Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Big East Freshmen: What Ever Happened To...?

The Villanovans excepted, the players listed below were typically the first or second listed when recruiting lists were reviewed. Each player was classified anywhere from "impact player" to " major contributors" when mentioned with their team. Their numbers are typical for a D1 freshman, but these were supposed to be the difference-makers. The Villanovans (Drummond and Redding) are included because they are, well, Villanovans (and I was curious to see how they compare to some of their better known counterparts...). The others were supposed to play larger roles for their teams, whether offense, defense or both. They were supposed to be starters (or at least fixtures in the rotation) this past season. Each player's %Poss & %Shot percentages (Caracter excepted), at around 15-17, indicate they were by and large role players in their team's offense, or (if < 13...) no more important than occasional contributors. Other players took responsibility for scoring, even when these players were on the court. These nine were sorted by %ORtg (Offensive Rating -- points per 100 possessions):


And the rebounding, assist, turnover and free throws/field goal attempts stats:

Walker2.18.425.011.312.4Started strong &..
Drummond14.717.046.44.416.8Mid-season surge & then...
Caracter19.613.852.95.622.5Better at end
Robinson8.817.540.39.524.2Peaked in January...
Kelly11.915.853.74.830.6TOs killed
Barwinkel0.05.610.011.919.2Never found niche
N'Diaye9.217.675.03.027.2Good rebounder
Redding5.812.228.411.623.6Moved past sophs in rotn
Rivers2.911.719.613.539.9<--- Ouch!

An explanation for PPWS (points per weighted shot) is provided by the Big Ten Wonk. Ken Pomeroy provides explanations for each of the other columns on his "Individual Stats Primer" page.

Defense Before Offense? - Hamady N'Diaye was Rutger's only pickup in the summer of 2006. And the Scarlet Knights needed (much, much) more than a project going into last season. N'Diaye never broke into the starting lineup, despite Joynes' redshirt (and the obvious need). He did not progress enough during the season to grab more than 38.6% of the PT he drew at the beginning of the season. Adrian Hill (the starting center) has graduated, so N'Diaye will compete with Joynes for PT next season. Looking for a longer learning curve may be reasonable.

Leadership Positions Available, Apply Within - Watching the Connecticut rotation the past two seasons reminded of the times I have watched baseball card collectors analyze a holding for possible acquisition: They flip incessantly through the deck, pausing only very occasionally to check the player or condition of the card. I had the sense they knew what they were looking for; they just hadn't found it yet. It was painfully clear by the middle of January that the returning players (Adrien, Johnson, Austrie and the multitude of bench players...) did not have the confidence of the staff to lead the team. The search for a leader and rallying point followed the path of their search for a scorer. For Kelly the learning curve has proved to be longer than his press clippings suggested. He was nearly invisible during the OOC, accumulating enough PT to meet Ken Pomeroy's 10% requirement for stat tracking only after the Big East regular season started. By early February he had established himself in the rotation for about an 8 minute turn. And that is about where he stood through the end of the season. His numbers suggest a typical freshman trying to make his way (89 %ORtg, a solid eFG - about 55%...since his FGAs were 2s, this was also his FGM percentage). He had a promising PPWS of around 1.07, some very strong offensive rebounding and promising defensive rebounding statistics. He was, however, extremely turnover prone, with a TORate which hovered around 30% during the Big East season. He lost about 3 in 10 of his possessions (due to fouls, having the ball stolen, lost out of bounds, etc.). Stanley Robinson is one of only two players on this particular list who saw his PT (Min%) actually increase as the Big East season progressed. At the end of the OOC Robinson was logging about 37% of the PT at the 3 (behind sophomore Marcus Johnson). After Johnson had an especially disappointing outing versus Marquette (0 points in 11 minutes), Robinson became a starter. His PT increased from about 14.0 mpg to 18.5 mpg over the first month of the Big East season. Despite several promising outings (20 points against Indiana, 13 points against St. John's, 9 points against Providence), he too seemed to slide into a scoring funk. His 2FGM was a disappointing 37.8%, while his 3FGM was only slightly worse 36.6%. With shooting numbers like that (especially his 2FGM) his eFG remained in the low/mid 40's. Despite the disappointing output offensively, Robinson proved a strong rebounder (especially on the offensive boards). Like Kelly and Thabeet, Robinson's off season "To Do List" should include cutting down (significantly) on turnovers. He will also need to develop into a more consistent scorer.

Never Have so Many Made so Much About so Little - Louisville's Derrick Caracter posted some paradoxical numbers to go along with his paradoxical freshman year. Slapped publicly by the coach for an unauthorized interview and sent home before the end of the fall semester, his return just before the beginning of the Big East regular season did not mark a reconciliation with the staff. On the contrary after playing 17 minutes in the Big East regular season opener against Notre Dame (a double digit Louisville loss) he and fellow freshman Earl Clark were bumped from the travel squad as the team journeyed to Tampa for their road opener at South Florida. After a 5 minute run versus Marquette (another loss), he was DNP for the next 6 games. And then played in every game through the end of the season, averaging 14.3 minutes per game. His stats are a testament to his love of offense and scoring. His %OR was 19.8 -- nearly double the average %OR for Big East players, while his eFG% was 55.8 (on 53-93 shooting, 53-92, 0-1) and his PPWS was an impressive 1.13 (if he shot it he would score...). But his overall Offensive Rating (ORtg%) was a strangely low 97.4, due in part to his terrible free throw shooting (27-50, 0.527) and turnovers. His defensive stats, particularly defensive rebounding (DR%) was a lackluster 13.8, below average for a Big East big.

Running Backwards...Jerry Wainwright designated Will Walker the point guard of the future from virtually the moment Walker committed to the Blue Demons. Walker started 13 of the Demons first 18 games and by the beginning of the Big East season he was logging 55.0% of the minutes, had a %ORtg of 121.0 (Top 100), an eFG% of 55.2, a PPWS of 1.19 & a TORate of 10.1% (also Top 100). Compared to eventual ROY Scottie Reynolds' numbers at that point (%Min - 56.1, %ORtg - 109.3, eFG% - 47.0, PPWS - 0.98, TORate - 26.3) Walker looked pretty solid. There were, however a couple of caveats...his ARate was 9.5, shockingly low for a point guard who usually is the team's quarterback, and his %Poss & %Shot were below 15.0 (12.7 & 14.4 respectively), indicating he was not really part of the offense or team flow. His minutes (and the rest of his stats...) imploded after DePaul's second game with St. John's in which he played 16 minutes. After St. John's, Walker did not see double digit minutes again; he recorded 4 DNPs over the course of the rest of the Big East regular season and saw only a minute of play (garbage time) in two other games. He averaged 21.7 mpg during the OOC, but only 9.9 during the Big East regular season. Meanwhile, DePaul signed another pg (Mike Bizoukas) for the 2007-08 season, and Jeremiah Kelly for the 2008-09 season.

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