Stripes, Stats, and SOS

Today I listened to John Groce’s pregame teleconference to see what we should be looking for in tomorrow’s match up at Indiana. You can give it a listen yourself here:

I, personally, think the candy-stripe jammie pants make for an excellent mascot. Hoosiers love their striped pants; maybe Illinois should make an O&B version just to get under their skin.

Anyway, after remarking on the quality of practice this week and appreciating the opportunity to work on some of this team’s weaknesses early in the week before having to turn to preparing specifically for IU, he took questions from participating reporters. The gist of the conversation was that IU is a really strong team offensively and cleans up on the glass. When asked whether the Hoosier’s propensity to turn the ball over would be something Illinois could take advantage of, Groce replied that there was more to offensive efficiency than turning the ball over. He said that IU plays free, loose, and aggressive, which leads to turnovers, but that some of those lost possessions are made up for by IU’s rebounding skills.

This, I thought, was interesting. How does the possession efficiency line up between Illinois and Indiana? Does Indiana make up for their turnovers with offensive rebounds? For my first content post, I thought I’d mess around with statistics. Then I thought, why? You’ve never had a stats course, ask way too many questions that the numbers can’t answer, and you took calculus twice without getting it. But by the time I remembered these things about myself, I’d already taken a bunch of notes. So I thought (am thinking at this very minute), what that hell? This is what I’m writing INSTEAD OF my dissertation, so I will not make it unfun by trying to be perfect about everything.

So anyway, here are some stats and some possibly shitty interpretation:

First I wanted to check out the basics and see where each team fell in the conference rankings.

Illinois (Conf. rank) Indiana
Scoring Off 78.1 (4) 85.3 (1)
Scoring Def 71.2 (13) 68.7 (10)
Scoring Margin +6.9 (9) +16.5 (5)
FG% Off .467 (7) .500 (1)
FG% Def .424 (11) .402 (8)
3FG% .377 (3) .388 (2)
3FG% Def .329 (6) .307 (3)
Reb. Margin 4.7 (5) +13.3 (1)
Off Reb 10.6 (10) 13.7 (2)
Def Reb 27.2 (10) 29.5 (2)
Assists 13.2 (11) 16.1 (5)
TO Margin -0.8 (12) -4.1 (14)
Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation Yes No


According to these numbers, Indiana is better than Illinois at everything, including turning the ball over and passing laws discriminating against people for their sexual orientation. But let’s take a deeper dive, shall we, into statistics whose calculation process I had to look up.

First off, I wanted to have a look at sheer numbers. Who has more possessions per game? The more you get, the better your chances, right? I didn’t look up this calculation, but maybe I should have, because how do you have 69.1 possessions in your last game?

Poss/Game Rank 2016 Last 3 Last 1 Home Away
Illinois 132 73.4 72 69.1 75.4 70.7
Indiana 122 73.7 68.3 62.4 72.8 76


The teams are about even for the year, but IU has clearly struggled in its last three games. Two of those were home losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin, sandwiched around the Louisville non-con loss. But the thing is, there’s really not enough here to sink our teeth into. The non-conference schedules vary so much by team, and both teams have really only played one true away game each (which they each lost).

Moving on with desperate brevity, to quote Carl Swanson, one of my profs at East Carolina and a huge hockey fan who also went to undergrad at Michigan State. He, by the way, would have a lot to say on how to use these statistics most effectively. Speaking of effectiveness, these tables show the Effective Possession Ratio for each team. We arrive at this number by adding the number of possessions to the number of offensive rebounds and subtracting turnovers. I think this is the kind of thing John Groce was getting at in his pregame comments. So, does IU’s rebounding prowess overcome its sloppy ball handling?

Effective Poss. Ratio Rank 2016 Last 3 Last 1 Home Away
Illinois 224 .925 .940 1.029 .920 .932
Indiana 116 .950 .976 .904 .938 .984


The answer is: maybe.  If we consult the first table, we see that Illinois is 10th in the conference in offensive rebounds and 12th in turnover margin, whereas IU checks in at 2nd and 14th. On the offensive end, IU seems to be okay. And the fact that they’re shooting 50% from the field and 39% from three means they’re making the most of those possessions. We can see that here. Indiana is ranked 11th in the country in offensive efficiency, which is calculated as points per 100 possessions.

Offensive Efficiency Rank 2016 Last 3 Last 1 Home Away
Illinois 121 1.032 .968 1.086 1.109 .922
Indiana 11 1.158 1.039 1.090 1.209 1.023


Just for fun (because statistics are fun, right?), I looked at what kind of efficiency each team is giving up, and here, Indiana is really struggling. I think this means that this year opponents are taking a lot of shots against Indiana. Let’s hope Illinois can cash in on that and perhaps make up for the 7th ranked offense by field goal percentage by taking more shots.

Finally, though, doesn’t it matter who you accumulated all those statistics against? Again, this is just the third BIG10 game for both teams, so the non-conference schedule makes up the bulk of this season’s numbers so far. Here’s a final stat for ya:

Strength of Schedule (SOS): Illinois 14, Indiana 137 (

At this point in the season, stats are interesting and can be suggestive of teams’ characteristics and tendencies, but it’s too early to put a ton of weight on them until we get into conference play. And even then, you gotta play the games. (I would play for you here a clip of Illinois – OSU in 2005, but it’s too soon.) I like the match up tomorrow. If nothing else, it should be entertaining!


5 thoughts on “Stripes, Stats, and SOS

  1. I don’t know Annie. I just don’t like our defense. We give up way too many layups. That would never happen under Lou. Good ol’ Lou. You might remember him.

    I’m planning on visiting the hood last week of January. I’ll stake out your house to make sure nobody vandalizes you.


    • I agree about the defense. We badly need a stopper in addition to better team D. It seems there’s a lack of lateral quickness both in the paint and on the perimeter. Not pretty! But IU seems to give up a lot of possessions, so maybe we can keep up? I’m expecting a ton of offense, but who knows? God forbid we get one of those Bruce Weber 35-37 specials!


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