Bracketology Lesson Two: Introduction to PASE and What It Means For OU

PASE? What in the world is PASE? I'm sure you're asking yourself this, unless of course you're a licensed bracketologist like Pete Tiernan (ESPN, Bracketscience.com). Let's let the expert enlighten us:

That's where the attribute PASE, or "performance against seed expectations," analysis comes in. By quantifying whether teams possessing a variety of key attributes exceeded or fell short of the win totals that their seeding warranted, we can improve our chances of separating successful high-seeded teams from early flame-outs. We can also identify the low-seeded darkhorses that could deal the upset blows. --from a Basketball Prospectus article

For the record, there is no such thing as a licensed bracketologist, but Pete does know his stuff.

So basically, every seed has an expected win total. For instance, 2-seeds are expected to win 2.41 games per tournament. PASE then takes a look at how many more/less games a team won than it was supposed to, based on the seed it received.

In the Basketball Prospectus article linked in the quote, Pete attempts to find certain attributes of teams that allow them to overperform in the tournament. First he does this with all tournament teams averaged together, and then he breaks them down by seed. We will examine the qualities of a 1 to 3 seed, which is what OU is likely to be in the tournament, to see if we can (statistically) expect a nice tourney run, or an "early flame-out" as Pete so eloquently put it. Look for the answer after the jump! (click the link below)

For the big guns (1-3 seeds), the most important metric appears to be a great shooting team. In fact, the best overall metric is FG% differential. The 25 teams in Tiernan's study that shot over 6% better than their opponents had a PASE of +0.600. OU shoots 48.6% while OU's opponents have shot 39.6% in games against OU, for a differential of 9%. The second best indicator of a strong 1-3 seed is pure FG%. The 27 teams that shot better than 47% outperformed expectations with a PASE of +.509. In fact, OU's field goal percentage is 9th best nationally.

So far, so good for the Sooners.

The next best indicator is scoring - with points per game averaging over 85. The Sooners fall short in this regard, only scoring 79.4 ppg. The fourth best indicator is the percentage of 3 point FG attempts to the total FG attempts. The 25 teams with a ratio of greater than .340 have a PASE of +0.467. The Sooners' ratio is 0.345. This indicator shows up on the top 10 list of attributes for top seeds, but not on the overall list.

So the Sooners possess three of the top 4 indicators for overachieving top seeds. That's pretty good and certainly bodes well for the Sooners in the tournament. Based on averages, one would maybe expect a Final Four from Oklahoma if they were a 1-seed (based on Tiernan's stats), or an Elite Eight if they were a 2-seed.

Here's another interesting excerpt from Tiernan about scoring margin importance relative to tournament performance. Before you read the quote, bear in mind the Sooners scoring margin is +12ppg.

The 111 teams with a pre-tourney scoring margin above 15 points per game won nearly 48 games more than seed projections. That works out to a weighty +.429 PASE-about half a game per tourney better than expectations. Perhaps even more impressively, 41 of these 111 squads (37 percent) have reached the Final Four and 12 (11 percent) have won the tourney. Both of these percentages are the highest for any single attribute we examined.

That only begins to explain the importance of victory margin in foretelling tourney overachievement. Consider this: of the top eight attributes I studied, four of them related to scoring margin. Teams that beat opponents by more than 14, 13 and 12 points all had impressive PASE values that would have landed them in the chart above. However, I elected not to repeat similar attributes.

Actually, that's good and bad news. The bad news is that the Sooners only have a scoring margin of 12 ppg, while every other projected 1 seed right now has a scoring margin between 15 and 20 ppg. The good news is that with a scoring margin of 12 ppg, the Sooners would still have a healthy PASE, as Pete explains in the second paragraph.

Another interesting metric for tournament performance, and for performance overall is adjusted scoring margin (ASM) that ESPN's Joe Lunardi uses in his bracketology segments. The good news is that Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 nationally in ASM. Adjusted scoring margin is a part of their insider content, so I won't give away the rankings, but I'm sure some of you are wondering what ASM is. It is the sum of two components:

  1. The number of ppg a team scores above/below the average ppg allowed by all of it's opponents combined. Basically, if a team doesn't score many points per game, but they play in a conference with great defense, it will take that into account.
  2. Basically the opposite of the above concept to take into account a team's defensive prowess.

Therefore this tends to be a little bit better than simply looking at scoring margin. I'm not sure how it's been in recent years, but it has a history of success. The Florida Gators of 2000 had the 2nd highest ASM in the nation, but were a 5-seed. They got to the Final Four.

All of the different metrics are looking good. The Sooners have a lot of offensive balance and can score (except maybe against Mizzou). They have an impressive scoring margin, outshoot their opponents, and can shoot the three (about 1 out of every 3 shots).

Hopefully I can add some more bracketology information or tourney perspectives here in the next week or so leading up to the tournament.

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