Tuesday, January 22, 2013

University of California, Los Angeles

I am numbers guy, and I don't trust my intuition.  My intuition tells me that this is going to be a difficult game, but the numbers say otherwise.  In previewing this game, however, I can't help but question what the stats are telling me, and here is why.

UCLA is a good team.  Early in the season, they had some losses.  First, they were beaten by Georgetown, not a bad loss at all.  They fell to Cal Poly by two points at home.  That's embarrassing, but you know, any team is capable of a bad loss.  They lost to San Diego State in Anaheim, which again, is not a bad loss, and of course, they lost to Oregon at home in their last game.  Other than Cal Poly, there are no real blemishes there.

Plus, the UCLA lineup has been anything but constant.  Tyler Lamb  transferred after only playing one game this season.   Josh Smith also left the team in late November.  UCLA's star recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, missed the first four games of the season because of violations of NCAA rules.  Raw statistical treatments of the UCLA Bruins are blind to lineup flux, and for that reason, I think we need to view the comparisons below with a critical eye.

When I previewed the Pac offensively and defensively, the story on UCLA was that their offense was equal to ours in its efficiency.  Their defense, on the other other hand, was not good.  In fact, it was one of the worst in the league.  What's interesting is that since that time, the Cats' defense has suffered, while UCLA's has improved.  If we look at season totals, our defense appears to have been much more efficient if measured by points per possession.  If we just look at games in the Pac-12, UCLA has been better, holding opponents to 0.94 points per possession compared to our defense at 0.99. This is another reason why I think we need to be careful when playing the numbers game.

Shooting two pointers, the teams are equivalent, but we have been better from the three point line and the charity stripe.  In terms of raw offensive efficiency, we have a slight advantage.  We have been a much better rebounding team, but not surprisingly, they have fewer turnovers.  UCLA is the first team we have faced with greater effective size, measured by both height and weight.  We have more depth, but bench scoring is more or less equal.

What does the simulation have to say?  The computer gives us a 75.6% chance of victory and suggests that we are ten point favorites at 77-67.   If you believe the numbers, this should be an easier victory than a road game in Tempe.   The operative clause in that sentence was the one that led it off.  At least this one is being played at McKale.

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