Saturday, August 11, 2007

Big East Freshmen: Ten to Watch

These ten rising freshmen were not the headliners on their respective teams. They were not the first option on offense nor the defensive stopper. Bozeman was a starter from virtually the beginning of the season. With exception of Hayward and Calhoun, who worked themselves into their respective team's starting lineups, the others established themselves in the rotation, which explains how virtually all share these two common elements...

  1. Playing time in the range of 20%-59% (Solomon Bozeman excepted) -- the player was not a starter, but in the rotation for most of the season.
  2. %Poss & %Shot numbers may be <19, (but usually >13...) -- the player had a "role" in the offense, but was not the focus of the offense.

While the All Rookie Team members usually have higher numbers in those categories, the common thread for this group is that each has promising numbers with limited playing time. Each of these ten have the potential to assume a larger role for his respective team while simultaneously improving his efficiency. The All-Rookie Team members are going to grab a good many headlines and eyeballs next season, but a few on this list will surprise...


Rebounding, assists per 100 possessions, turnovers per 100 possessions and free throws per 100 FGAs are in the table below...

Solomon Bozeman1.18.887.023.028.3
Qa'rraan Calhoun9.810.442.84.112.5
David Cubillan1.78.526.214.016.4
Larry Davis6.712.229.813.816.4
Jerry Smith6.613.122.916.822.2
Dwain Williams1.73.226.913.921.0
Lazar Hayward12.513.237.13.816.5
Earl Clark9.617.241.94.914.6
Larry Wright3.06.729.89.114.6
Vernon Macklin10.68.242.611.121.0

Pomeroy provides explanations for each of the columns (except PPWS, which you can find at the Big Ten Wonk site) on his "Individual Stats Primer" page.

He was robbed. Compare Solomon Bozeman's numbers to those on the All-Rookie team and the others on this list. He has All Rookie numbers but no recognition. He ought to have a chip on his shoulder, and if he plays next season like he does he should make an All Big East team. USF's Robert McCullum handed Bozeman the ball at the beginning of the season and Bozeman ran the team for nearly 3 months, logging about 33 mpg during South Florida's OOC. When sophomore Chris Howard completed rehab in early February, McCullum worked Howard back into the starting lineup, eventually handing the team back over to the more experienced pg. Bozeman meanwhile went to the bench remaining, nevertheless, in the rotation. That experiment lasted about 5 games. Bozeman worked his way back into the starting lineup, this time at the 2, displacing a freshman wing player, Amu Saaka. Bozeman's eFG is good, but not great and his turnover rate, even for a point guard (who handles the ball a lot), was high; he compensated partially with a Top 500 assist rate (ARate - 23.0) and a knack for getting to the free throw line (FRate - 87.0 -- a Lowry/Krauser type number). His PPWS (1.21) suggests that his accuracy at the free throw line (88.4%) was very solid also. If he took the shot he would score. South Florida, stocked with frontcourt players like Gransberry, Buckley and Mattis last season to which Bozeman deferred, meant he was not a first/second/third option on the offense. South Florida will have a nice set of back court players in Bozeman, Howard, and next year. If Bozeman can get his turnovers down and Heath can find a way to use those guards more effectively than McCullum did, then Bozeman will get a bit more ink.

The All-Purpose Backup Marquette's HC Tom Crean shuffled a number of players through Steve Kovak's (#4) spot in the rotation. Kovak played in the paint for defense (rebounding, etc.) but would flash out to the wing to shoot 3s on offense. Crean's original idea may have been to toggle between Fitzgerald and Hayward, but coming out of preseason practice, it turned out that St. Benedict's David Cubillan got the first look. Cubillan's strengths did not really match the requirements (heigth, build, etc.) and the competition eventually did narrow to the preseason favorites, sophomore Dan Fitzgerald and freshman Lazar Hayward (see table above). But Cubillan proved useful enough to keep in the rotation. His strength, as attested to by his %ORtg, eFG% and PPWS, was clearly his shooting and not (again from his numbers...) his rebounding (OR% & DR%), getting to the line (FTRate) or ability to distribute the ball (ARate). In the James/McNeal focused offense (between them they had 58% of the Warriors' possessions and took 57% of the shots when they were on the court...) however Cubillan was little more than a role player until McNeal's injury. While his role grew very slightly after that point he was not a regular option on offense even at the end (see his %Shot), despite his Top 100 %ORtg.

Another Friar Find? When Sharaud Curry was suspended for four games at the cusp of the OOC and Big East regular season, I wondered if this was the beginning of the end for the Friars' 2006-07 season. To that point they had lost to Brown, but beat Boston College, struggled (but won) against Holy Cross and Harvard, then were routed by Florida, but turned around and hammered Rhode Island. With Curry, their point guard and sparkplug out they had to finish the OOC against Florida State and Longwood and then open against Marquette and Seton Hall. Freshman Dwain Williams took Curry's position, and after a rough start against Florida State (another rout), the Friars ran off 3 straight wins before Williams turned the ball back over to Curry and returned to his place on the bench. Coach Tim Welsh must have liked what he saw, because Williams earned a slightly more active role in the rotation for the next month or so. The wins over Marquette and Seton Hall were significant. Marquette was ranked in the Top 20 at the time and the Pirates and Friars were tabbed to compete for the same ranking within the conference. Williams was a late signing from the Spring of 2006 who had earned some national publicity as a junior out in California and then fell off the radar screen as a senior. HC Tim Welsh found a solid contributor who, despite missing 4 Big East games saw his minutes per game grow after he short stint as a starter. Hopefully Welsh will be able to keep Williams at PC and participating in the basketball program.

The One That Got Away. When Louisville signed Earl Clark the Nova Nation let out a collective groan. The 6-5 point guard from Rahway, NJ had been on the Wildcat's radar since his sophomore year. Fans loved his handle and ability to penetrate and score (but maybe not his 3 point shot...). A diamond in the rough, Villanovans believed he could have joined the 'Cats and would have seen regular minutes at the 2 or 3. Instead he became the "...and also" in a four man Lousiville class that included NYC (and all BE Rookie) Edgar Sosa, sharpshooter Jerry Smith (see list above) and manchild Derrick Caracter (another New Jersey player and friend of Clark). By the end of the OOC Sosa was consolodating his hold on the point, Smith was shooting the lights out of Freedom Hall, Caracter and Pitino were locked in a "Duet of Prima Donnas" ...and Clark was searching for a role. His numbers were paradoxical, but promising -- his %ORtg was a disappointing 95.1 even as his eFG% & PPWS were 53.1 (very good) & 1.10 (also very good). If his shooting was not the problem, why was his offensive rating so low (those numbers suggest an %ORtg over 100, possibly higher...)? A high turnover rate (TORate -- 28.6) and low assist rate (ARate -- 6.1) were contributing factors. Clark's PT grew over the course of the Big East season, going from 11.8 mpg during the OOC to 16.9 mpg in the Big East regular season. By the post season (BET & NCAA) his PT had grown to 26.5 mpg. And his %ORtg was up to 106.7. RP will find a more prominent place in the rotation and offense for Clark in 2007-08.

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