Wisconsin's upset of No. 2 Indiana Vindicates Stat Guru; Badgers 1st in Big Ten

Wisconsin's upset of No. 2 Indiana Vindicates Stat Guru; Badgers 1st in Big Ten

Stat guru Ken Pomeroy faced criticism when he calculated Wisconsin was the 13th best team in the nation after a 6-4 start. As usual, Pomeroy appears to have been right as the Badgers dominated two of the Five Factors that determine basketball winners to make #2 Indiana the 11th straight team to fail to crack 60 points against them.

At 6-4, Wisconsin had lost at Florida and Marquette, on a neutral court to Creighton and even at home against Virginia. Since then Wisconsin has won seven straight.

Saturday’s win was against Illinois, who was ranked #12 in the AP but only #48 in Pomeroy’s rankings. Then the Badgers topped that by going into #2 Indiana last night and pulling the upset to vindicate Pomeroy again. Wisconsin never seems to impress voters with their low scoring style of play, but Bo Ryan understands the Five Factors that determine who wins games.

Wisconsin showed why they are the best team in the country and not turning the ball over, and adding shooting defense to stop Indiana. Here is a table that breaks down the Five Factors that determine who wins games:

Full Game Points Possessions Efficiency f1=eFG% f2=TO% f3=OR% f4=FTR f5=FT%
Wisconsin 64 70 0.91 0.52 0.11 0.21 0.27 1.34
Indiana 59 70 0.84 0.40 0.16 0.39 0.35 2.89
Average 67 67 1.00 0.48 0.21 0.32 0.36 0.00

The first column shows Wisconsin’s 64-59 winning margin, which gave them 11 straight games of holding opponents to 60 points or less. The national average is 67 points per game.

POSSESSIONS: The interesting thing is that normally Wisconsin does this in part by slowing down the pace so that each team only gets the ball 63 times a game, four below the national average of 67 per game. However, last night Indiana was able to push the pace to get in their average 70 trips down the court for both teams.

EFFICIENCY: The important measure of how good an offense and defense are is not the total number of points, but how many points a team scores or gives up per trip down the court. The normal average is 1.00 points per trip – so on average a team that gets 70 trips down the court scores 70 points, or 1.00 points per trip. However, Wisconsin gives up only .86 points per trip while Indiana typically scores 1.20 points per trip. Last night Wisconsin allowed only 0.84 points per trip as Indiana had only 59 points on 70 trips down the court. On Pomeroy you will find the Four Factors that determine basketball games, but I add free throw shooting as a fifth factor. These go in descending order of importance.

FACTOR 1 = Effective Field Goal Percentage: The most important factor is how well a team shoots and allows their opponent to shoot. This is like Field Goal percentage only you count made 3-pointers as 1.5 shot made – but misses all count as one miss. Basically hitting 1 of 3 three-point shots gets you 3 points on 3 shots, just like hitting five of 10 two-pointers gives you 10 points on 10 shots. The national average is 48% effective Field Goal percentage, but Wisconsin’s tough defense holds opponents to just 43.8%. Last night they were even better, holding Indiana to 40% eFG% while hitting 52 percent themselves.

FACTOR 2 = Turnover%: Just as the team with the fewest turnovers wins the vast majority of football games, the second most important factor behind shooting is turnover percentage. Over the past five years, Wisconsin has been the best at protecting the ball, and this year is no exception as they only turn it over 14.2 percent of trips compare to the national average of 21 percent. Last night they were even better, only turning the ball over 11 percent of their trips down the court against Indiana.

FACTOR 3 = Offensive Rebounding%: Normally Wisconsin is very good at boxing out as well, allowing opponents to grab just 26.1 percent of their missed shows, well below the 32 percent average. Indiana was able to top that number, grabbing 39 percent of their missed shows.

FACTOR 4 = Free Throw%: When a team gets to the foul line they average scoring 1.4 points, well above the 1.0 average for all possessions. Teams average shooting Free Throws 36 percent as often as field goals. Indiana drives to the hoop and averages 48% Free Throws, while Wisconsin avoids fouling and only allows a 27 percent figure. Last night, Wisconsin held Indiana just below average at 35 percent.

FACTOR 5 = FT% vs. 9% average = While those Four Factors were developed in Dean Oliver’s book “Basketball on Paper.” I have added a fifth factor to the table for how well a team shoots once they get to the line. Typically teams shoot 69 percent from the line, so at that rate they are getting as many points as expected for getting to the line in the Fourth Factor.

Wisconsin made it to the line 14 times, which normally results in 10 made free throws. They made 11 of 14 last night, so they picked up a +1 in this category. Indiana made it to the line 19 times, which would have usually resulted in 13 points, however they made 16 of 19 to have a +3 for the game. SUMMARY: Wisconsin bested Indiana in the two most important factors, shooting and not turning the ball over, to win the game. Indiana won the three less important factors, but Wisconsin kept Free Throw Rate close by holding Indiana below average. Even though Indiana gained a lot of points by being almost twice as likely to grab offensive rebounds, that and the two point advantage they gained in free throw percentage were not enough to offset what Wisconsin does so well.

As a result, Wisconsin in in first place in the best conference in the country today.