Sabermetrics has become the new buzzword in major league baseball. With the informed writer no longer talking about .300/30/100 guys and instead focusing on OPS+, WAR, and wOBA, the game of baseball has become much more quantifiable to the average fan. Did you know that you have been more valuable to the Cleveland Indians this year than Orlando Cabrera has been? Thanks to the numbers crunched first by Bill James, and later by his army of followers, you can know things like that.
Basketball is starting to follow the same trend now, more than 20 years later. If you've perused our archives, you've noticed that we rely heavily on some of the new numbers to help project player output and predict the outcome of games. Thanks to Statsheet and Kenpom, tracking the game we love has become easier than ever.
Part of what makes the new wave of statistics so crucial is their easy accessibility. Gone are the days of perusing the USA Today at the start of the tournament to find out exactly what each team is bringing with them. This year it was only the willfully uninformed that didn't know that Kenneth Faried led the nation in rebounding. With the help of Statsheet and Offensive Rebound Pct, you can further learn that Faried rebounded an astounding 20% of his teams misses while he was on the floor.
Beyond just their easy access, another benefit to the new statistical age in college ball is the prevalence of the statistics. Before, points, rebounds, and assists were the standard for measuring a player. While these triple slash numbers of basketball are still useful, comparisons have become easier with the addition of more versatile numbers. For instance, Norris Cole of Cleveland State and Tu Holloway have comparable offensive numbers. Once adjusting for the added difficulty of three pointers we see that Holloway is the superior pure shooter, while Cole prefers to score inside. Without effective FG percentage, we would be forced to rely on the very fallible eye test.
More than just for the single player, the new metrics in college basketball can be used to tell what type and quality of team yours, or your opponent, is. Effective height features prominently in our previews and is great way to measure not only how tall a team is, but how well it leverages that height. Lest you think that seems ethereal, La Salle was stretched to the max by Xavier's advantage in effective height last year. Practically, that turns into a big game from Jeff Robinson. If you think Syracuse has sucked the speed from the game with their open gym defense not only are you perceptive, you are mathematically correct. According to Adjusted Tempo, Syracuse chokes 11 possessions out of the game that running teams like Missouri, UNC, and Duquesne would find.
Finally, the four factors. Now recognized as the marks by which a team can be projected, the four factors are the brainchild of Banners favorite Ken Pomeroy. Team effective field goal pct, turnover pct (how many possessions are lost), offensive rebound pct, and free throw rate (how well a team gets to the line), come together to form the efficiency rating. These four factors are split into offensive and defensive metrics and then adjusted against the schedule a team has played. Last year OSU's 125.6 led adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjOE, a basic measure of how many points could be expected if a team had 110 possessions) and Florida St. led with a stifling 86.2 AdjDE.
With the advent of these statistics, and new ones coming every day, the college game has become more and more open to number crunching. The random upsets and VCU like runs still have their unpredictable magic, but understanding the inner workings of the game has never been more possible.