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Processing the Numbers, Basketball Edition | Miami Hurricanes

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More basketball? More basketball!

Evan Pike-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?

I don’t know about yall, but I sure wasn’t expecting to be writing another one of these this season. I fully expected an early Alabama exit to the NIT, after which I could transition to my yearly March tradition: watching my bracket go down in flames whilst sobbing softly into an adult beverage. The latter is still happening thanks to Iowa State, Baylor, and BT’s beloved UCLA[1], but fortunately there’s more Alabama basketball to talk about!

1 | That goaltending call[2] was BS and you know it.

2 | A goaltending call swung a basketball game. I love March!

Why’s that? To put it bluntly, the Illinois game was an evisceration, and for once ‘Bama did the eviscerating. This game was 23-4 after the first 10 minutes. ‘Bama lead by 30 at one point in the second half. Illinois’ legitimately good defense? Completely overmatched. They couldn’t prevent Alabama from getting to the hoop to save their lives. They couldn’t stop fouling to save their lives. The Illini couldn’t hit a shot to save their lives. They rebounded those missed shots exceptionally well, but used those additional chances to miss more shots. This game was never close, and it was never in doubt[3].

3 | This paragraph may or may not have been harsher due to B1G reasons.

Senior basketball god swag champion badass captain Levi Randolph[4] led the way with 20 points on a mixture of Levi Randolph Things, including a particularly insane, blind, twisting-in-midair three and a ferocious dunk that incited the 200 or so people who showed up to watch the game. If that wasn’t awesome enough, he added 6 boards and paced the team with 5 assists against 0 turnovers. He outplayed the vaunted Rayvonte Rice, who was held scoreless in the first, but managed to get 12 by the end of the game. Rodney Cooper picked up 19 points on just 9 shots, and looked like a completely different player from what we’ve seen this year as he was essentially unstoppable on slashes to the basket. Retin Obasohan did his most-athletic-guy-on-the-court routine and produced 15 points in the process. Riley Norris was at his glueiest! Jimmie Taylor was a force! Justin Coleman made shots[5]! This game was awesome!

4 | Who’s now hit 33 freebies in a row, five shy of his career-long streak to start the year. Remember that? In the before time? In the long, long ago?

5 | Had been 8 of 52 since his outburst against Arkansas 14 games ago. That’s 15.4%. 15.4% is great for (men's) body fat — not so much for shooting.

For a more in-depth professional, qualitative review of the game, check out btbama22's still-gumpy game recap.

The Four Factors

The Four Factors
Metric ALABAMA ILLINOIS
eFG% 68.1% 37.7%
TO% 15.9% 15.9%
OR% 20.8% 37.8%
FTR 46.8% 16.9%
Win Index 50 39

The 68.1% eFG% put up by the Tide was a season high, eclipsing the 66.3% put up against Southern Miss back during football season. The 30.4% margin in that factor was by far the largest of the season, beating the 17.2% from, again, Southern Miss. The largest negative margin from a season full of shooting slumps was -21.3% against Iowa State. They needed every bit of that shooting too, as they got torched on the offensive boards yet again. Even bigger than the eFG% disparity was in FTR, where the Tide nearly tripled the Illini, earning double the attempts on 18 fewer shots from the field. The result was the Tide’s second-highest Win Index of the year[6], the second-largest Win Index margin of the year[7], and the second-largest victory of the year[8]. In short, pure dominance. The glory years under Newton and Sanderson were a bit before my time — OK, a lot before my time — but I don’t even recall the better Gottfried era teams crushing a quality major conference foe like this. Just really fun to watch.

6 | 51, against Tennessee Tech and Western Carolina

7 | 12, against Texas A&M the first time and Missouri

8 | 28, against lowly Towson

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

Right! Next up, the Alabama Crimson Tide travel to South Beach to take on the Miami Hurricanes. The game is on Saturday, March 21st, at 10 AM CDT / 11 AM EDT, and will be televised on ESPN and WatchESPN.com.

The Goods

Overall Quality
#2 MIAMI #6 ALABAMA THE EDGE
BPI 73 (44) BPI 70.9 (56) PUSH
PYTH 0.7644 (57) PYTH 0.7791 (50) PUSH
Luck 0.01 (155) Luck -0.023 (232) Miami

Efficiency Ratings
#2 MIAMI #6 ALABAMA THE EDGE
OE+ 110.2 (41) DE+ 98.1 (88) MIAMI
DE+ 99.5 (106) OE+ 109.5 (48) ALABAMA
T+ 62.5 (284) T+ 62.1 (299) PUSH

Schedule Ratings
#2 MIAMI #6 ALABAMA THE EDGE
Sched. PYTH 0.642 (60) Sched. PYTH 0.6849 (27) ALABAMA
Opp. OE+ 104.7 (67) Opp. OE+ 105.8 (36) ALABAMA
Opp. DE+ 99.6 (45) Opp. DE+ 98.8 (23) ALABAMA
NCS PYTH 0.4483 (237) NCS PYTH 0.4871 (189) ALABAMA

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

Ratings information as of 19 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?

That win over Illinois was huge. The Tide improved 16 ranks in BPI and 11 in PYTH, and that makes the upcoming game more of a quandary than it would have been a week ago. The Hurricanes have had a fine year that was at times frustrating, managing to beat Duke by 16 in Cameron and taking a full-strength Virginia to two overtimes, and yet losing to a thoroughly moribund Georgia Tech by 20 at home, among other curious losses. Coach Jim Larranaga said after the GT loss that his team "can be absolutely great one night, and you just don't recognize them the next day." They escaped a feisty NC Central squad in the first round of the NIT, an effort that had the fine folks over at State of the U questioning the basketball IQ of the team. Surveying the schedule, it appears Miami served as sort of the ACC’s gatekeeper, as they primarily lost to the good teams (Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Notre Dame) and beat the less-good ones (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Clemson).

As far as this game is concerned, the overall metrics are split, with PYTH favoring the Tide and BPI[9] favoring the ‘Canes. The margins are slim in both cases, however, although Miami’s edge in BPI is only a bit short of significance. The ‘Canes have performed up to expectations according to KenPom, whereas the Tide continue to be firmly in the underperforming category.

9 | Which factors in performance without key personnel *cough* Ricky Tarrant *cough*

The ‘Canes are an offensive squad, putting up an adjusted efficiency over 110 points per 100 possessions on the year, good for 41st in the country. They are led in scoring by guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez at nearly 15 and 12 points apiece respectively, and also have dangerous three-point shooters in Manu Lecomte and Davon Reed, both well over 45% from deep[10]. They aren’t too hot on the defensive side of the court, however, rating out at 106th overall in DE+. The Tide’s offensive explosion vaulted them back into the OE+ top-50, nearly matching the ‘Canes at 109.5 points per 100 possessions, while putting up a defensive mark about a point per 100 possessions better. Barring the unexpected, this looks to be a tight, tight game, at least on a neutral court. Neither team pushes the pace according to T+, and it’s hard to say how the shot clock change has affected either team. Miami only had 57 possessions against NC Central, well below their average and below NC Central’s T+ for the year. The Tide had an average number of possessions against Illinois, although that was surely depressed with clock-draining offensive boards by the Illini.

10 | Not super great on the boards though, thankfully — their OR% for the season is right in line with the Tide's at 29%.

Despite playing in the much-ballyhooed ACC, the ‘Canes’ schedule was not as good as you’d think, primarily due to a mediocre non-conference schedule that features one NCAA tourney team in Providence, who beat them rather handily on a neutral court. Illinois improved the Tide’s schedule a smidge to 27th overall, although Iowa State’s faceplant in the Big Dance kept the non-conference PYTH rating right about where it was. The Tide has a clear edge in all of the schedule metrics.

And now, the real question — who wins? The two teams are well-matched as noted above, and as far as PYTH is concerned the Tide would have the edge on a neutral court. Unfortunately the Tide won’t play another game at Coleman this year, as both lower seeds in their region of the NIT bracket have been dispatched. The magic box put it at 63.5% for the ‘Canes as a result, and I’m sure ESPN’s BPI calculations indicate something along those lines as well. That being said, the Tide team that played Illinois was unlike anything we’ve witnessed all season, with the closest comp coming against weak minor conference patsies. I’m tempted to be optimistic here, but I need to see that team again to make sure it’s not an isolated reaction to the firing of Coach Grant. If they show up like that again though? I think I’ll have a new pick for the NIT champ.

THE PICK: Miami Hurricanes . Reluctantly. With caveats, etc.

ROLL TIDE