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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Winthrop Eagles

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One of the Big South's big players await the Tide in Tuscaloosa

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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

So, how’d last game go?

The Tide picked up yet another win away from the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum, this time trotting into the state of South Carolina sans Dazon Ingram and downing the Clemson Tigers 51-50. In lieu of the star freshman’s usual contributions we got a career night from Retin Obasohan, who put up 23 points on 9/16 shooting from the floor to lead the Tide. The biggest play of the day, however, went to none other than Shannon Hale, who pilfered a late inbounds pass and sprinted unchallenged to the hoop for a breakaway dunk and the deciding points. The Tide’s 6-2, folks, and against a fairly decent schedule as we’ll see momentarily. Just let that soak in for a minute.

For a more detailed recap of the game, check out Caleb Perry’s fine game review.

The Four Factors

The Four Factors
Metric ALABAMA CLEMSON
eFG% 40.2% 41.7%
TO% 26.3% 19.6%
OR% 50.0% 28.1%
FTR 8.2% 29.2%
Win Index 38 39

As the final score would suggest, the Tide played the Tigers tight by the end of the afternoon,[1] with merely 1.5% separating the two teams’ eFG% marks. The Tigers had a slight edge in TO% and barely allowed the Tide opportunities at the line, but the Tide’s absurd OR% mark made the difference. The Tide dominated the glass, pulling down 21 offensive boards and 23 defensive ones, good for a rebounding margin of 14 and the edge in OR% you see above. This ended up being one of those quirky games where the team with the lower Win Index won, but as we’ve discussed before, some teams do better when they win certain factors. For last year’s Tide it was FTR — perhaps OR% is the key factor for this season.

1 | Started with a big lead of course, but let Clemson back into the game down the stretch.

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

Right! Next up, the Alabama Crimson Tide return home for the first time in nearly a month to face the visiting Winthrop Eagles. The game is on Wednesday, December 16th at 8:00 PM CST / 9:00 PM EST, and will be televised on SEC Network.

The Goods

Overall Quality
ALABAMA WINTHROP THE EDGE
RPI 0.6263 (28) RPI 0.491 (188) ALABAMA
BPI 64.3 (110) BPI 45.5 (221) ALABAMA
PYTH 0.6944 (82) PYTH 0.4185 (203) ALABAMA
Luck 0.303 (1) Luck 0.176 (14) ALABAMA

Efficiency Ratings
ALABAMA WINTHROP THE EDGE
OE+ 101.9 (175) DE+ 105.5 (261) ALABAMA
DE+ 94.9 (29) OE+ 102.5 (154) ALABAMA
T+ 69.4 (211) T+ 74.4 (26) ALABAMA

Schedule Ratings
ALABAMA WINTHROP THE EDGE
Sched. PYTH 0.6953 (19) Sched. PYTH 0.3681 (308) ALABAMA
Opp. OE+ 106.3 (24) Opp. OE+ 99.7 (302) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 99 (35) Opp. DE+ 104.5 (311) ALABAMA
NCS PYTH 0.6953 (23) NCS PYTH 0.4547 (242) ALABAMA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of December 14th, 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

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 voodoo.[2]

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?

We’re a quarter of the way through the season now, and that’s apparently the magic number for BPI as ESPN published their first run of their basketball ratings this week — we now have the full complement of metrics to discuss moving forward. It’s tepid on the Tide to start, and I think the reason for that are the low margins of victory for the Tide — scoring margin matters, and four of the Tide’s six wins were by four points or less. Both losses, while not unexpected, were blowouts, and while blowouts are weighted somewhat inversely to scoring margin by this metric, having a pair of 19+ point losses on the resume is undesirable to say the least.

It’s not all bad though, as RPI, for all its flaws, has assessed the Tide’s solid 6-2 record — involving mostly quality competition — and slotted them in at 28th in the country. KenPom’s got the Tide on the low end of the PYTH top-100, which isn’t terribly surprising, but note where the Tide is in his Luck rating. This team is outplaying expectations to a greater degree than any other team in the country as of yesterday afternoon.[3] There’s a number of reasons for that — Ingram’s play is a big one — but to me that’s your best evidence that hiring Avery Johnson was the right call.[4]

3 | Wake Forest is #2 at a rating of 0.293, and then there’s a steep, steep dropoff to the rest of the pack.

4 | At least, you know, eight games into his career as a college coach. Small sample sizes and all.

The Tide have a significant edge in these metrics over their visiting opponent, but note that the Eagles are also one of the season’s early overachievers, ranking 14th in KenPom’s Luck rating. Last year’s team finished a ho-hum 19-13 in the mid-major Big South conference, and while they made it to the conference championship game they did not appear in any postseason tournaments. This year’s crew is also out to a 6-2 start, with the lone losses coming in competitive efforts against N.C. State and Georgia. Winthrop has dropped off a bit from the Gregg Marshall era, which saw seven conference championships and the associated NCAA bids in nine years, including a #22 finish in the 2007 AP poll. Pat Kelsey has them back on track, however, with back-to-back visits to the conference championship game among the accomplishments of his first three seasons at the helm.

As far as the matchup with the Tide is concerned, it’s not looking too good for the Eagles. While the offensive revolution isn’t here yet, the Tide’s defensive intensity hasn’t dropped off from the Grant era. The big reason the Tide’s on this current winning streak is limiting quality offenses Wichita State (OE+ #58) and particularly Notre Dame (#2) well below their usual exploits, while also completely throttling a lesser offensive light in Clemson (#92) — performances worthy of the #29 ranking in DE+. They have significant edges over Winthrop on both ends of the court, and while one of the country’s faster teams (#26 in T+) will stretch that defense, usually the slower team dictates the pace, and in this case that favors the Tide. It’s clear the increased pace of play has more to do with the shot clock changes than an adjustment in offensive philosophy,[5] as the Tide’s #211 ranking in T+ is reminiscent of last year’s group.

5 | Again, at least through eight games.

One of the reasons to be really bullish on this team is the schedule they’ve succeeded against, a slate KenPom rates out at 19th in the country with correspondingly high marks in opponent offensive and defensive quality. The heavy hitter there is Xavier, of course, but Notre Dame, Wichita State, and Dayton are all well-regarded by the PYTH rating, which also has Clemson comfortably ahead of the Tide. This team without Ingram probably still finishes well short of the big dance, but the early returns are very, very encouraging. Note that Winthrop has overachieved against a weak schedule, with all the meat coming, coincidentally enough, in the two games they lost. The magic box says they have but a 14.9% chance to beat the Tide at home, and I see no reason to argue with that.

THE PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide

ROLL TIDE