The basketball Buckeyes sit at 5-1, but it's difficult to really get a sense for how good this year's team is just yet.
With a narrow loss to the only challenging opponent they have faced so far, it's hard to say whether the Buckeyes deserve to be the seventh-ranked team in the AP and Coaches' polls.
Luckily, basketball has a lot of trackable statistics and far more datapoints to help us get a gauge on how good these Buckeyes are and can be. Just to illustrate, if this were football, then the basketball team would be halfway done with their season schedule after six games!
Hopefully this gives us some power over rankings, analysis, and predictions – the three related goals of this new weekly column, Hoops Stats Session.
The basketball Bucks aren't threatening to break any national statistical records just yet, but that hasn't really mattered for the most part.
The team is best so far at offensive and defensive points per game, at 76.2 (52nd nationally) and 57.5 (33rd nationally), while also doing work in offensive and defensive field goal percentage, with 46% (76th) and 37.3% (33rd).
These numbers aren't all that eye-popping, but nevertheless compare favorably to last year's squad that included Sullinger and Buford. Sully led the 2011-12 team to average 74.7 points per game in offense and 59.8 points on defense.
Admittedly, this year's team is only six games in with the 79th toughest schedule so far compared to the 4th best last year, but it's encouraging when the team lost two leaders from last year.
Many are probably familiar with Ken Pomeroy's work, but for those who aren't, KenPom's rankings are intended to be entirely predictive rather than reflective of how well a team has performed so far. For instance, this distinction is felt in football rankings when undefeated teams are ranked higher than one-loss teams (e.g. Notre Dame over Alabama) even when the lower-ranked team is predicted to win against the higher-ranked one.
The Buckeyes are doing well in this regard, as KenPom has the Buckeyes at 5th, behind just Indiana, Florida, Duke, and Syracuse.
What's most interesting to me is that while Pomeroy has the Buckeyes at 7th for adjusted offensive efficiency and 10th for adjusted defensive efficiency (based on strength of schedule), he has them at 235th least "lucky".
Luck is calculated using the deviation in winning percentage between a team's actual record and their expected record. That is, luck attempts to capture whether a team is winning games it shouldn't. Pomeroy says that lucky teams tend to be ranked lower in his system than their record would suggest.
I'm encouraged by the combination of a high overall KenPom ranking and extremely low luck rating, though the luck rating is likely so bad because the Buckeyes have one loss even with their stellar adjusted efficiency scores. After all, Ohio State is Pomeroy's highest-ranked one-loss team, tied with undefeated Gonzaga and ahead of Michigan (as the Bucks always should be).
Deshaun has adapted well to being "The Guy", with improved numbers across the board as he attempts to transition from scoring machine to all-around elite player.
With 21 points per game (up 5 from last season) at 49.5%, Deshaun is leading the Buckeyes in scoring, as well as placing third in the conference in field goals made and ninth in three-pointers.
Early on, Thomas' biggest improvements have been in 3-point percentage, free throw percentage, and rebounds per game – Deshuan is up 10% for 3-pointers, 15% for free throws, as well as one rebound per game more than last season.
We should not overlook Thomas' impact from 3-pointers – he currently accounts for exactly a third of the team's overall three-pointers. This is one area that the Buckeyes were lacking a bit last year after Diebler graduated.
Hopefully these trends continue beyond the first 6 games – especially the rounds per game – as the team needs Deshaun to be well rounded. He has particularly improved rebounding on the defensive side, with 1.5 more rebounds per game.
Finally, Deshaun has a deserved reputation for never seeing a shot he didn't like, but this year he seems slightly more selective in his shots – only sixth in the conference and 143rd overall in shots attempted! Thomas was fifth in the B1G and 40th overall last season, and he's averaged just under a shot every two minutes of playtime.
Ross and Roll
LaQuinton Ross's development is absolutely crucial this year, but he has shown up big in every game in which he has received significant minutes.
While the Northern Kentucky game was undoubtedly his biggest one yet, in Ross's three games of 20+ minutes of playing time he has scored at least ten points and had at least five rebounds. The team will need his scoring and rebounding down the stretch.
RPI, SoS, and Other 3-letter Abbreviations
Ratings percentage index, or RPI, is one of the most common systems for analyzing and ranking college basketball teams. RPI is heavily weighted toward strength of schedule (75%) – 50% of which is opponent winning percentage, and 25% is opponents' opponents' winning percentage – as well as winning percentage (25%).
While margin of victory analyses have proved more statistically correlated with winning, RPI remains one of the most common methods for determining which teams make The Dance.
Realtime RPI considers the wins against Washington and Albany, both of which are ranked in the 30s in RPI, as "quality wins". While it might not feel like it, the five-point loss to Duke might be considered a quality loss, as Duke tops the RPI rankings.
The Buckeyes currently rank 18th in RPI, which seems low until you consider that RPI is heavily weighted toward strength of schedule, which is just the 57th hardest in the country – Northern Kentucky and Mizzou KC certainly didn't improve SoS.
Looking towards the future, Realtime RPI has the Buckeyes going 29-1 overall, though this initial projection had Duke as a win. This Saturday's opponent, Long Beach State, is ranked 113th in RPI, and Realtime projects a 90-69 win for the good guys.