Monday, January 17, 2011

Week 4 In The Summit League: All About Efficiency

In The Summit League in 2010-11, there are only two absolutes: Oakland will win and Centenary will lose. That is a statement that has held true through the first four weeks of conference play, and while things have been shaky in the 2 through 9 spots in recent weeks, we are slowly starting to see some separation. For example, IUPUI now sits at 5-2 and looks as dangerous as ever after sweeping the Dakota schools at the Jungle this past weekend. The Jaguars also beat IPFW which has two straight losses after beginning 5-0. Oral Roberts has put together a string of victories that leaves them sitting pretty at 5-3. NDSU, SDSU, and UMKC are all teetering back and forth on the edge of a winning record, while SUU and WIU take up the rear in the league. Since we now know a bit about all of the teams in the conference, let's take a look at a measure of each team's offensive and defensive efficiency.

To do this, we use's offensive and defensive efficiency measures. To begin with, it must be noted that the efficiency measures are adjusted for the level of competition and the site and recency of each game. The result is an adjusted efficiency measure. Without the adjustments, efficiency is defined as points (scored for offense, allowed for defense) per 100 possessions. For our table, we take the difference between offense and defense and use that as a means of ranking the teams, a concept we first discovered in the ESPN mid-major rankings from earlier this season.
Oakland checks in with an incredible efficiency difference of +13.9, far and away the best in the conference. The team currently has the best offensive and the most efficient defense in The Summit League. With such a combination, it should come as no surprise that Oakland is off to a 7-0 start.

South Dakota State truly has an explosive offense this season. While they trail Oakland in offensive efficiency in the league, it is worth noting that their 113.1 mark is currently 31st in the entire nation! However, the team's defense needs a bit of work. Although the difference between the two puts them at second in the league, the Jackrabbit defense is tied for eighth with UMKC.

IUPUI has slowly grown its statistical profile over the course of the last few conference games which has resulted in a +1.7 efficiency difference. The team was in the negatives early on but has seemed to right the ship in recent contests.

Oral Roberts is in a similar spot with IUPUI. Early on, the Golden Eagles were worse on defense than they were good on offense. Lately, they've been winning without a healthy Dominique Morrison, so as long as they can ride this momentum, one would expect them to stay on the positive side of this measure. The key to their recent run has been Warren Niles. The sophomore has regained his shooting stroke, particularly from downtown where he is 15 of 27 (55%) in his team's last three wins.

While the raw defensive rating gives IPFW's defense a high mark,'s adjusted figures point in a different direction. While the team's 105.4 is still in the top half of the league, it also suggests that perhaps the Dons defensive efficiency hasn't been as solid in recent games. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the team has dropped its last two. Dane Fife's squad will need to summon its inner beast to avoid dropping more on the upcoming trip to North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

Good luck figuring out North Dakota State. The team checks in with a -3.5 efficiency differential, which can perhaps give us an indication of why the team went 0-2 on its recent trip to IUPUI and Western Illinois. There is hope on the horizon, though, as the Bison will play all four of its next conference games at home after playing five of its first seven on the road.

UMKC has the head-to-head lead on SUU, but both teams suffer from the same paltry defensive efficiency. Western Illinois has proven it can get things done on defense, but that team has an abysmal offense, no doubt due to the loss of several key players by injury. Finally, Centenary's season is summed up nicely by the -35.1 efficiency difference.

We could go in a couple of different directions here, but the craziest stat of the previous week was the 49 turnovers committed in Saturday's Southern Utah-Centenary tilt. The Thunderbirds owned 28 of those cough ups yet still came away with the win. What's surprising about that is the Gents are actually the most turnover prone team in the country, giving the ball away on a national worst 25.8% of all their possessions. Not on this night, though.

Bell-Holter For The Win!
If you missed the Oral Roberts-UMKC game from Saturday night, we have a video clip of the sensational final play that pushed the game to overtime. With 0.7 seconds left, ORU executed an in-bounds play that saw the ball fly the full-length of the court into the hands of Damen Bell-Holter. The sophomore big man grabbed it, turned, and filled the bucket as time expired. Truly sensational and a definite SportsCenter Top Plays snub.

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