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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Oregon Ducks

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The Tide head a bit north to take on a PAC-12 foe in the Vulcan Classic

Troy Wayrynen-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?

Returning home to Coleman Coliseum for the first time in nearly a month, the Tide took on one of the Big South’s heavy hitters in Winthrop and were able to pick up a 72-60 victory. The bigger, longer Tide used their size advantage to perfection, slowly pulling away from a game Eagles squad before a late comeback made things look more interesting than they actually were. Justin Coleman had his best game of the season, scoring 18 points and picking up five assists in his second straight start in place of the injured Dazon Ingram. Shannon Hale missed this one as well, but Jimmie Taylor and Retin Obasohan picked up the slack with 14 and 12 points respectively; Taylor would add 11 boards for his third career triple-double.

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

The Four Factors

The Four Factors
Metric ALABAMA WINTHROP
eFG% 56.5% 42.0%
TO% 20.9% 16.4%
OR% 31.3% 21.1%
FTR 31.5% 30.4%
Win Index 44 39

The game was virtually a toss-up from the stripe, but the Tide defense smothered the Eagles all night and in turn picked up a huge advantage in eFG%. That’s easily the most important factor — hard to win a game if you can’t make any shots, after all — but the Tide also won on the boards for the second straight game. Coincidentally, those are the only two games this season where the Tide’s won that factor, which is something to keep an eye on. Picking up extra possessions when you can is a key for just about any team, but it might be especially important for a Tide squad that’s still built more on defense than shooting.

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

Right! Next up, the Alabama Crimson Tide travel north to Birmingham to take on the visiting Oregon Ducks in the inaugural[1] Vulcan Classic. This marks the Tide’s first visit to Birmingham since 2011, when they defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 69-52 at Legacy Arena. The game is on Monday, December 21st, at 8:00 PM CST / 9:00 PM EST, and will be televised on ESPNU and at WatchESPN.com.

1 | I think? Couldn’t find anything on its existence before this game.

The Goods

Overall Quality
ALABAMA OREGON THE EDGE
RPI 0.6355 (18) RPI 0.6107 (39) ALABAMA
BPI 66.2 (101) BPI 82.5 (28) OREGON
PYTH 0.6983 (84) PYTH 0.847 (28) OREGON
Luck 0.288 (1) Luck -0.022 (222) ALABAMA

Efficiency Ratings
ALABAMA OREGON THE EDGE
OE+ 101.9 (173) DE+ 95.4 (37) OREGON
DE+ 94.8 (31) OE+ 110.7 (31) PUSH
T+ 68.9 (235) T+ 71.6 (99) ALABAMA

Schedule Ratings
ALABAMA OREGON THE EDGE
Sched. PYTH 0.6532 (39) Sched. PYTH 0.5023 (187) ALABAMA
Opp. OE+ 105.6 (37) Opp. OE+ 100.4 (278) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 99.9 (59) Opp. DE+ 100.3 (76) ALABAMA
NCS PYTH 0.6532 (42) NCS PYTH 0.5023 (191) ALABAMA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of December 19th, 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?

RPI is extraordinarily high on the Tide, ranking them 18th in the country in what is likely their only top-25 placement in any traditional ranking. The out-of-conference slate this season has been marvelous, and will pay dividends for the Tide at the end of the season if they are in play for postseason tournament invites. BPI and PYTH still aren’t sold on the Tide, but we’ll see what happens there when the preseason projections are fully filtered out of the equation. The Tide’s Luck rating dipped a bit after the Winthrop game, but they still rank first in the country in terms of outplaying their projections.

The same cannot be said of the Ducks, who are a solid 9-2 but against a weak schedule as we’ll see momentarily. Last year’s PAC-12 runners-up and March Madness participants lost some scoring heading into 2015 with the departures of Jalil Abdul-Bassit and more notably PAC-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young. Transfer and reigning JUCO Player of the Year Chris Boucher and true freshman Tyler Dorsey have filled nicely, however, and Oregon’s largely picked up where they left off last season. They may not be the 28th-best team in the country — the below-average Luck rating more or less indicates they aren’t — but this is a solid team that should be in contention in the PAC-12 once again this season.

As far as the efficiencies are concerned, it’s not looking too good for the Tide. They are certainly capable of taking the air out of the Ducks’ offense, as the Tide’s DE+ ranking is a match for the Ducks’ OE+ rating. However, the other end of the court is a huge, huge advantage for the Ducks, who have a defense almost as good as Alabama’s. Despite the progress from last year’s stagnant group, the Tide offense isn’t quite where Coach Johnson wants it to be, and the loss of Ingram is not making things any easier. Coleman is playing capably in his stead, but the Tide will likely struggle to score against the Ducks. One ray of hope is the Tide’s preference for a slower contest, which will likely work to their advantage in this one. The best way to deal with a tremendous offensive disadvantage is to slow the game down, pick your spots, and keep the opponent close.

As noted in the lead-in, the Tide’s schedule this season has been rather tough, which casts their 7-2 record in an even more favorable light. They’ve played a significantly better schedule than the Ducks, who are slumming around the national average in that regard. The Ducks have been somewhat mercurial at times — they are the only team to knock off Baylor so far this season, but lost to UNLV and Boise State squads that are not demonstrably better than the Tide.

That last bit lends a bit of a different look to this matchup, which will hopefully be a home atmosphere for the Tide in Birmingham. A somewhat underperforming major player from the PAC-12, on the road against an overachieving[3] Tide squad? Sounds a whole lot like last year’s game against UCLA, and you may recall that turned out favorably for the guys in crimson. The magic box thinks this is a neutral court, and assigns the Tide a lowly 29.5% chance of success against the more well-regarded Ducks, but I’m thinking it’s closer to a toss-up. Tune in for this one, because I’m gumping out and calling for the upset.

3 | At the time, anyway...

THE PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide

ROLL TIDE