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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Stillman Tigers, Appalachian State Mountaineers

Previewing a local punching bag and yet another school nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, alongside a sobering review of the Wichita State debacle

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

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

So, how’d last game go?

There’s a technical term we like to use for a game like that, and it’s called a "gut punch." The Tide were not blown off the floor in this one, not even close. In fact, The Tide hung with the Shockers throughout the first 35 minutes of the game, taking a one point lead into halftime and building an 11 point margin with just six minutes to go. Pretty safe lead, right?

Well, it would have been if the Tide did not completely implode in the following six minutes. Wichita State turned up the intensity on the full-court press, neutering a few Tide possessions before they started. Those extra possessions got converted into points for the Shockers through drawn fouls, offensive rebounds, and some effective shooting, whereas the Tide were unable to do any of those things well over the last six minutes. If those terms sound familiar it’s because they are the Four Factors to winning basketball games, and the Tide did not do well at any of them down the stretch. There were some curious officiating calls and coaching decisions at the least (plus some attempted hero-ball by Levi Randolph), but at the end of the day you have to play well to win against a team like the Shockers and the Tide simply did not finish the job. Shannon Hale took his turn leading the team in scoring, tying with Randolph at 13 points for the game. Darius Carter and Ron Baker were too much in this one however, leading the Shockers to a 53-52 escape of a victory. For a more in-depth, qualitative review of the game, check out btbama22’s somber game recap.

The Four Factors

The Four Factors
Metric ALABAMA WICHITA ST.
eFG% 52.3% 45.9%
TO% 20.5% 18.2%
OR% 23.1% 35.3%
FTR 27.9% 34.7%
Win Index 41 43

In case you were on the fence regarding the legitimacy of these factors, I offer you the above. The Tide ended up outshooting the Shockers for the game, and shooting is the most important of the four factors. Wichita St. picked up the other three however, and the margins were such that they had a slight two-point edge in Win Index. Those last six minutes were rather eventful, as the Tide had a stunning 16% edge in eFG% and a slight edge in turnover rate, alongside more competitive splits in OR% and FTR, after a Hale jumper put the Tide up 51-40 with 5:54 remaining. The Win Index margin at that point? 45-40 in favor of the Tide. Then all those Tide turnovers and Wichita State offensive boards and foul shots happened, and the end result is what you see here. Just a real hearbreaker.

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

Right! Next up: The Alabama Crimson Tide will head back to Coleman Coliseum to take on the mighty Stillman Tigers on December 19th at 7 PM EST / 6 PM CST. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Stillman is a Division II school located in the faraway exotic locale of West Tuscaloosa. This is basically a glorified scrimmage, and if the Tide don’t win they should fire Anthony Grant on the spot and give up basketball entirely. If schadenfreude1 is something you enjoy, you can watch this evisceration on SEC Network Plus, which is a fancy name for WatchESPN.com. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

1 | German for "reveling in the misery of others." As both Crimson Tide fans and RBR regulars, you should be quite comfortable with this concept.

Instead, we’re going to preview the next game in this piece, which will be when the Appalachian State Mountaineers head to Coleman on December 21st to play the Tide at 6:30 PM EST / 5:30 PM CST. This one will be for-real televised on SEC Network, but will also be available on WatchESPN.com if you’re in to that sort of thing.

The Goods

Overall Quality
ALABAMA APPALACHIAN ST. The Edge
RPI 0.6278 (21) RPI 0.4655 (217) ALABAMA
PYTH 0.7708 (55) PYTH 0.2123 (306) ALABAMA
Luck -0.022 (228) Luck 0.131 (31) APPALACHIAN ST.

Efficiency Ratings
ALABAMA APPALACHIAN ST. The Edge
OE+ 106.8 (46) DE+ 103.6 (269) ALABAMA
DE+ 96.1 (84) OE+ 92.4 (314) ALABAMA
T+ 66.4 (169) T+ 66.9 (146) APPALACHIAN ST.

Schedule Ratings
ALABAMA APPALACHIAN ST. The Edge
Sched. PYTH 0.5879 (81) Sched. PYTH 0.4539 (254) ALABAMA
Opp. OE+ 104 (19) Opp. OE+ 98.9 (252) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 100.8 (269) Opp. DE+ 100.5 (241) APPALACHIAN ST.
NCS PYTH 0.5879 (83) NCS PYTH 0.4539 (259) ALABAMA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of 17 December 14.

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 voodoo2.

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.

2 | This last one's not true.

So, what do we know?

The Wichita State game definitely falls under the "good loss" category, as the Tide’s performance boosted them 11 spots in PYTH rating, although at the "cost" of a couple spots in RPI. What’s really interesting is the Tide went from outperforming expectations to greatly, greatly underperforming them, now possessors of the #228 luck rating in all the land. You’ll note the next opponent is not very well regarded by RPI or PYTH, but happens to be #31 in Luck rating, which indicates the Mountaineers are a little better than their record (3-4) indicates.

Hanging with the hyper-efficient Shockers also paid benefits in the efficiency metrics, as the Tide defense improved 19 spots after the game to #84 in the country, with a small bump in offensive efficiency as well. After playing at one of the faster paces in the country going in, however, the slugfest with Wichita State dropped the Tide’s adjusted tempo rating back toward the middle of the pack, and the Mountaineers have a slight edge in that regard. Unfortunately for them they are completely outclassed offensively and defensively, and the Tide’s played at a much higher pace than the Wichita State game for most of the season anyway.

The Tide’s starting to put together a decent out-of-conference schedule, firmly in the top-third of the country, primarily as a result of some of the great offensive teams they’ve played. Appalachian State has not put together a schedule remotely like that, although they have played the slightly tougher defensive slate. In case you’re curious, the MEAC has screwed up the symmetry between the Schedule PYTH and NCS PYTH rankings by playing conference games in December, so now those don’t line up anymore. Jerks.

Unless the Wichita State game "broke"3 the Tide (which it didn’t), I don’t see them dropping either of the next two. If Stillman somehow pulls the upset, just go bury your head in the sand/clay/soil type wherever you live until next season4.

3 | In the LSU football sense *snicker* (schadenfreude!)

4 | Except on January 1st and January 12th, hopefully.

THE PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide , handily in both contests.

ROLL TIDE