By the Numbers: Kansas vs. Michigan St.

In January, the Michigan State Spartans dominated the inexperienced Jayhawks. Now it's a rematch that will send one team home. The numbers have interesting things to say about this showdown.

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.  The black line represents the linear trend over the last five games for the team. If slanted upwards, it means the team has generally been playing better each game.


In this analysis, Kansas has underperformed its season average by about 4 points.  The season's worst performance, a loss at Texas Tech, has been followed by improving performances every since.  In both of their last outings, the Jayhawks have performed above their season average rating.  As a result, the trend looks positive heading into the matchup with Michigan State.


Similarly, Michigan State has underperformed away from home by a little over 4 points.  The Spartans have a similar upward trend as the Jayhawks, although their lows aren't as low as those of Kansas, and neither are their highs as high.  MSU has also outperformed its season average in both of its NCAA Tournament games.


The numbers in this analysis look very even.  Both teams have performed at or above the expected performance level of the other team in three of their last five non-home games.  KU has faced slightly tougher competition in that stretch, however.  Plus, the Jayhawks have played two games at levels above any of MSU's performances in their last five non-home games, while the Spartans cannot make any such claim.


In summary, over the last five non-home games for each team, Kansas has been 2 points better than MSU.  While oddsmakers have pegged the Spartans as one-point favorites, the season average Sagarin ratings and this specific analysis both suggest the Jayhawks are favored by between 1.5 and 2 points.


Statistical Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

These advantages are based on raw statistics derived from 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%

Michigan St. 2pt FG%**

Michigan St. eFG%**

Kansas 2pt FG%**

Michigan St. % own 2FGA's blocked**

Clear Advantage for Michigan St.

Michigan St. FT Rate**

Michigan St. FT%


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.



Team With Projected Advantage


 KU 52-44%

 TO Rate

 MSU 25-23%


 MSU 30-23%


 MSU 51-48%

 Four Factors Overall

 While KU's shooting is expected to be significantly better, all the other factors are in MSU's favor by small margins – not projected to be enough to keep Kansas from pulling off the mild upset.


Game Outlook

Michigan State doesn't do too many things at an elite level.  But there is no one better on the boards, both on offense and defense, and that has been good enough to keep their overall adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies in the upper echelon.  In the first matchup this season, MSU had a huge advantage in offensive rebounding percentage, 38-21%.  Projections suggest that MSU will still have an advantage but not quite that big.  In fact, the Four Factors advantages in the first matchup between these teams were all in the direction that is projected for Friday's game.  The difference is that MSU's advantages in three categories were very inflated, while KU's shooting advantage was worth just over one point in that January game. 

Prediction models are mixed for this game, suggesting a close affair.  The Four Factors projections above suggest that KU will be shooting a much better percentage from the floor than the Spartans.  Considering that KU is projected to struggle on the offensive glass (i.e., no easy putbacks), the onus is on fastbreak opportunities off MSU turnovers as well as taking quality shots.  If MSU takes good care of the ball, and KU is forced to take too many jump shots, it could be a long day for the Jayhawks.  The same can be said of MSU's chances if Kansas were to avoid turnovers and somehow battle on the boards to a draw.

Projections indicate that neither team will take too many of its shots from behind the arc, making it particularly important for both teams not to fall behind by much.  Sure, they both have the capability of using the three-point shot to get back in the game, but it would be going against their natural tendencies.  This can also be a game where missed free throws will doom a team.  Last time they met, both teams had high FTA/FGA ratios, and the projections suggest the same thing on Friday, meaning a healthy dose of free throw attempts for both teams.  If one team shoots a percentage that is at least 15% or so better than the other, then the FT line could be a determining factor.

In summary, look for Kansas to have a significant shooting percentage advantage, but also expect MSU to do all the other things well enough to make this anyone's game.

Sagarin ratings source: Top Stories