Monday, August 4, 2008

All Big East Teams, Returning Players, Lists on my Mind

A recent listing endeavor brought me back to the whole idea of lists & ranks. This seems to be The Summer of Lists and Ranks, whether Mike Miller's Greatest Programs List over at the Beyond the Arc Blog, ESPN's Elite Programs 1985-2008 List, Joel Welser's annual preview "144 Teams in 144 Days" over at College Hoops Net (CHN) or doctordunk's efforts over at Cards Hoops Blog. So how does one decide which (or who) is the "best" program/player/team of 2008/the 1990s/all time? One of the reasons I like the NCAA tournament (and D1 basketball for that matter) is the way the annual champion is decided -- on the court. You might complain about the circumstances of the decision (referees, the time keeper, the decals covering the court -- indeed even the surface of the court -- the view from your seat, the arena amenities...), but not the decision itself. The decision stands, you accept it and move on to the next game, the next season.

But what about players? How does one decide who ought to be the Player of the Year (POY) or Rookie of the Year (ROY)? For an individual it seems the Potter Stewart Test will suffice most times. Unless it is 2008, in the Big East, with the question pending "Who was the best Rookie?" -- then you make Dominique Jones and DeJuan Blair share it.

I have already looked at the Rookie Team from last season (and offered another Six or so rising Freshman To Watch), another group of players to look at is the All Big East Teams from last season. Of the 26 players (a POY plus 10 1st Team members, 10 2nd Team members and 5 Honorable Mentions) honored, fully 18, including the POY, Luke Harangody of Notre Dame, are returning to play next in the 2009-10 season. Data for the players, largely gleaned from Ken Pomeroy's information base, is presented in three tables, each ordered by %Poss (declining).

*HarangodyNDU So.1st#572.332.935.6
McNealMarq Jr.2nd#274.927.527.8
VaughnNati So.1st#282.927.327.6
MasonJohn’s Jr.HM#455.526.930.8
YoungPitt Jr.1st#479.726.729.0
ReynoldsNova So.2nd#1/#281.425.124.3
JamesMarq Jr.2nd#1/#275.224.925.5
BlairPitt Fr.HM#564.624.422.2
JonesUSF Fr.HM#
*PriceUConn Jr.1st#1/#279.723.924.4
HaywardMarq So.2nd#463.023.625.4
AdrienUConn Jr.1st#483.823.421.9
HarrisCuse So.2nd#390.022.118.4
FlynnCuse Fr.HM#188.521.722.7
WilliamsVille Jr.2nd#2/#389.521.119.7
McDermottPC Jr.HM#486.620.915.1
McAlarneyNDU Jr.1st#288.918.421.4
ThabeetUConn So.2nd#577.016.113.1

All stats explained on possession-based posts on the left of the page. Click on school to link to Ken Pomeroy's Scout Report for that team. Note that Harangody and AJ Price (asterisked) were 2 of the 4 unanimous selections to the 1st Team. If these players were crucial to their respective team's success last season it seems logical to consider the function they played with respect to their team's offense & possessions. Harangody's presence as the first player listed is consistent with his role on the Fighting Irish squad. While playing about 70% of the available time at the #5, he accounted for 35% of Notes Dame's possessions and 3.5 of every 10 FGAs the Irish took (when he was in the game). Those are definitely MVP-level numbers. Even in this group of Big East All Stars those are "head of the class" numbers. If %Min, %Poss and %Shot give us a sense of the individual's role with respect to the team, how to explain Hasheem Thabeet of Connecticut? He functioned as a role player (4th, maybe 5th option on offense) for the Husky offense -- compare his %Poss & %Shot percentages to teammates AJ Price and Jeff Adrien above (yellow highlight) -- note that Price and Adrien between them took just under half of the possessions (47%) and shots (46%) when they were on the floor together. Put a third player who consumes possessions & shots at about Price and Adrien's rate (Robinson? Dyson? Wiggins?) and Thabeet is pretty much reduced to setting screens and grabbing misses. %Poss and %Shot reflect a bit about the quantity of the individual's role on offense (and a little bit about transition of defense to offense...), but say little about efficiency on offense, and nothing at all about defense. Wondering about Thabeet? Patience. Along the same lines as Thabeet, Adrien and Price, consider also Kyle McAlarney and the aforementioned Luke Harangody (green highlight). Like the Husky players, McAlarney and Harangody split quite a few of the possessions and shots when they are on the court together, though the ratio of touches decidedly favored Harangody. I suspect McAlarney got a few more shots when Harangody rested on the bench.


The table above shows the offensive rating (ORtg), shooting efficiency (eFG%), scoring efficiency (PPWS), ability to get to the line (FTRate) and assists per 100 possessions (ARate -- tendency to involve teammates?). When offensive efficiency is factored in, the value added by Thabeet and McAlarney becomes more obvious. They may not have scored as prolifically as their respective teammates, but each took advantage of the opportunities presented. And each in his own way (McAlarney on the outside, Thabeet on the inside) made their opponent's defense work that much harder.

Now factor in the defensive elements...


And what of Harangody's honor? Clearly deserved as the guy was, in addition to the offense he generated, a monster around the basket. Those rebounding numbers are Top 100 caliber. I was also impressed with his assist rate (ARate, second table). Compare it not to the guards, but the front court players. Having pulled down the offensive board, Harangody was far more inclined than (about twice as likely...) Adrien, Blair or Young, and (about three time as likely...) Hayward, to pass the ball to a teammate for an open shot. Early off season enthusiasm over Connecticut's prospects next season are, Price's successful rehabilitation notwithstanding, well founded. Thabeet, assuming he can carve out a larger role in the offense while maintaining his Hibbert-like efficiency, will easily find himself in the lottery next June. With Wiggins transfer and Stanley Robinson engaged in a one year (academic) rehabilitation of his own, there are possessions and shots available. Thabeet will have to take them as they come.

Scottie Reynold's number show he belongs in this group. Scottie was honored as the ROY in 2007, and a few Nova Nation members wondered if his efficiency was more time and place rather than skill and ability. If there is any disappointment in his numbers, it is in the lack of progress on efficiency. Scottie's ORtg last season was, despite the slight decline in %Poss and %Shot, about the same as 2007. Consider the relatively high turnover rate (TO% -- 21.5) and relatively low (for a guard...) ARate (20.8) as areas for improvement next season.

Caveats, trivia, errata...
1. The other 2 players voted unanimously to the 1st team were Roy Hibbert of Georgetown and David Padgett of Louisville, the often injured, but very skilled Cardinal center.
2. Syracuse freshman Donte Greene, the preseason co-favorite (along with teammate Jonny Flynn) for ROY was voted to the All Big East 2nd Team, while co-winners of the ROY award, Dominique Jones of South Florida and DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh were All Big East Honorable Mentions. Strange.


CO_Hoya said...

Excellent work, as always. I do have one quibble, however:

This marks the second consecutive season in which the previous season's POY returned to play in the conference, a bit unusual.

Jeff Green was the Big East Conference POY for 2006-7, and he was drafted by the Sonics (by way of the Celtics) after the season.

greyCat said...

Thanks for the heads up CO_Hoya, I will delete the inaccurate line (also some spelling and grammar to clean up, now that I have proofread it...). I had the right team but wrong player, conflating Hibbert and (probably?) Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina (yeah...ok maybe).