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Sunday, February 15, 2009

UNC at Miami: "Four Factor" preview

Posted by on Sun, Feb 15, 2009 at 5:36 PM

ED. NOTE: This is the first post by Ryan Campbell, the latest addition to the Triangle Offense arsenal of writers. Ryan's special interest is in applying statistical analysis to sporting match-ups. The field is commonly known as sabermetrics, and is associated with the baseball writings of Bill James.

The "Four Factors" of basketball were developed by Dean Oliver and, in the view of many, are all one needs to statistically summarize a game of basketball.  These four factors are shooting (eFG percentage), turnovers (TO percentage), rebounding (OR percentage), and free throw rate (FTR).

Assessing how a team performs under these metrics, both offensively and defensively, can provide a vivid picture of how a basketball game will likely play out. Most of the “tempo-free” stats in this post, along with the Four Factors link, come from Ken Pomeroy's incredibly thorough college basketball statistics site: www.kenpom.com.

Tonight, the No. 3 Tar Heels (22-2, 8-2 ACC) will try and maintain their spot atop the conference standings when they visit a Miami team (15-8, 4-6 ACC) that is much better than their record suggests.  Since the two teams last met, an 82-65 Carolina victory in Chapel Hill, Miami is 2-4; those four losses were by a combined 16 points, and two of them came in road overtime games at Duke and NC State.

Comparing the per-possession-in-conference-number of UNC and Miami, who have played remarkably similar ACC schedules, the Tar Heels have a vast edge in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  The Tar Heels are scoring 1.15 points per possession and allowing only 0.99 (for an overall +0.16), while the Hurricanes are allowing 1.08 points on defense and only scoring 1.07 themselves (overall -0.01).

On the offensive end of the court, North Carolina makes more free throws (40 percent FTR) when compared to Miami (34 percent). Also, the Tar Heels are getting more offensive rebounds (41 percent OR to 37) than the Hurricanes.

On the defensive end of the court, the much-maligned UNC defense is holding its opponents to 47 percent eFG while the Hurricanes are allowing 49 percent shooting from the field.  That number, along with slight advantages in defensive rebounding, turnovers and putting their opponents on the line with less frequency, has UNC’s defense outperforming Miami’s in conference play, at least when you take the number of possessions into account (see chart below).

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For tonight’s match up, I expect a similar result to the Jan. 17 meeting between these two teams, even though the story line may change. The January win brought UNC to a .500 record in ACC play (2-2), while now the Heels seemingly have their legs under them as they go for a ninth straight ACC win. In the January meeting, Wayne Ellington was deadly behind the arc (7-11 on 3-point attempts) and the Heels pulled away behind his 23-point second-half performance.

Tonight, North Carolina should be able to use turnovers and easy lay-ups to shoot a better percentage from the field than Miami and better offensive rebounding to convert second chance points.  Since the last meeting Miami hasn’t added a player who more capable of stopping Tyler Hansbrough, who had 24 points on 18 field goal attempts and nine free throw attempts.  This time around, the Tar Heel offense should be able to flow through him with support coming from the perimeter in the form of Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and a newly straight-shooting Bobby Frasor—who was 1-14 on 3-point field goals in ACC play going into the game at Duke, where he went 3-4 from behind the arc.

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