By the Numbers: Kansas vs. North Carolina

The drama has centered around both coaches all week, but the game is decided on the court – by the players. It's Kansas versus North Carolina, and the winner gets a chance for all the glory. Let's see how the numbers shape up.

 

Analysis: Last 5 Games

The charts below illustrate the performance for each team over their last 5 games. The red bar represents each team’s current Sagarin Predictor rating, which best represents team strength for the entire season. The “Performance” is calculated by taking the opponent’s Sagarin rating for the game and adding (subtracting) the margin of victory (loss) for each game. Home advantage is also factored into the rating for each game. For example, UNC’s last five games have all been semi-home games (Charlotte or Raleigh), while KU’s earliest game was in Kansas City, also semi-home.

 

In this analysis, Kansas has outperformed its #1-ranked season average by about 0.8 points. The only time Kansas has performed below its season average in the last five games was in the nail-biter against Davidson. Things have generally been operating smoothly for the #2-rated neutral team according to TeamRankings.com. North Carolina has outperformed its #2-ranked season rating by a whopping 8 points over the last five games. In four of those games, UNC has performed better than KU’s season average, including three consecutive games rated above 105, well over 9 points better than KU’s season average. The way UNC has been playing, clearly the Jayhawks will have to raise their game to advance to the championship game on Monday.

 

Over the last five games for each team, the red-hot Tarheels have been 6.7 points better than Kansas, meaning this specific analysis projects an end to KU’s first Final Four run under Bill Self.

 

Statistical Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

These advantages are based on raw statistics derived from Kenpom.com scouting reports for each team. In cases where one team’s ranking in a category is strong where the other team’s corresponding ranking is weak, an advantage is projected. For example, if Team A has a #30-rated eFG%, while Team B has a #280-rated eFG% defense, then Team A would be projected to have an advantage in eFG% for the game.

 

** Denotes that team with advantage also ranks in Top 50 in that category

Clear Advantage for Kansas

North Carolina % own 2FGA's blocked**

North Carolina % Poss STL by Opp**

Kansas TO rate

Kansas 2pt FG%**

 Clear Advantage for North Carolina

North Carolina TO rate**

North Carolina FT%**

Kansas FT Rate**

 

Bottom Line

No one can deny that North Carolina has looked impressive in the NCAA Tournament thus far. They absolutely crushed a decent Arkansas team by 31 points and suffocated a consensus Top 15 team, Washington State, 68-47. The Tarheels essentially took down two #2 seeds, since many thought Louisville was every bit as good as the #2 seeds in the Tournament. And yet, according to TeamRankings.com, over the last ten games, there has been one team hotter than the Tarheels (albeit barely), and that’s the Kansas Jayhawks.

During that stretch, KU has looked largely invincible except for the down-to-the-wire Elite 8 game against Davidson. In a Final Four of Goliaths only, this is a matchup of the two with the most momentum. Which team has the most momentum depends entirely upon what timeframe you use. If you look at the last five games (outlined above), it’s clearly UNC. If you use the last ten games, you could argue KU by a hair. If you look at the entire season, the slight edge goes to Kansas, with the caveat that many of UNC’s games were played without their spark plug, Ty Lawson. Then again, KU’s Brandon Rush was coming off ACL surgery, and Sherron Collins played hurt much of the season as well.

Dramatic storylines aside, it’s a fascinating matchup from a statistical standpoint, too. These are the nation’s top two teams in offensive efficiency. To boot, KU sports the #3 defense, while UNC has been coming on strong defensively of late. Both teams project to have few turnovers on offense, yet KU projects to have an advantage in stealing from UNC. That’s a head-scratcher, but it could just mean that UNC won’t have careless turnovers as much as they will simply succumb to KU’s pressure in the passing lanes from time to time.

What these teams have done in the past is an indicator of their abilities, but as good as they are, it’s all about what happens in this game, period. If one team doesn’t have a good game, you can pretty much bet they’re toast. If both teams show up to play, then it could be one for the ages. The winner of such a battle simply comes down to who has more desire in their pinkie fingers than the other.


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