The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 23, 2020

PiRate Ratings College Basketball For January 23, 2020

Games Being Played Thursday

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UNC Asheville

Radford

-4.4

Ohio St.

Minnesota

7.7

Hofstra

Delaware

6.7

Stetson

NJIT

-0.1

Kennesaw St.

North Alabama

-6.1

William & Mary

James Madison

10.2

Cleveland St.

Green Bay

-3.1

Detroit

IUPUI

7.0

Winthrop

USC Upstate

16.3

Northeastern

Drexel

7.4

Oakland

Illinois Chicago

5.7

Youngstown St

Milwaukee

3.6

Murray St.

Belmont

-1.1

High Point

Gardner-Webb

-6.5

Old Dominion

Florida Intl.

3.0

Central Connecticut

Sacred Heart

-13.4

Merrimack

Fairleigh Dickinson

7.4

Long Island

St. Francis (PA)

0.6

St. Francis (NY)

Robert Morris

-3.2

North Florida

Liberty

-4.9

Charlotte

Florida Atlantic

4.9

Bryant

Wagner

8.7

Hampton

Campbell

-2.3

Elon

Towson

-5.8

Lipscomb

Jacksonville

2.2

Charleston Southern

Presbyterian

5.9

Middle Tennessee

Louisiana Tech

-12.0

North Texas

UTSA

10.1

Rice

UTEP

-2.0

Arkansas St.

South Alabama

0.2

Omaha

Western Illinois

11.6

South Dakota

Purdue Fort Wayne

7.1

Utah

Washington

-3.4

North Dakota

Denver

9.3

UAB

Southern Miss

8.7

Indiana

Michigan St.

-3.4

Austin Peay

Tennessee St.

7.5

Missouri St.

Valparaiso

3.4

SIU-Edwardsville

SEMO

0.8

Tennessee Tech

Morehead St.

-3.2

Eastern Illinois

UT-Martin

8.9

Jacksonville St.

Eastern Kentucky

8.8

Grand Canyon

Seattle

1.6

Idaho St.

Montana

-1.8

Weber St.

Montana St.

0.2

Houston

UConn

9.1

Colorado

Washington St.

12.8

Loyola Marymount

Portland

5.6

Santa Clara

Pepperdine

3.8

Cal St. Bakersfield

Utah Valley

6.2

 

Interesting Analytics

Every year at this time, the PiRates begin looking at some of the advanced analytics that we have used to gauge potential NCAA Tournament success.

Our R+T Rating ™, is our personal creation that attempts to predict how many more opportunities to score a team might have in a game as compared to an average team.  It relies on rebounding margin and turnover margin with an added emphasis on steals and protecting the ball from being stolen by the other team.  It attempts to estimate the potential extra points available to the team due to the “hustle stats.”

In the past, when a team has an R+T of 15.0 or better, that team has the ability to score on enough extra opportunities to go on a big spurt and put another team away.  When UCLA was the dominant basketball team during John Wooden’s runs, their R+T stats were always at the top of the nation.  When they had the 1964 small lineup that went 30-0, the 2-2-1 zone press created turnover after turnover by the opponent with a lot of steals.  These extra opportunities prevented the other team from scoring, but they also led to easy fast break points, and the Bruins had incredible scoring spurts in every game, the most famous being the incredible 16-0 run in just over two minutes before halftime that put NCAA Championship Game with Duke out of reach.

The Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and Bill Walton years saw the Bruins totally dominating on the glass while still getting a nice number of steals and forcing turnovers.  These UCLA teams frequently had 20 extra scoring opportunities a game, and with Jabbar and Walton both hitting better than 60% from the field, the Bruins were unstoppable.

Long after UCLA won those 10 titles, the ability to get extra scoring opportunities has remained consistently and vitally important in NCAA Tournament games.  To get to the Big Dance, teams must display an ability to play very tough defense, and teams with good offenses and little else become pretenders when every opponent they face will play much better defense than the average opponent in the regular season.  Thus, the ability to create extra scoring opportunities and the ability to prevent extra scoring opportunities take precedence over just being able to shoot the ball more accurately than the opponent.

Obviously, we do not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Shooting is still quite important.  After all, the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket more than the other team.  If a team gets 10 more chances to put the ball in the basket, but they shoot like our Captain trying to putt at Pebble Beach, 30 more chances might not be enough to overcome the inaccurate marksmanship.  Obviously, shooting ability and ability to prevent made shots remain important.

Then, there is the third key factor.  If State only plays Southeast Northwest Community College and similar teams, they will inevitably end up with impressive stats.  If Tech plays Kansas, Duke, Maryland, Oregon, and Kentucky out of conference, it is going to be difficult, make that impossible, to end up with stats as impressive at State.  Thus strength of schedule must play as important a roll as the other two stats.  Think of schedule strength in the same vein as class in thoroughbred horse racing, where a winner of a claiming race is not going to compete well against the fifth place winner from a Grade 1 Classic race, even if in the last two races, their times for 1 1/8 miles were about the same.

Let’s put all three key stats together and look at a sampling of teams that are producing quality numbers across the board.

 

Team

R+T

TS%

SOS

Baylor

19.1

5.8

55.1

Butler

15.2

8.8

57.2

UC-Irvine

20.2

5.6

50.4

Duke

21.5

8.4

55.7

Gonzaga

27.7

10.1

49.0

Houston

25.5

4.2

54.4

Illinois

22.2

6.2

55.4

Indiana

20.6

3.2

54.7

Kansas

18.5

10.9

62.7

Kentucky

16.2

8.3

52.2

Liberty

15.9

12.6

43.4

Louisiana State

16.9

6.6

54.4

Maryland

16.7

5.2

58.4

Michigan State

21.6

10.2

57.7

New Mexico State

18.3

4.3

49.3

Oral Roberts

16.3

2.1

53.6

Rutgers

19.7

6.2

55.7

San Diego State

18.4

9.9

49.6

Southern Utah

15.7

8

48.2

Stephen F. Austin

22.5

2.9

42.7

Utah State

20.8

6.5

52.3

West Virginia

21.7

5.9

58.8

What you see above are the R+T ratings for 22 teams in column 1.  The formula for R+T is:  (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin per game, S is steals per game, Opp S is opponents’ steals per game, and T is turnover margin (Opponents Turnovers minus Teams’  Turnovers divided by games played).

Another excellent formula that estimates extra scoring chances per game is the formula by the brilliant Jordan Sperber, creator of Hoop Vision.  Jordan’s formula is: (Team’s OEff)-((100.9/49.0)*(Team’s eFG%)),  where OEff is offensive efficiency, the number 100.9 represents the average Division 1 team’s offensive efficiency, the number 49.0 represents the average Division 1 team’s effective FG%, and eFG% is effective FG%.  The result represents the extra chances to utilize effective FG%, and like everything else Jordan does, it is a great tool.  By the way, Jordan has worked for my number one rated Mid-Major coach of last year (Eric Musselman), and my number one rated Mid-Major coach of this year (Chris Jans).  His analytics have helped both coaches strategize the way they coach.  Check out Jordan’s website at: https://hoopvision.substack.com

In column 2 above, you see TS%.  This stands for true shooting percentage, which in this case actually stands for the difference in the team’s offensive TS% and the defensive TS%.  To calculate TS%, the formula is: (100 * points scored) /  (2 * [FG Attempts + {.475 * FT Attempts}]) 

The final column represents strength of schedule.  50 is considered an average schedule strength.  55 is considered a strong schedule strength.  60 is considered a tough schedule strength.  Below 45 is considered too weak to consider a team a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.

Gonzaga has the top R+T rating in the nation at the present time.  Their TS% difference is in the top 10, so the Bulldogs should be considered a key contender to run the table in the NCAA Tournament this year, correct?  No, that is not correct.  Gonzaga’s strength of schedule (SOS) is too low.  At 49.0, the other two stats must be discounted.  Gonzaga’s remaining schedule will not give the Bulldogs enough increase in SOS to take their R+T and TS% stats seriously.  This does not mean they will lose to a 16-seed in the first game.  What it means is that when they get to the Sweet 16 and face an opponent with a better SOS and strong R+T and TS%, they will be ripe for the upset.

Baylor, Butler, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan State, Rutgers, and West Virginia have the best resumes today.  They have excellent R+T, TS%, and SOS numbers.  It should be no surprise that the Big 12 and Big Ten are the two best conferences so far this season.  

Kentucky and LSU fall just short of the elites in this test.  Neither team has the important 55 or better SOS mark, although both teams could eventually get over that key number.

Among the mid-major teams to keep an eye on, there are four teams in the West that could be sleepers for the Sweet 16 if they make the dance.  UC-Irvine, New Mexico State, Southern Utah, and Utah State all have strong R+T and TS% numbers with SOS that isn’t totally weak.  Contrast that to Liberty and Stephen F. Austin, two teams where the schedule strength doesn’t cut it.

Then, there are two teams high in the rankings from the lower tier of major conferences.  Houston and San Diego State have excellent numbers, but their schedule strengths make them both on the outside looking in when compared to the power conference teams.  Frequently, teams like these two can make a run to the second weekend of the tournament, and once or twice a decade, they will sneak into the Final Four.  However, when it comes to cut the nets and hear “One Shining Moment,” the happy team is one that comes from one of the top 5 power conferences.

As of today, the top 5 power conferences are: The Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Atlantic Coast, and Southeastern Conferences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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