By the Numbers: Kansas vs. Northern Iowa

The Jayhawks look to return to form in the second round of the Big Dance. A lot of people say UNI has the guns to play with Kansas. The numbers actually agree with that notion.

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" (blue bar) 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 for the team's performance over the last five games for the team.  The white bar is the expected performance level of this game's opponent, based on their season rating to date.


In this analysis, Kansas has underperformed its season average by about 1.3 points.  In two of the last five non-home games, KU played worse than its season rating, both coming in opening rounds of tournaments.  The trend looks very downward with the worst game in the series clearly being the closer-than-expected win over Lehigh.  In fact, that game's performance was so poor that it would have lost to the season average performance of Northern Iowa.


Meanwhile, Northern Iowa has outperformed its season rating by a healthy 7.5 points in the last five non-home games.  Since its one-point loss at Evansville, UNI has performed better than its season rating by very comfortable margins.  The trend is obviously upward, and what should scare Jayhawk fans is that in the last three games, the Panthers have actually played better than KU's expected performance level based on season ratings.


Make no mistake, this is going to be a very tough out for Kansas.  A solid effort by the Jayhawks should advance them to the Sweet 16, but even an average performance would put this game in jeopardy.  One thing that swings this in KU's favor is that the highest rated team (according to that UNI has played all season is Old Dominion at #34.  Away from home, the highest was #61 Boston College on a neutral court.  Both of those games were Panther victories, however.


In summary, over the last five venue-appropriate games for each team, Kansas has been 2.7 points better than Northern Iowa.  While season average ratings would suggest an 11.5-point edge for KU, this specific analysis projects a hard-fought 2.7-point squeaker for the Jayhawks.


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

Northern Iowa 2pt FG%**

Northern Iowa FT Rate**

Kansas 3pt FG%**

Northern Iowa eFG%**

Clear Advantage for Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa FT%**

Northern Iowa TO rate


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 54-44%

 TO Rate

 Tie 18%


 KU 31-30%


 UNI 31-33%

 Four Factors Overall

eFG% is projected to make all the difference, with the other three factors evening out.


Game Outlook

While some of the most reliable indicators point to a comfortable Jayhawk victory tonight, recent performance trends noted above suggest a closer affair.  KU is an 11.5-point favorite according to Vegas odds, and the chance of victory is in the 80-90% range.

According to, UNI's offensive and defensive efficiency both get slightly worse with increased tempo.  The net effect is about 0.21 points per possession in the wrong direction for the Panthers.  The same analysis for KU yields a net 0.52 in the right direction.  So, any indications that the game will be played faster than the projected 61-possession snooze fest will suggest the advantage goes to the Jayhawks.

The correlations between each of the Four Factors and efficiency match up perfectly for these two teams.  Thus, KU's offensive efficiency will depend most heavily on its own eFG% but also secondarily on keeping its TO Rate low.  For the Panthers, it's only eFG% that is statistically significantly correlated.  This puts the onus on UNI's three-point shooters, since we see above in the strengths and weaknesses that we don't expect a high 2FG% or high FT Rate from the Panthers.  If those long-range bombs are dropping, it could be a long night for Kansas.  If KU gets behind, it may also be tough to force the action, as UNI rarely turns it over.

Sagarin ratings source: Top Stories