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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles

Previewing the upcoming basketball game against a school that used to call itself the University of Dixie, which is kind of a large place to have just one school representing it don't you think?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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

So, how’d last game go?

Not especially well. The Tide hung tough with Xavier over the first 10 minutes of the game, tying up the Musketeers at 12 all with about 11 minutes remaining in the half. Xavier responded with a 7-0 run to build a lead they would never relinquish. Ricky Tarrant led all scorers with 23, but the Tide couldn’t handle the distributed Musketeer attack which saw six players score in double figures. For a more in-depth, qualitative review of the game, check out btbama22’s excellent game recap.

Introducing the Four Factors

As I alluded to in a Charting the Tide from a week or so ago, there’s a school of thought out there that performance in sport can be broken down into a handful of core skills or abilities specific to that sport, known as Factors, that are more or less all you need to know to understand performance. The most famous example are the Four Factors of Basketball, a concept developed by Dean Oliver several years ago. I’m going to start providing those in this section of PTN Basketball, as they really clue you in to how the game was won. I updated the Primer to discuss these — I recommend you check out that section here. As a quick reference, the Four Factor stats are Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), Turnover Rate (TO%), Offensive Rebounding Rate (OR%), and Free Throw Rate (FTR). These factors can be combined into a single performance index which I’m calling Win Index. To wit:

The Four Factors
eFG% 62.3% 67%
TO% 22.5% 17.8%
OR% 21.4% 38.5%
FTR 45.3% 67.9%
Win Index 46 54

Xavier swept all 4 factors, leading to their fairly healthy edge in Win Index. Of particularly note was the 22% edge in FTR, which Xavier achieved by getting to the line for 36 freebies to the Tide’s 24. The Tide actually shot from the stripe at a better clip (75% vs. 72.2%), but the resultant 8 point differential was the lion’s share of the Musketeer’s 13 point victory margin.

Wait, aren’t you supposed to be previewing something, nerd?

Right! Next up: the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, who will meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in Coleman Coliseum at 8 PM CST / 9 PM EST on December 13th. The game will be "televised" on SEC Network Plus, which is a fancy name for

The Goods

Overall Quality
RPI 0.6344 (22) RPI 0.4247 (274) ALABAMA
PYTH 0.7452 (69) PYTH 0.2910 (276) ALABAMA
Luck 0.043 (120) Luck 0.059 (96) TENN TECH

Efficiency Ratings
OE+ 106.6 (47) DE+ 104.6 (292) ALABAMA
DE+ 97.1 (109) OE+ 96.8 (241) ALABAMA
T+ 70.4 (37) T+ 69 (65) ALABAMA

Schedule Ratings
Sched. PYTH 0.5509 (139) Sched. PYTH 0.3579 (324) ALABAMA
Opp. OE+ 102.9 (47) Opp. OE+ 97.1 (314) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 101.1 (277) Opp. DE+ 102.1 (317) ALABAMA
NCS PYTH 0.5509 (148) NCS PYTH 0.3579 (324) ALABAMA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of 11 December 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.

Adjusted Efficiencies: For more about adjust efficiency numbers, check out check out this section of the PTN Basketball Primer.

  • 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

Four Factors — See what these are all about in this section of the primer.

  • eFG%: The Effective Field Goal Percentage, the shooting metric for the Four Factors.
  • TO%: The Turnover Rate, the ball security metric for the Four Factors.
  • OR%: The Offensive Rebounding Rate, the offensive rebounding metric for the Four Factors.
  • FTR: The Free Throw Rate, the drawing fouls metric for the Four Factors.

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?

Whooo boy, this is going to be a drubbing. The Eagles have played one of the worst schedules in all of Division I, and they’ve managed to lose three of those games to boot. The crazy thing is they’ve actually outperformed expectation against that schedule, as the lone metric they have the edge on is Luck rating.

RPI’s cooled a bit on the Tide after the Xavier game, but still has them among the 25 best programs in Division I. That’s probably a bit lofty — their 69th best PYTH rating seems more reasonable at this stage of the game. The Tide have a healthy edge in both of these metrics over their opponent, as well as in offensive and defensive efficiencies and adjusted tempo, where Alabama is now rated as the 37th fastest-playing team in the country. The win probability for ‘Bama in this one is 92.8%, which is a slam dunk2 for the Tide.


THE PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide , and it’s not going to be close.