Sunday, February 24, 2008

Big East Freshmen: Three Weeks and Counting

I pulled Ken Pomeroy's individual stats from each Big East team's Scouting Page to compile the numbers. Most are from February 17, so this is the look with about 3 weeks of regular season play left. I have organized the data as I did for the mid January look, by shooting-related -- percentages of possessions and shots, offensive rating, field goal efficiency and PPWS (not Pomeroy's stat...), and nonshooting-related -- rebounding percentages, FTRate (FTA/FGA), assist rate and turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions). I am presenting those players who have logged at least 35% of the time at their positions (Min% > 35.0), as I suspect that, barring a last minute rush, that individuals in that group are probably the ones who will get serious looks. Somehow I suspect a coach who has limited (severely?) the playing time for a freshman would have a problem lobbying hard for the player at the end of the season. The offensive data:

Gilbert BrownPitt55.0116.414.614.550.81.11
Jeremy HazellHall63.7114.620.725.753.11.12
A. FreemanGTown64.6113.618.621.157.11.20
D. JonesUSF85.4112.822.823.854.81.17
Jonny Flynn'Cuse87.8112.621.922.652.01.12
DeJuan BlairPitt64.6108.924.323.251.31.07
Dar TuckerDePaul53.3108.228.533.150.21.04
Donte Greene'Cuse88.0107.723.428.450.71.08
Mac KoshwalDePaul77.8100.420.418.151.91.07
Rashad Bishop'Nati55.296.715.815.045.50.99
Corey FisherNova57.296.525.828.944.90.95
D J KennedyJohn's65.196.418.716.546.11.03
Mike CoburnRutgers67.493.619.619.143.60.98
Scoop Jardine'Cuse44.990.516.815.045.11.01
Corey StokesNova38.390.315.618.839.70.89
Justin BurrellJohn's83.088.022.423.343.00.96
Corey ChandlerRutgers56.087.130.831.545.30.96
Paris HorneJohn's35.585.920.
Orane ChinUSF50.385.815.815.340.10.84
Malik BootheJohn's47.080.115.512.835.90.82

Note the cutoff provides a pool of 20 candidates, from which a Rookie of the Year and an All Big East team of 11 would be drawn. I suspect there may be some last season rushes (see last paragraph, below). But by-and-large I have to believe the ROY and most, if not all, of the All Rookie Team is present in the data above (and immediately below). Top 500 stats in a category is highlighed with a lime green background, while Top 100 stats in a category is lightlighted with a yellow background. Note that Pomeroy uses a cutoff of 40% Min% when ranking ORtg, Poss%, Shots%, OR%, DR%, Assists and Turnovers, but ups the cutoff mark to 60% of Min% when ranking FTRate and eFG%. The non-shooting categories:

DeJuan BlairPitt64.616.924.
D J KennedyJohn's65.18.619.152.910.523.0
Mac KoshwalDePaul77.811.817.541.76.720.5
Justin BurrellJohn's83.
Donte Greene'Cuse88.06.115.429.19.916.5
Dar TuckerDePaul53.39.914.126.711.010.1
Corey StokesNova38.
Paris HorneJohn's35.54.213.323.78.828.7
Orane ChinSouth Fla50.36.011.846.88.120.5
Rashad Bishop'Nati55.25.511.334.513.521.5
Corey ChandlerRutgers56.05.711.333.615.622.3
Gilbert BrownPitt55.04.610.036.113.616.3
Dominique JonesSouth Fla85.44.69.845.218.316.8
Austin FreemanGTown64.65.48.820.111.717.0
Mike CoburnRutgers67.42.78.438.718.821.4
Malik BootheJohn's47.
Corey FisherNova57.
Jeremy HazellHall63.72.96.823.95.99.4
Scoop Jardine'Cuse44.91.56.730.419.830.6
Jonny Flynn'Cuse87.

The data is sorted by defensive rebounding percentage. Not a coincidence that most (but not all...) guards are listed near (or at) the bottom of the table. Had I sorted by assist rate most point guards would have been listed at or near the top.

Rookie of the Year...
The preseason choice was a tie between Syracuse's Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn. While most of the top half of the tables could and may well, receive votes, historically there have been a number of biases at work for the regular season Rookie of the Year honor...
1. ROYs tend to come from teams that finish in the top half of the conference (and are most likely going to a post season tournament).
2. The ROYs tend to come directly over from the preseason unless the preseason favorite implodes during the season (see Syracuse's Paul Harris last year) or otherwise falls seriously short in expectations, he (or they) have to be considered favorites for the regular season honor. The ROY tends in most cases, to affirm the judgement of the preseason voters, but may not necessarily be the player who had the best season.

So the question, properly phrased, should be, "Were Flynn and/or Greene's numbers/season good enough to reaffirm as Rookies of the Year?" Another Villanova blogger suggested they may again share the award, but I suspect that Flynn alone will be honored in the award runnup to the Big East Tournament. No one could have anticipated that Eric Devendorf would sustain a season-ending injury and that Josh Wright would leave the team, but both events came to pass, even on the heels of Andy Rautins' season-ending injury in August. Flynn and Greene have had to assume larger scoring roles than may have been originally envisioned. Syracuse may not be having the year the Blue Ribbon Yearbook folks imagined when they ranked Syracuse #20 in their preseason Top 25, but the two freshmen, along with fellow (though less heralded) freshmen Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine, sophomore Paul Harris and junior Arinze Onuaku (and transfer Kristof Onegaet) have fashioned a very respectable record under the circumstances. And they are in good stead for NCAA consideration. Flynn's numbers, both shooting-related (ORtg, eFG and PPWS) and nonshooting-related (assist rate, FTA/FGA), are among the strongest in the conference and D1, freshman or no. Greene has been burdened from the preseason onward, by comparisons to Syracuse great Carmelo Anthony. Fairly or no, he has come up short.

Very Good But...
I would be shocked if the ROY voting unanimously affirmed the preseason honorees (either or both...), but while the following freshmen are certainly, in my opinion, worthy and will most likely receive some votes, each will fall short (but be most likely recognized by placement on the All Rookie Team).
Dominique Jones -- if winning the most Rookie of the Week honors was the criteria, then the South Florida #2 guard would be neck and neck to the wire with one or two others (see below). But recognition came after the preseason Media Day festivities. And the Bulls may not even get to New York City. A lock for the All Rookie Team though. Coach Heath has been very good with the guards he recruited to Arkansas, and I expect the same will be true at USF. Jones should do very well over the next 2 - 3 years.
DaJuan Blair -- Pittsburgh fans knew what was in store for the Big East, as Blair went to high school locally. For the rest of us the Duke game in mid December was the early notice. Blair by and large has lived up to expectations, despite having to function without a true point guard to feed him post passes. The Panthers are in good shape, despite some losses over the past two weeks, to dance next month. Blair's numbers have tailed off the past 3 or so weeks. Freshman fatigue? Fields' injury? I am not sure, but he has time to recover and help the Panthers take a post season run. Another All Big East Rookie Team lock.
Mac Koshwal -- the DePaul forward/center continues to have a strong season. But the Blue Demons are struggling and may not even get to New York City. I think both he and fellow Blue Demon freshman Dar Tucker are also locks for the All Big East Rookie Team.
Jeremy Hazell -- has earned a few Rookie of the Week honors with some eye-popping scoring numbers. Seton Hall is moving into the middle of the conference, and is positioned (should the Pirates run the table with the rest of their Big East schedule...) for post season discussions. Like Blair, Hazell can stake claim to consideration as a difference-maker for the Pirates. All Big East Rookie Team recognition may be all he gets however.

And Then There is...
Their numbers and recognition may not match the first list, but this list has a few All Big East Rookies as well.
Austin Freeman -- the Georgetown wing has been good enough to send Patrick Ewing Jr. to the bench, but a rookie on arguably one of the two best teams in the conference (notice that Louisville's Preston Knowles is no where to be seen...) provides Freeman with little opportunity for those "difference-maker" moments. His numbers however are solid and I would be very surprised if he misses the cutoff for All Big East Rookie Team. He should have a very good career with the Hoyas.
Justin Burrell -- The St. John's forward has had a productive season statistically, but the Johnnies are really struggling. As part of a line-up/rotation that includes too many freshman, Burrell and freshmen teammates DJ Kennedy, Paris Horne, Malik Boothe and (not listed) Sean Evans will provide their fans with more than a few good times and memories. Starting next season. Most likely one, probably Burrell, will make the Rookie Team.
Gilbert Brown -- His numbers top the chart, but with possessions and shots (%Poss, %Shots) in the mid teens, he is not really a first or second option on offense. Cook's injury provided him an oppportunity to step into a larger role with the Panthers, but six weeks later he is still splitting time with upper classman Keith Benjamin as fellow freshman Blair takes a good deal of the media attention. With his scoring as efficient as it is, I would not be surprised if he makes the All Big East Rookie Team. But with his impact as small as it has been in Cook's absence (and Blair's emergence), I would not be surprised if he doesn't.
Rashad Bishop -- Cincinnati, like St. John's, brought in a bunch of newcomers, JUCOs and freshmen, to take up spots on the roster. Center Anthony McClain has received consistent, if very small amounts, of playing time. Only Bishop has consistently pulled down double digit minutes and for a time, earned a spot in the starting lineup. Coach Cronin has moved him back to the bench lately, but he continues to get PT. Might be a good candidate for the All Rookie Team if he finishes strong.
Corey Fisher -- the most consistent of the three freshmen Villanova brought in this year. While Malcolm Grant has earned some Rookie of the Week recognition for his early season heroics and MDAA Corey Stokes has begun to round into form, Fisher has been the most consistent from early season to the past week. While none has had, to this point, the season the Nova Nation may have anticipated, an All Big East Team without (at least...) one of them is a little tough to imagine. My guess at this point is only one will make it, and the strongest of the group so far has been Fisher.
Corey Chandler -- the Scarlet Knights also brought in a promising group of freshmen and Chandler was the recognized leader of their contengient. After an up and down OOC Chandler suffered a stress fracture and was sidelined for about 3 weeks. Mike Coburn moved into the starting lineup in the point guard spot. Chandler has been back about a month but Coburn continues to start. Chandler, Coburn and junior Anthony Farmer rotate roles and time in the backcourt in a system that seems to provide all three with opportunities to alternately direct the team and score. Rutgers has not won enough to establish either Coburn and/or Chandler as difference-makers, but one (Chandler?) will most likely get a spot on the All Rookie Team. Of the other freshmen, Earl Pettis, a wing out of Philadelphia who prepped a year before joining the Scarlet Knights, has joined Chandler and Coburn in Coach Hill's rotation.

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