have.

2 | These kinds of disparities are why I have both stats up.

The Tide’s early offensive success against the slightly better defensive slate gives them the edge on that side of the court, whereas Iowa State’s 10th-ranked offense is really going to stretch Alabama’s typically stout defense. The Cyclones like to go fast, so look for Iowa State to dictate the pace in this one.

As noted earlier, Iowa State got a much tougher pair of games in the early rounds of the CBE HOF Classic than the Tide did, and that’s reflected pretty clearly in the schedule numbers. The Tide’s opponents were a little more stout on defense as noted, but Iowa State has played much more potent offensive squads.

The impact of preseason projections at this point in the season cannot be understated, as Alabama was done for the season after last year’s SEC tournament3, while the Cyclones gave eventual national champion UConn all they could handle in the Sweet Sixteen. In that same vein, the impact of transfers such as Ricky Tarrant is not accounted for, and he’s been a big part of the Tide’s last two wins. Still, all signs point to an Iowa State victory in this one, as the PYTH ratings say they’ve got a 62% chance of winning on a neutral court4.

3 | From the Tournament to the NIT to nothing! Headin' in the right direction folks!

4 | Did I mention you can do that with these? If not, you can totally do that with these.

Wait, what? You always pick Alabama! And where’s Ron?

And that, my friends, is the difference between Tide football and Tide basketball. If this were a gridiron contest, there’d be no question. But here we’re on the hardwood, and that changes everything. The Tide will win a lot of games this season, but not every game.

As for Ron, I’m not sure whether or not he’ll be here for basketball. I can find images for 15 football games, but 30ish basketball games? Ehhhh. I’ll think about it.

THE PICK: Iowa State Cyclones, but look for the Tide to make a good showing.