When Ole Miss and South Carolina tip off tonight in Nashville, the key talking points regurgitated again and again will be that the Rebels are playing to work their way into the NCAA Tournament, and the Gamecocks are hoping to play the role of SPOILER, BOB.
While those statements are true, though I don’t know how much a win over Ole Miss moves the needle for South Carolina after a miserable 6-14 regular season, the announcers are not likely to wade deeply into how Ole Miss might advance or how South Carolina could cause a late night Ole Miss Twitter meltdown.
There will be surface-level details like points and turnovers per game, as well as some intangibles talk. Hustle! Effort! Intensity! And the greatest of them all - MOXIE.
These are all informative pieces of a broadcast, but they don’t tell us much more than “That is good” or “That is bad” or “I had no idea Frank Martin once buried a body in a field outside Manhattan, Kansas*.”
*Working to confirm.
Note: Not working to confirm.
To look at the advantages one team may have over the other, we turn to advanced stats to make more sense of this matchup. Specifically, we’re going to look at what Dean Oliver dubbed “The Four Factors of Basketball Success”:
- Effective field goal (eFG) percentage, which is a way to determine how many points a team scores per field goal attempt. The formula is field goals made + .5 three-point field goals made divided by total field goal attempts.
- Turnover percentage, which is the percentage of turnovers per 100 plays.
- Offensive rebounding percentage, which is the percentage of available offensive rebounds a team gets.
- Free throw rate, which is the number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt.
The point of these all being, the more effective you are at shooting, not turning the ball over, grabbing offensive rebounds, and getting to the free throw line, the more points you are likely to score.
It also works on the defensive end, as teams need to prevent their opponent from being effective in all four of these categories. So, technically, we’re going to look at more like eight factors.
How do Ole Miss and South Carolina stack up in these factors? I’m so glad I asked that question. Let’s take a look at where each team is ranked, both offensively and defensively (as of Wednesday night), among all 347 active Division I teams and what those numbers mean. As a note, the defensive numbers are where each team ranks in terms of what they allow opposing offenses to do.
- OM Off.: 247th (our first YIKES of many)
- SC Def.: 304th
A team that can’t really shoot against a team that can’t really prevent teams from being effective at shooting. If you’re looking for a positive spin on this slight advantage, Ole Miss is in the top portion of the bottom third of 347 teams!
If we dig a little deeper, Ole Miss ranks 191st in offensive rating, which is points scored per 100 possessions. While not great, Ole Miss’ ability to offensive rebound, get to the free throw line, and turn teams over (which we shall see soon), helps them generate more points than the shooting numbers suggests they can.
For the record, South Carolina is ranked 273rd in opponent’s offensive rating, which doesn’t change much about their defense.
- SC Off.: 300th
- OM Def.: 194th
A made-field-goal-optional team against a team that is bottom half in defending shooters. Although, to be fair, top half of the bottom half.
Again, digging a little deeper, South Carolina is 279th in offensive rating, which doesn’t add many more points to their offensive abilities. However, Ole Miss is ranked 32nd in opponent’s offensive rating, which is strong evidence that the Rebels cause problems when an opponent is not stepping into a shot or getting to the rim.
- OM Off.: 242nd
- SC Def.: 37th
Not great! Ole Miss turns it over a lot, and South Carolina forces a lot of turnovers. If you recall in this season’s previous meeting, Ole Miss turned it over 20 times. The good news for Ole Miss is that when they do turn it over, there’s a great chance they’re about to create a turnover.
- SC Off.: 204th
- OM Def.: 12th
Because both teams are turnover friendly, as well as turnover greedy, this category winds up being somewhat of a wash. It’s also one of the reasons these teams combined for 39 turnovers in the previous meeting.
Offensive Rebounding Percentage
- OM Off.: 27th
- SC Def.: 292nd
HELLO. Our shot-missing sons should have plenty of opportunities to shoot it again right away because the Gamecocks are a terrible defensive rebounding team that would send my junior high coach to an early grave.
Although possessing little knowledge of tactics or improving fundamentals, he did know how to scream at everyone for not blocking out. There was also a story repeatedly told about how, despite being short, he was the leading rebounder on his junior high team.
Why no, it doesn’t drive me insane that I can remember that but not things related to present day. Let’s move on.
- SC Off.: 64th
- OM Def.: 152nd
Obviously, an advantage for South Carolina, but it’s not nearly as big as the one Ole Miss has. The Gamecocks are a good offensive rebounding team, while Ole Miss is a not great, not bad, not falling behind, meaty-part-of-the-curve defensive rebounding team.
Free Throw Rate
- OM Off.: 91st
- SC Def.: 321st
Ole Miss is top third in the country in getting to the free throw line, while South Carolina, hooooo boy, do they love to put their opponent on the free throw line. In Ole Miss’ 81-74 win earlier, the Rebels shot 44 free throws, making 34.
It was one of the most SEC Basketball Fever games of all SEC Basketball Fever games, but we would gladly accept those free throw numbers again.
- SC Off.: 277th
- OM Def.: 229th
South Carolina doesn’t get to the free throw line with great frequency, but Ole Miss is happy to help them get there. In their best effort to wipe out the advantage 44 free throws gives a team, Ole Miss sent South Carolina to the line 29 times. Yes, the 73 combined free throws were just as thrilling as you could imagine, person who smartly didn’t watch that game.
Ole Miss’ biggest advantages show up on the offensive glass and getting to the free throw line. While opponents shoot fairly well against them, they create a lot of problems on the defensive end before the shot goes up.
If they can continue generating extra possessions through turnovers and offensive rebounds, while embracing South Carolina’s free throw donations, they should be in good shape on Thursday in terms of points scored.
On the defensive side, they’re facing a poor offensive team, so anything that limits South Carolina’s extra possessions and easy points from the free throw line would be greatly appreciated. Also, avoiding a classic Ole Miss scenario where, in a must-win game, the opponent sets a school record for threes. Hard pass.