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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Illinois Fighting Illini

It's NIT time, folks.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

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

So, how’d last game go?

Well, it looked like it was finally going to happen. Former[1] coach Anthony Grant was 0-9 all-time against his mentor heading into this game, and hopes were not high. The Tide came out red-hot, however, nailing 7 of their first 8 shots on the way to a 17-9 lead with 14:30 remaining in the first half.

1 | Yes, former, if you’ve been under a rock.

The Tide would only hit two jumpers over the next 33 minutes of play.

They were still able to score, of course, as this game stayed close over that same time frame. But the points came from the line[2] and the occasional layup, as three-point attempt after three-point attempt failed to find the bottom of the net. They’d miss 10 in a row before dropping two at the very end of the game, well after the outcome was decided. Meanwhile, it wasn’t Eli Carter and total non-factor Chris Walker that killed the Tide this time. It was Dorian Finney-Smith, leading all scorers with 23, and a banged-up Tide bench contributing a whopping zero points across four shot attempts in 40 minutes of playing time. The Tide starters were a Riley Norris bucket away from having double-figures across the board, but it wasn’t enough in a losing effort.

2 | A sparkling 19-23, including 11 of 11 for Levi Randolph.

For a more in-depth, qualitative review of the game, check out Roger_RBR's game recap.

The Four Factors

The Four Factors
eFG% 50.0% 52.0%
TO% 15.5% 10.9%
OR% 11.5% 36.4%
FTR 54.8% 53.1%
Win Index 43 49

Even with all those missed shots, the Tide still shot fairly well from the field, as a 50% eFG% is right in line with the Tide’s average from SEC play. They took better care of the ball than normal as well, and managed to take the FTR factor from Florida, albeit just barely. Where this game was lost was on the boards, as the Gators more than tripled the Tide’s OR% mark[3]. Finney-Smith pulled down more offensive boards himself than the Tide did as a team, and UF ended up with seven more attempts from the field and three more from the line as a result. Rebounding has been an issue for this team all season, and it bit them hard in this one.

3 | The only other game this season that comes close? The first South Carolina game, where the Gamecocks were almost 2.5x better in this factor.

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

Right! Next up, the Alabama Crimson Tide welcome the Illinois Fighting Illini to Coleman Coliseum to kick off the 2015 NIT. The game is on Tuesday, March 17th, at 8 PM CDT / 9 PM EDT, and will be televised on ESPN and

The Goods

Overall Quality
RPI 0.5436 (85) RPI 0.5558 (73) PUSH
BPI 70 (62) BPI 71.1 (56) PUSH
PYTH 0.7525 (61) PYTH 0.7467 (65) PUSH
Luck -0.019 (227) Luck -0.028 (248) ALABAMA

Efficiency Ratings
OE+ 108.3 (60) DE+ 94.7 (39) ILLINOIS
DE+ 98.3 (93) OE+ 104 (122) ALABAMA
T+ 62.1 (297) T+ 65.2 (151) ILLINOIS

Schedule Ratings
Sched. PYTH 0.6826 (31) Sched. PYTH 0.6414 (63) ALABAMA
Opp. OE+ 105.8 (35) Opp. OE+ 105.4 (49) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 99 (29) Opp. DE+ 100.2 (76) ALABAMA
NCS PYTH 0.4896 (185) NCS PYTH 0.4316 (263) ALABAMA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of 16 March 15.

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!

So, what do we know?

The Tide did end up making the NIT — the season-ending win at Texas A&M[4] looms large, there —which isn’t as exciting as an NCAA bid but is still better than last season’s losing record. Their first opponent, as noted, is Illinois. The Illini have had an up-and-down season reminiscent of the Tide’s, with home wins over NCAA 3 seed Baylor and 4 seed Maryland, balanced by three puzzling tilts (and two losses) against a Michigan squad that didn’t even make the NIT. Just a single conference win for Illinois separates the records of these two teams, but the Illini come in as a 3 seed.

4 | A loss that likely sent them tumbling out of the NCAAs, which they followed up by losing to API. *snicker*

The top of the tables show the reason for that pretty clearly, as RPI favors Illinois by just a smidge, and that, for some reason, is still the metric of choice when seeding a basketball tournament. BPI also has the Illini slightly higher, but KenPom’s PYTH rating pegs the Tide as the better squad. In all three cases, however, the margins are slim enough to be considered a push. At least in terms of the advanced metrics, these teams are closely-matched.

Despite what the Florida review would suggest, this game is going to be strength-on-strength between the Tide offense and the Illinois defense. The Illini are proud owners of the #39 DE+ rating in the country, and they have a healthy advantage on that end of the court against the Tide’s #60 OE+ rating. The margin is of comparable size on the other end, albeit between lower-rated units. The Illini offense has been particularly woeful this year, and although this is not the Grantsketball defense of yore, the Tide should make scoring difficult for the Illini. Illinois does play at a faster clip than the Tide, and someone to watch out for is leading scorer and rebounder Rayvonte Rice[5], who’s hitting 44% of his threes this season. Rice missed most of the conference schedule with injuries, but is a near-lock for 20 points and fully capable of eclipsing 30 if he gets going from deep.

5 | He appears to go by Ray, which is unfortunate.

Shockingly enough, the Tide’s schedule was significantly stronger than Illinois’, to a degree that may give pause to anyone who thinks the Tide don’t have a chance in this one. The Illini’s non-conference schedule features names such as Villanova, Baylor, and Oregon — but the Tide counters with Wichita State, Iowa State, Xavier, and UCLA. The conference schedules were fairly similar at the end of the day — the Tide’s multiple games against Kentucky make up for a slightly easier draw from the SEC overall — but Illinois actually managed to beat conference opponents who made the NCAAs, courtesy of wins over Maryland, Michigan State, and Purdue. A quick survey of the Illini’s season results indicates they are not afflicted with the Tide’s close-game disease, as not a single contest ended within three points on the season[6].

6 | Two of those three Michigan games went to OT — they just weren’t close by the end.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a game that may come down to the intangibles. Associate Head Coach John Brannen will be coaching the Tide in this game, as the embattled Anthony Grant was fired shortly before the fields were announced on Selection Sunday. It’s hard to project how the team is going to react to this, on top of yet another crushing defeat at the hands of the Gators. The players wanted to be here, apparently, so take from that what you will. Oddly enough, this game will be played at Coleman Coliseum, as Illinois’ house is being renovated yet again. That swings an otherwise razor-thin margin to 65.9% win expectancy for the Tide, depending on how much stock you place in the home-court adjustment. I hope I'm wrong, but I just can't see this team, already waylaid by critical injuries and now with no head coach, finding a way to win, even at home.

THE PICK: Illinois Fighting Illini