GameNight: Oklahoma vs UAB (NIT)

November 26th, 2008
Nov 26 2008 - 9:00pm

Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey



-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.


One of the big matchups on tonight’s schedule is in the Preseason NIT, where Blake Griffin and #37 Oklahoma (4-0) meets #7 UAB (4-0).


The Blazers have put up a very strong run of road and neutral site wins, while the Sooners are making their first foray out of Norman. Each has also survived a couple of tight finishes, Oklahoma with Davidson and Gardner Webb, and UAB by edging Arizona and Santa Clara.


Despite the close games, Oklahoma looks like a very polished, solid unit already, as they have shown few large weaknesses thus far.  One surprising area is defensive rebounding, where, despite Blake Griffin, they are merely average nationally. However, UAB is among the weakest offensive rebounders in the nation, so I expect this won’t cause the Sooners much of a problem. Oklahoma is also only average in forcing turnovers, not a good stat against a team with very strong ball control that coughed the ball up just 5 times against Arizona.


The Sooners also should be somewhat concerned about both their 3-point shooting and their shooting tendencies, as they are fairly poor three point shooters, and tend to take a lot of them. However, they make up for this on offense with everything else, as they dominate the paint, both in scoring and in rebounding, and get to the line enough to offset an average FT %.


UAB has some bigger holes that could cost them the game, especially in rebounding, as they lag behind in both offensive and defensive boards, and Blake Griffin will likely eat them alive. They also force few turnovers, so despite their own ball control, I’d expect a significant possession gap in favor of the Wildcats.  The Blazers only chance to get the win will come from the perimeter, where their excellent three-point shooting could allow them to score over the Sooner defense, and their own strong defense behind the line could even further lower Oklahoma’s poor shooting.


There’s been a lot of talk about the inside force that is Blake Griffin, so I’ll briefly highlight his brother Taylor, who is an effective if not spectacular player in his own right. So far this season, the elder Griffin has been a very good shooter, and while we’d expect his 66.7 FG% to drop once the competition gets a little tougher, he provides a good second interior option. One of the strengths of his game so far has been getting to the free throw line, as his rate has significantly improved from prior seasons. Also, his percentage is a solid mid 70s, unlike his brother. He gets a handful of rebounds and blocks a game as well, and has a good defensive influence in general, if, again, not game-changing.


For UAB, the focus player has to be Robert Vaden.   Vaden is an excellent 3-point shooter who lives and dies by the shot, typically a 40% shooter who takes half to two-thirds of his shots from behind the arc. His two-point percentage is no better than his three percentage, which is somewhat disappointing for a 6’5” player, but he has managed to come up with a solid 6 rebounds per game (more than Taylor Griffin), along with a couple of steals and assists a game. Vaden should try and get to the line more, he’s a good shooter, but has only been there 9 times through 4 games.


Oklahoma looks like they will dominate inside too much for UAB to handle, but whenever a team can shoot like the Blazers, there’s a chance.


Winner: Oklahoma    Margin: 5-9