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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | South Carolina Gamecocks

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Fresh off their first true road victory in almost two years, the Tide hit the road once again to face up-and-down South Carolina

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

BPI and 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?

Ugly and sloppy, but ultimately satisfying. A win over the Creamsicles is a wonderful win, regardless of what it takes to get there. Alabama sputtered their way to a consistent lead in the first half, fending off a handful of haphazard challenges from the opponent to head into the locker room with a 29-24 advantage. The opponent managed to take the lead shortly after the second half began, but the Tide clamped down on defense and held the Creamsicles scoreless for the next 13 minutes. That lack of production allowed the Tide to cruise down the stretch to a 56-38 victory, their first in a true road game since February of 2013. Rodney Cooper led the way with a game-high 17, and he was joined by Ricky Tarrant and Jimmie Taylor (!)[1] in double-figures. Notably absent from that list is Levi Randolph, who posted his first single-digit scoring game of the season. The Tide needed every bit of those points from Cooper, Tarrant, and Taylor, as the bench contributed 0 points on the day.

1 | Just his fourth such game in crimson.

For a more in-depth, qualitative review of the game, check out btbama22’s fine game recap.

The Four Factors

The Four Factors
Metric ALABAMA OPPONENT
eFG% 47.9% 33.3%
TO% 21.2% 23.5%
OR% 30.0% 24.2%
FTR 25.0% 24.4%
Win Index 41 34

Two shutouts in a row! The margins were a lot closer than against Texas A&M, however, due chiefly to both teams playing sloppily for most of the game. eFG% was the only factor where the Tide had the clear advantage, as they just barely tipped the opponent in the other three. The Tide notably failed to get to the line at the same pace as the last game, earning just one more attempt from the stripe in three additional attempts from the field. Despite that, the Tide managed a 41-34 advantage in Win Index — a losing number in most games, but good enough for the win here.

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

Right! The Alabama Crimson Tide go out on the road again to face the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. The game is on Tuesday, January 13th, at 8 PM CST / 9 PM EST, and will be televised on ESPNU and WatchESPN.com. Note that this is a different time and channel from earlier schedules, so if you’re the type that prints out the schedule at the beginning of the year and references that during the season, make note of this change.

The Goods

Overall Quality
ALABAMA SOUTH CAROLINA The Edge
RPI 0.609 (29) RPI 0.5465 (99) ALABAMA
BPI 74.5 (52) BPI 75.7 (45) SOUTH CAROLINA
PYTH 0.8316 (39) PYTH 0.8379 (37) SOUTH CAROLINA
Luck 0.014 (148) Luck -0.122 (338) ALABAMA

Efficiency Ratings
ALABAMA SOUTH CAROLINA The Edge
OE+ 105.1 (83) DE+ 88.3 (7) SOUTH CAROLINA
DE+ 91.5 (27) OE+ 101.9 (141) ALABAMA
T+ 65 (201) T+ 68.3 (55) SOUTH CAROLINA

Schedule Ratings
ALABAMA SOUTH CAROLINA The Edge
Sched. PYTH 0.5228 (153) Sched. PYTH 0.5922 (56) SOUTH CAROLINA
Opp. OE+ 102.7 (49) Opp. OE+ 102.3 (80) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 101.9 (275) Opp. DE+ 99 (79) SOUTH CAROLINA
NCS PYTH 0.4918 (203) NCS PYTH 0.5294 (151) SOUTH CAROLINA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of 12 January 2015.

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.
  • BPI: The Basketball Power Index is an opponent-adjusted statistic created by ESPN that accounts for scoring margin, pace, game location, and absence of critical players. It can be used both predictively and as a measure of a team’s strength to that point in the season.
  • 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

No longer applies. The Tide got a huge boost in the PYTH ratings since the last game, and a drubbing of a lower-ranked Tennessee squad is not enough to explain that jump. I surveyed the schedule to see if any previous opponent(s) had a resume-altering win since the last game, and I came up empty. That tells me there are no more preseason projections at work here.

So, what do we know?

This preview really shows how dependent RPI is on win percentage, as the Tide’s 12-3 record (with all 3 losses coming to RPI Top 50 teams) looks a whole lot better than South Carolina’s 9-5 mark (with losses to mediocre Charlotte and Akron). The end result is a 70 spot margin in favor of the Tide in RPI. The advanced metrics (BPI and PYTH) are a little more reasonable with respect to both squads, and have the Gamecocks installed as a slight favorite — this is one of two teams to knock off Iowa State this season, after all. Their mercurial effort this year is underscored by one of the worst luck ratings in the country, indicating they’ve greatly underperformed expectation during the season.

You can see where a big chunk of that expectation is coming from, as South Carolina sports one of the country’s finest defensive squads, 7th overall in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Tide are beginning to resemble your typical Anthony Grant Defensive JuggernautTM, after flirting with a run-and-gun identity[2] earlier in the season. The Gamecocks’ offense is fairly mediocre, so this is shaping up to be a defensive struggle. South Carolina does play at a much faster pace than the Tide, but honestly that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference this season. Last game saw only 56 possessions between the two teams, which is about as low as you’re ever going to see in college basketball[3] — and that was with the Tide having a solid tempo advantage going into the game.

2 | Remember when the Tide were scoring 80 points a game while playing at one of the country’s swifter paces?

3 | The theoretical low is about 34, based on the college game length and shot clock.

South Carolina has played a significantly better schedule than the Tide, though that’s partially due to opening the SEC schedule against two of the league’s better teams in Florida and Ole Miss. That non-conference SOS rating for the Tide is particularly unsightly[4] and may hinder their chances come tournament selection time — something that’s starting to feel like a reasonable goal for this team. The Gamecocks’ ho-hum record makes a little more sense when you take their schedule into account, which is the main reason they are better regarded by the advanced stats than by RPI and the polls. The magic box says this one would be a toss-up on a neutral court, but unfortunately it will be played in Columbia, where South Carolina is 6-2 on the year and slated to have about a 67% chance of winning. This team’s a heck of a lot better than the Creamsicles, and I can’t go against the numbers this time.

4 | The equivalent ranking from RPI is 116th, which isn’t much better.

THE PICK: South Carolina Gamecocks

ROLL TIDE