By the Numbers: MIssouri at Kansas

It's the first rivalry game of the season for Kansas, and we all know that emotions run high when the Jayhawks face the Tigers. Well, emotions don't affect the numbers, and by some power ratings indicators, this is a Top 10 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.  The black line represents the linear trend over the last five games for the team.


In this analysis, Kansas has barely performed better than its season average by 0.4 points.  Yet, the trend over the last five home games is clearly downward.  In two of its last three home games, KU has done considerably worse than its season rating.  Despite all that, if Missouri were to perform at its season average, only one of KU's last five home performances would result in a loss (Cornell).  If you consider the Tigers' performance in the last five non-home games only, then none of KU's recent performances would result in a loss.  The only hope Missouri has in this part of the analysis is that KU's been playing worse of late.


Meanwhile, Missouri has fared considerably worse in its last non-home games, underperforming its season average by 3.1 points.  Though performance has been wildly inconsistent, the overall trend line looks essentially flat.  Only once in its last five non-home games (Illinois) has Missouri performed at a level above KU's expected level.


In summary, over the last five venue-appropriate games for each team, Kansas has been 10.2 points better than Missouri.  Based on season average ratings, the Jayhawks should be favored by just under 11 points, but this specific analysis gives KU slightly more than a 14-point advantage.



Four Factors Analysis

Based on the cumulative season boxscore for each team, we can look at the Four Factors to see where each team has derived the bulk of its (dis)advantage in terms of scoring margin versus its opponents to date.  For each team, Team 1 is the team itself and Team 2 is its opponents.  Here is the breakdown:


Team 1

Team 2








TO Rate














FT Pct





FT Attempts



Team 1

Team 2








TO Rate














FT Pct





FT Attempts


Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

Both teams sport a huge advantage in this category over their opponents thus far, making the stakes in this category of paramount importance.  As impressive as MU's numbers are here, KU's are even more eye-popping.  Looking down the Jayhawks' regular rotation, it's almost laughable how well each and every player has shot this season.  Six of them have shot over 55 eFG%, and only two are under 50 eFG% (lowest is Thomas Robinson at 48%).  By comparison, MU has four players above 55% and three under 50%, the lowest belonging to Steve Moore (31%).  For the Tigers, Kim English will be key as he takes a whopping 33% of the team's shots when he's on the floor.  He averages 51 eFG%, so if he strays far in either direction, it could make things tough.  The other prolific shot-takers for MU are Marcus Denmon, Justin Safford and Laurence Bowers.  KU has a more balanced shooting load, but Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry do stand out.  Henry has really struggled of late, so he may be the key indicator for KU's eFG%.  EDGE: Kansas

Turnover Rate

You simply cannot overlook Missouri's ability to win the turnover battle.  Their advantage in this category is double any of KU's advantages in any of the categories except for eFG%.  One way I like to view the primary drivers behind a team's turnover status is to look at three categories:  turnovers, steals and blocks.  Each results in an "unexpected change of possession" – something I will call "UCP" for our purposes.  At, I assign values for each of those categories depending on the dynamics of the games played.  Adding up a player's rating in those three categories can provide a player's impact on possession changes.  For Missouri, the best UCP ratings belong to Bowers by far, followed by Taylor and Ramsey well behind.  J.T. Tiller has fared the worst, while English has struggled second most.  KU's best UCP is hands down Cole Aldrich.  For a little perspective, he rates at +20, while 2nd and 3rd are Tyrel Reed (+5.5) and Marcus Morris (+4.5).  At the bottom of the list is Sherron Collins (-8.4) and Tyshawn Taylor (-8.1).  Keep in mind that these numbers are absolute, they do not adjust for the number of possessions played.  Collins' number is understandable given his role on the team as a creator.  In fact, his turnover rate is only 15%, which is quite good for a go-to-guy who is a point guard.  For this game, you must remember that Missouri's competition thus far has not been very strong offensively. rates their strength of opponents' offense at #218, which may indicate teams that are less capable of withstanding their pressure.  Still, only four of MU's opponents have managed to hold their own TO% to below 25%, meaning most of the time, Missouri has enjoyed the luxury of one-in-four possessions on defense ending without any chance of a score. EDGE: Missouri

Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OREB%)

Though not nearly as lopsided, this is another category where the two teams have fared much differently.  Only this time, it is KU's battle to be won.  KU rebounds at approximately the same rate on the offensive end as Missouri, but it's on defense where the Jayhawks do a much better job of shutting down second-chance points.  Can you imagine if MU was as good a defensive rebounding team as Kansas, with all the turnovers they force?  They would be the country's best defense.  Alas, they give up well above the national average offensive rebounding rate.  We can basically assume that KU will rebound at around 37% this game, since that's the rate each team has averaged on that end.  When Missouri misses a shot, however, who are the key players to determine their OREB%?  Bowers is the only guy in the rotation for MU who averages at least 10% OREB.  Ramsey and Safford are a few percentage points behind.  That's basically it.  Aldrich is the key defensive rebounding specialist for Kansas (25% DREB), so if he's in the game, it'll be tough for MU to get any second looks .  EDGE: Kansas


Teams want to have a high FTA/FGA because the free throw line is generally the most efficient place to be on the court, so the more possessions that end with free throws, the more efficient a team is likely to be on offense.  While both teams have shot free throws pretty well, Kansas has been to the line much more often.  Aldrich has a fantastic FTA/FGA, which ranks somewhere in the Top 75 nationally.  Marcus Morris isn't far behind him.  In contrast, MU's best hope in this category is Ramsey, but he so rarely takes shots that it won't translate to much at the line.  Tiller has a decent FTA/FGA, but even he shoots only about 20% of shots, right at average.  It makes sense not to expect MU to fare that well at the line this time around.  EDGE: Kansas

Sagarin ratings source: Top Stories