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Advanced Stats Rundown, Basketball Edition |
The SEC Through January 18th, 2015

Introducing RBR's new weekly advanced stats series for SEC men's basketball

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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

What the heck is all this?

Well about a week ago I ran a poll asking you if you wanted a weekly advanced stats article for conference basketball, and there was significant interest among those who responded[1], so here we are. We’ll take a look at the conference standings according to the advanced stats, see how the SEC stacks up nationally against the other conferences, and finally wrap it up with some short previews of non-Alabama games for the upcoming week[2]. The SEC plays on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; the intent is for this series to reflect the standings through Saturday’s games.

1 | All 44 of you. Almost like there’s less interest around here for basketball or something…

2 | Alabama games will continue to get their own previews, as is right and proper.

SEC Rundown

The SEC Through January 18th
Rank Team Record PYTH BPI RPI OE+ DE+
1 KENTUCKY 17-0 0.9828 (1) 95.3 (1) 0.7184 (1) 117.2 (7) 82.4 (1)
2 FLORIDA 10-7 0.874 (25) 79.7 (30) 0.563 (72) 107.7 (54) 91 (19)
3 GEORGIA 11-5 0.8622 (29) 81.6 (23) 0.6115 (26) 107.4 (57) 91.6 (26)
4 OLE MISS 11-6 0.8406 (37) 75.4 (45) 0.587 (44) 113.4 (16) 98.1 (108)
5 ARKANSAS 13-4 0.827 (40) 78.1 (34) 0.6093 (29) 114.6 (11) 100 (153)
6 SOUTH CAROLINA 10-6 0.8262 (41) 74.4 (50) 0.5417 (109) 103.4 (120) 90.3 (11)
7 ALABAMA 12-5 0.8184 (44) 72.2 (62) 0.5836 (52) 106.4 (73) 93.3 (48)
8 LSU 13-4 0.7689 (60) 75.4 (46) 0.5854 (48) 103.1 (126) 92.9 (45)
9 VANDERBILT 11-6 0.7564 (66) 73.8 (52) 0.5334 (117) 109.2 (41) 98.9 (132)
10 TEXAS A&M 11-5 0.7354 (73) 73.3 (55) 0.5967 (39) 103.1 (127) 94.3 (56)
11 OPPONENT 11-5 0.703 (87) 69.8 (69) 0.5841 (50) 103.9 (107) 96.4 (81)
12 ALABAMA POLY 10-7 0.5681 (135) 58.4 (131) 0.5375 (115) 99.1 (214) 96.8 (86)
13 MISSOURI 7-10 0.5011 (162) 53.7 (156) 0.5132 (148) 101.5 (160) 101.5 (184)
14 MISSISSIPPI STATE 8-9 0.382 (218) 51.9 (168) 0.4668 (218) 95.2 (287) 99.2 (137)

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!

Kentucky is the best team in the conference, and it’s not particularly close. You’ll note there’s a steep dropoff in both the PYTH and BPI ratings between the Wildcats and #2 Florida. We all saw against Alabama what happens when this team is locked in[3], and it should be frightening for the rest of the country. This squad goes 10 deep with future NBA players, which is nuts. This might be the most talented team the SEC has ever seen, in terms of raw potential — they may drop a game or two along the way but they are going to be a tough out in the tournament.

3 | I thought the Tide played fairly well, but there just wasn’t much that could be done against that.

They still have two dates with the Gators, who are one of those test case teams for RPI vs. the advanced metrics. PYTH and BPI consider this a top-30 club, whereas RPI has them at #72. The reason is strength of schedule, the 35th ranked slate in all the land according to PYTH. RPI will crucify you for losing games, whereas PYTH and BPI are a little more kind when those losses come to good teams. Florida’s dropped 7 games so far[4], but five of those were against RPI top-50 teams, including blue-bloods Kansas, North Carolina, and Georgetown.

4 | Including a tight road loss to a not-good Florida State team.

Florida’s at the top of a pack of solid teams in Georgia, Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Alabama. We’ll start to see some separation of that logjam soon, as there are several games amongst the six coming up this week — we’ll take a look at that in a bit. Mississippi State, Missouri, and Alabama Poly have fielded teams this year and are playing basketball. The bracketology types seem to think our garbage-collecting neighbors to the north are making the tournament, but they’ve got a loooong way to go before that happens.

Conference Rundown

Conference Rankings Through January 18th
Rank Conference Rating Top-50 Teams Med. PYTH Med. BPI
1 BIG 12 85.7 8 0.8901 (1) 82.3 (1)
2 BIG EAST 80.6 7 0.8288 (2) 78.4 (2)
3 SEC 76.7 7 0.7937 (3) 74.1 (3)
4 ACC 75.8 7 0.7806 (4) 73.6 (4)
5 BIG TEN 75.1 6 0.7694 (5) 73.2 (5)
6 PAC-12 71.8 3 0.7305 (6) 70.6 (6)
7 AMERICAN 66.6 3 0.6991 (7) 63.2 (8)
8 ATLANTIC 10 65.6 3 0.665 (8) 64.7 (7)
9 MOUNTAIN WEST 62.2 1 0.627 (9) 61.6 (9)
10 MAC 60.3 0 0.6077 (10) 59.9 (10)

There’s a number of ways to rate conferences[5], but in this case I’ve pulled a page out of ESPN’s playbook[6] and added a couple of ratings together with equal weighting. In order to account for conferences with one excellent team carrying the league and vice versa, I’ve elected to use the median PYTH and BPI ratings to represent conference strength. You can read more about medians and why this is an acceptable approach here — this adjustment is why you don't see the WCC here, as they have a fierce Gonzaga squad and little else. In lieu of a gigantic table of all 32 conferences, most of whom are terrible, I’ve elected to only present the top-10.

5 | I’m pretty sure KenPom does conference ratings, but I’m too cheap to pay for all his good stuff. Sorry.

6 | They did the same thing with their FPI rating and the AP poll for football. Why they use the AP poll for anything is beyond me.

The Big 12 is clearly the best conference in the land, with 80% of the membership in the top-40 of the PYTH rankings[7], let alone the top-50. There will not be a lack of quality games to watch there this season, if you are interested in venturing outside the SEC for your viewing needs. The next tier down is the Big East, which used to be a big fancy automatic qualifying conference in football before they imploded and became basketball-only, jettisoning all the football schools to the American Athletic Conference. The big gun there is Villanova, currently a top-5 team by every metric in the country.

7 | Kansas State and Texas Tech are the stragglers.

And in a bit of a surprise that would infuriate most ACC and Big 10 fans, the SEC is on top of the third tier with a combined rating of 76.7. In basketball. This conference isn’t just Kentucky and Florida this year, with a stable of dangerous teams lurking in the PYTH top-50 as discussed in the previous section. The rest of this tier is the ACC, Big Ten, and PAC-12, with the remaining four conferences forming a tier in the 60s. The ACC is the best of the rest per usual, with Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, and Louisville consensus top-10 teams.

The Non-Alabama Games of the Week

Ole Miss Rebels @ Georgia Bulldogs, Tuesday January 20th
6 PM CST / 7 PM EST, SEC Network /

Overall Quality
BPI 81.6 (23) BPI 75.4 (45) GEORGIA
PYTH 0.8622 (29) PYTH 0.8406 (37) GEORGIA
OE+ 107.4 (57) DE+ 98.1 (108) GEORGIA
DE+ 91.6 (26) OE+ 113.4 (16) OLE MISS
T+ 66.4 (128) T+ 66.8 (107) PUSH

This is your true game of the week in the conference. The key to this one is Georgia’s ability to limit Ole Miss’s offense, because they should have the advantage on the other side of the court. The Rebels feature three guys averaging double figures[8] in Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers, and sharpshooter LaDarius White. Ole Miss has been hellacious on the road in conference play, taking Kentucky to the limit in Lexington and dropping 96 on Arkansas in Fayetteville. The magic box has this pegged as a toss-up at 54% for Georgia, but I’m taking the Rebels.

8 | None of whom are Marshall Henderson! Yay, eligibility limits!

THE PICK: Ole Miss Rebels

Kentucky Wildcats @ South Carolina Gamecocks, Saturday January 24th
11 PM CST / 12 PM EST, ESPN /

Overall Quality
BPI 74.4 (50) BPI 95.3 (1) KENTUCKY
PYTH 0.8262 (41) PYTH 0.9828 (1) KENTUCKY
OE+ 103.4 (120) DE+ 82.4 (1) KENTUCKY
DE+ 90.3 (11) OE+ 117.2 (7) KENTUCKY
T+ 67.8 (68) T+ 63.5 (274) SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina has the only defense in the conference that can hang with Kentucky’s, at #11 in the nation per adjusted defensive efficiency rating. Unfortunately their offense is putrid, and that’s not where you want to be when the opposing team is trotting out six forwards 6’9" or taller and a trio of 6’6" guards in the Harrison twins and marksman Devin Booker[9]. If the Wildcats play down to their competition this could be interesting, but really nobody in the league has a realistic chance of knocking these guys off if they’re playing well.

9 | The technical term for this is "stupid long". They are taller than most NBA teams!

THE PICK: Kentucky Wildcats

Florida Gators @ Ole Miss Rebels, Saturday January 24th
5 PM CST / 6 PM EST, SEC Network /

Overall Quality
BPI 75.4 (45) BPI 79.7 (30) FLORIDA
PYTH 0.8406 (37) PYTH 0.874 (25) FLORIDA
OE+ 113.4 (16) DE+ 91 (19) PUSH
DE+ 98.1 (108) OE+ 107.7 (54) FLORIDA
T+ 66.8 (107) T+ 62.4 (306) OLE MISS

This is not one of Billy Donovan’s more dominant squads, but they are still one of the conference’s stronger teams as discussed earlier. They are essentially a better version of South Carolina, with a much stronger offense paired with a similarly strong defense. I think Ole Miss will struggle to score, and won't get enough stops on the other end to keep pace with the Gators. The magic box has it at 57% for the Gators, and I can’t really argue with that.

THE PICK: Florida Gators