By the Numbers: Kansas at Nebraska

After it was "exposed" (according to Bill Self) in its first loss of the season at Tennessee, KU tries to right the ship in its Big 12 opener in Lincoln. The Huskers aren't exactly the epitome of a dangerous opponent, but life on the road in the Big 12 is never a walk in the park. Let's take a look at how the numbers shape up for this battle.

 

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.  But they have come in above the season average in only one of those four neutral or away games.  The only positive comes from the blowout win at Temple, a performance that seems a distant memory to many who have watched the last two games.  The Temple game is the only reason the linear trend is slightly upward.  Take that one game away and there is a clear downward trend for KU on the road.  No KU fan should take it for granted that the Jayhawks will play well tonight.

 

Perhaps a comfort to Jayhawk fans, Nebraska has underperformed its season average rating by about 1.8 points in its last five home games.  Their trend, however, does look to be positive.  Still, the Huskers have only done better than their average in two of the last five home games.

 

The bottom line still looks very good for Kansas.  Not once in its four non-home games has KU performed at a level below the expected performance level for Nebraska tonight (that's their season average Sagarin Predictor + homecourt advantage).  Moreover, not once in its last five home games has Nebraska performed at or above the expected level for Kansas tonight.  It certainly would be a shock to the (power ratings) system if there were an upset tonight.

 

In summary, over the last five (four for KU) venue-appropriate games for each team, Kansas has been 19.5 points better than Nebraska.  While season average ratings would suggest an 11-point edge for KU, this specific analysis projects the Jayhawks to win by an even more impressive 15-point margin.

 

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

Nebraska FT%

Nebraska OREB

Kansas FT Rate

Nebraska 2pt FG%**

Nebraska PTS/Poss**

Kansas 2pt FG%**

Kansas % own 2FGA's blocked**

Clear Advantage for Nebraska

None

 

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 61-43%

 TO Rate

 NU 23-22%

 O-Reb%

 KU 28-24%

 FTA/FGA

 KU 42-31%

 Four Factors Overall

 Fairly close in most of the factors except eFG%, where the Jayhawks should dominate and win the game.

 

Game Outlook

Most indicators point to a comfortable Jayhawk victory tonight.  KU is about a 12-point favorite according to Vegas odds and anywhere from an 8.5 to 16-point favorite according to various computer ratings.  That translates to about a 90% chance of victory.  Still, Larry Bird has missed his first free throw attempt in a game, and so it is possible that a 10% event could happen in a one-shot deal, especially when it's being played in the underdog's backyard.  There are a few elements of the game to watch out for tonight.

According to KenPom.com, NU's offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency both go higher with increased tempo, but remember that higher is worse when it comes to defensive efficiency.  The net effect is about 0.09 points per possession in the wrong direction for Nebraska.  The same analysis for KU yields a net 0.50 in the right direction.  So, if tonight's game looks to be on the faster tempo side, advantage goes to the Jayhawks.

Aside from the most important of the Four Factors (eFG%), NU's offensive efficiency has been significantly correlated with its OREB%.  The problem for the Huskers is that OREB% is a clear advantage for KU (see table above).  If Nebraska can buy itself second chances on rebounds at a rate of 35% or better, it could make things closer and put pressure on Kansas.  But more than anything, if Nebraska allows KU to shoot 61 eFG% as projected above, this game is in the books.  Simply put, the Huskers must hold KU to under 50 eFG% to have a chance at the upset.

Sagarin ratings source: USAToday.com


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