Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Conference Play Begins

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Texas was betrayed by rebounding in its first conference game.

For the past few weeks, I haven't been able to keep up with the statistical recaps of basketball games. Too much travel, with too many other things going on in my life. So let's pick things up with the start of conference play.

Two and a half months from now, there is a chance that the Texas Longhorns will look back on their conference opening loss at home against Oklahoma as one of the primary reasons that they didn't make the NCAA tournament. It is a tough loss; OU will be one of Texas' main competitors for the final few NCAA tournament bids if things play out as expected.

While it is a little too early to be looking at NCAA tournament projections, let's do it anyway. One of my favorite tools to use to do this is the NCAA tournament probability projections at TeamRankings.com(*). Their approach to predict tournament participants is to use predictive models to simulate the rest of the season, the conference tournaments, and the tournament selection process a huge number of times. Then they use these simulations to estimate probabilities for a bunch of different things, including each team's chances of making the Big Dance.

Their Texas bracketology page gives us an interesting take on the Longhorns' tournament chances. As of now, TeamRankings.com predicts that Rick Barnes' squad has about a 10 percent chance of making the NCAA tournament. This number is likely to move around as the season progresses, as there will be less uncertainty in Texas' (and every other team's) final record. Additionally, the predictive models that drive these projections will adjust as the season progresses, and we learn more about each team.

10 percent doesn't sound very good right now, but two things have happened in the last few days that have hurt Texas' chances.

  1. Texas lost to Oklahoma.
  2. Kansas State beat Oklahoma State.

The combination of these two effects dropped Texas' NCAA tounament probability prediction from about 25 percent to 10 percent, while K-State's projection jumped from 15 percent to 40 percent.

Again, it is still very early, and there is a lot of basketball yet to be played. If recent years have taught us anything, it is that NCAA bubble teams in major conferences get numerous chances to build their resume and prove themselves. So while there is no need to hit the panic button, Texas has its work cut out for it.

(*Full disclosure, I have done a little contract work for TR.com in the past, although I am not doing any currently. But even if I hadn't worked for them, I would still think this was a cool tool.)

The Week In Review

All of the background information on the statistics is presented here, here, and here.

TEXAS vs OKLAHOMA

CATEGORY

TEXAS

OU

DIFFERENCE

FGA

61

63

-2

FTA

20

26

-6

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

70.5

75.4

-4.9

Off Rebs

8

17

-9

TOs

14

14

0

ORB - TO

-6

3

-9

TS%

0.603

0.584

0.019

ORB%

27%

46%

TO%

18%

19%

Points/100

111

122

Looking for a single reason that Texas lost this game against Oklahoma? Single reasons typically aren't something that I recommend, a host of factors usually determine the outcome of basketball games, but for this game I might make an exception, and excuse you for looking just at a single factor. That factor is rebounding.

Over the season, the Longhorns have been outstanding on the glass, getting to 37 percent of their own misses on offense, and holding opponents to a 28 percent offensive rebounding percentage while on D. But in this game, that didn't happen. OU controlled the boards on both ends of the floor, and won the game. The extra shots earned on the glass by the Sooners were more than enough to make up for Texas' true shooting percentage advantage.

Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley both rebounded fairly well, but Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert were MIA on the boards. In a combined 29 minutes of play, Ibeh and Lammert managed to get just a single rebound between the two of them (it was Lammert's).

The Longhorns kept themselves in this game by shooting the hell out of the ball. Texas was 9-22 from three point range, including 5-8 shooting from Damarcus Croaker. This was good enough for 5.4 Points Above Median (PAM), which amazingly didn't lead the team. Javan Felix did even better, with a PAM of 6.1. When combined with the fact that Felix had only one turnover and assisted 30 percent of his teammates baskets while in the game, I think it is safe to say that this was the best game of Felix's career at Texas. His unusually efficient scoring kept Texas in the game.

Felix was effective in part because he did a couple of things that he doesn't often do. Javan Felix is a steady free throw shooter, but he doesn't often get to the line. But against OU, he earned eight trips, going 6-8 on free throws. Additionally, on the season, Felix has only gotten 15 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim, and he makes these about 48 percent of the time. Against the Sooners, about one quarter of his attempts were layups, and he was 5-5 on these attempts. Two came in transition, while three were in half court situations.

Holmes and Ridley were also strong offensively, with PAMs of 6.0 and 4.1, respectively. It is too bad these performances had to come in a loss. But they did, as OU also shot the ball well, going 13-28 from three. Buddy Hield logged a PAM of 7.6, going 4-7 from three point range, while Isaiah Cousins put up a PAM of 5.4, going 3-4 from behind the arc.

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