By the Numbers: Kansas at Missouri

It is always a big deal when Kansas makes a trip to Columbia, but this time both teams are also in the hunt for a conference title. While KU will be the higher ranked team, the numbers have interesting things to say about this matchup.

 

Analysis: Last 5 Venue-Appropriate Games

The charts below illustrate the performance for each team over their last 5 venue-appropriate games.  The red bar represents each team's current Sagarin Predictor rating, which represents overall team strength.  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.  Homecourt advantage is also factored into the equation.

 

In this analysis, Kansas has outperformed its season average by about 2.3 points.  After two disastrous road performances (Arizona, Michigan State), the Jayhawks have finally turned it around away from Allen Fieldhouse.  They have outperformed their season average rating in the last four road games, with the most recent (Baylor) being the best of them all.  In KU's last five road games, they have performed above or very close to the expected level of Missouri at home three times.  Kansas clearly has the ability to win this game.

 

Missouri's home performances, while higher on average than KU's road performances, have been a little inconsistent.  Despite that, MU has outperformed its season average by a whopping 8.3 points.  While they have outperformed their season average in four of the five home games, they did have a poor outing recently against Texas Tech.  That was the only game in which MU performed at a level below KU's expected road performance.

 

In summary, over the last five venue-appropriate games for each team, Missouri has been 7.6 points better than Kansas, meaning this specific analysis, after adding a homecourt edge of roughly 3.5 points, projects a double-digit victory for the Tigers.

 

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

Kansas FT Rate

Kansas OREB**

Clear Advantage for Missouri

Kansas % Poss STL by Opp**

Missouri TO rate**

Kansas TO rate**

For Missouri, it is all about their advantage in ball control.  For Kansas, they could seize the advantage offensively with more second-chance points (OREB) and easy points (FT).  But as you will notice below, when a more extensive and customized analysis was done, the FT Rate (FTA/FGA) is not projected to be much of an advantage at all for the Jayhawks.

Four Factors Game Projections

This method matches up each team's offensive statistics against the other team's defensive statistics.  It also adjusts for the strength of opponents' offense and defense faced so far.  Thus, a team that has played an extremely weak defensive schedule will not be artificially projected to shoot well.  Keep in mind that this is a projection of what would happen if each team played at its average level to date.  It does account for the location of the game, but it does not adjust for teams that play particularly well or poorly based on location more so than the average team.

 

Statistic

Team With Projected Advantage

 eFG%

 KU 56-50%

 TO Rate

 MU 28-19%

 O-Reb%

 KU 33-27%

 FTA/FGA

 KU 48-47%

 Four Factors Overall

 The factors actually project to be even but don't account for everything in the game.  The bottom line in this analysis is a game projected to be very, very close.

 

Game Outlook

It should be an incredibly interesting matchup, with an entertaining dynamic.  The tempo is projected to be well above average, while both teams should be shooting good percentages from the floor.  Let's examine some important questions to be answered when the teams take the floor.

Will the speed of the game affect Cole Aldrich's effectiveness?  If Aldrich manages to stay out of foul trouble and is able to stay with the pace, it will be a huge boost to KU's chances.  For the season, Aldrich has the team's highest efficiency ratings and probably represents the one guy that Missouri has no easy answer for.

Will Kansas turn the ball over constantly?  In the last four games, KU has turned it over on at least 25% of possessions three games.  That is unbelievably difficult to overcome, yet they did.  But against Missouri on the road, where the projections show a 28% rate of turnovers, it will require a Herculean effort from the Jayhawks to overcome the fact that they don't even get a look at the basket so often.  Look to Tyshawn Taylor as a barometer for KU's turnovers.  If he's turning it over early, it may be a long night for Kansas.

How well can Missouri shoot inside the arc?  Kansas holds opponents to a mere 41.2% on two-pointers, good for #12 in the country.  Missouri shoots 53.8% to rank #18.  Something's gotta give, as they say.

Will Missouri shoot well from the free throw line?  At first glance, things don't look good for MU (season average 65.7%, ranked #257).  But for some reason, KU's opponents shoot 71.8% (#308 in limiting opp FT%).  Granted, there's no such thing as "free throw defense."  However, we could deduce that KU is fouling guys who shoot better from the line, perhaps more perimeter-oriented guys.  Whether they are allowing penetration by the guards or by fouling them on jump shots, it is a trend that has held all season long.  If that is the case, Missouri may be in line for a better night at the charity stripe than usual.

While most prediction models (oddsmakers, power ratings, analyses in this article etc.) give the edge to Missouri, there is no question that we should expect an interesting, important and entertaining matchup.

Sagarin ratings source: USAToday.com


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