Advanced Stats Bode Well For Illini

Even with recent success, Illinois could be underrated

Advanced baseball statistics are nothing new to the game of baseball. Sure, some of the most advanced stats still have traction to gain, but rare is the baseball fan that hasn't at least heard of VORP (value over replacement player), or that doesn't realize the importance of on-base percentage, one of those simple-but-obvious revelations made by baseball statisticians over the past 20 years and now being used in every clubhouse in Major League Baseball.

Basketball and football are undergoing their own mathematical revolutions, too. The difference, at least with basketball, is the difficulty in quantifying every exchange; baseball is a much more regimented, finite game. But that hasn't stopped people from learning more about what makes college basketball teams tick, and those stats -- known as tempo-free statistics, because they rely on calculating the efficient use of possessions -- bode exceptionally well for the 2008-09 Illinois Illini. (For a more detailed explanation of tempo-free stats, click here.)

Glancing at Ken Pomeroy's tempo-free rankings, which rank teams based on their margin of efficiency, or how often they score their possessions and how often they prevent the other team from doing the same, all the usual suspects are there, with a few incursions: West Virginia, Brigham Young, and at No. 18, Illinois. Yes, the Illini have been a remarkably efficient team thus far this season, far better than anyone could have assumed before the season started. Bruce Weber has managed to get the most out of his coterie of guards, and the numbers show it.

What's more, if transfer Alex Legion can provide the scoring boost he's supposed to, the Illini could jump even higher in those rankings. The performance included so far only has a few games of Legion included.

In other words, Illinois fans, take solace. Without the numbers, the Illini already look pretty good. And they might still be underrated.

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