Friday, August 10, 2007

Big East Freshmen: The 2007 All-Rookie Team

Beginning in late December of 2006 I extracted the weekly player data for Big East freshmen, sophomores and transfers from Ken Pomeroy's website. I wanted to monitor the progress of those specific groups of players. I had a number of questions about the freshmen in particular:

  1. How would those players tabbed as elite (including the preseason ROY) actually fare during the season?
  2. Who among the relatively unheralded players would emerge for honors?
  3. From the numbers which players may be flying under the radar for next season?
  4. Is freshman fatigue a measurable phenomena?

I was able to track a total of 39 BE freshmen on a weekly basis. Pomeroy posted the possession-based stats for players who earned at least 10% of the playing time for their position. The average Offensive Rating for those 39 "notable" Big East freshman was 99.6. It is not uncommon for freshmen to have offensive ratings in the 80s/90s. Kyle Lowry for example had a rating of 97.8 as a freshman and virtually exploded to 113.4 his sophomore year. The table below contains the eleven members of the All-Big East rookie team sorted in descending order by Offensive Rating (%ORtg). Reviewing the playing time (Min%) and Offensive Rating, one can build an argument for including these players. While a 14% increase in offensive efficiency (%ORtg) is not typical, note that among this group, even a modest growth of 6% - 8% would place most of these All-Rookies among the Top 200 in D1 ball...


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. The numbers shown confirm in most cases, the legitimacy of each player's selection to the All-Rookie Team, despite the fact that several were not household (the Big East household anyway) names at the beginning of the season.

  • The Surprises (good ones) -- Luke Harangody, Da'Sean Butler, Scottie Reynolds, DeJuan Summers, Tory Jackson and Deonta Vaughn. Harangody, Butler, Summers, Jackson (especially) and Vaughn were certainly not tabbed in the preseason as candidates for post season honors. Reynolds was an MDAA, so the surprise here is that he took the ROY honors. A few remarks about several of the pleasant surprises:
    • Luke Harangody -- his offensive numbers are set up by his %OR (percentage of offensive rebounds). 14.8% is among the best in D1. His offensive rebounding set up a good many close in shots which fed his (see his line above) possessions (%Poss) and shots (%Shots). Virtually all of his FGAs were 2s, so his eFG% is probably also his FGM%, which means he hit almost ½ of his FGAs. Not bad. Note that both his OR% and DR% are comparable to Paul Harris & Hasheem Thabeet, 2 players who received a good deal more recognition (Ken Pomeroy excepted) for their defense than did Harangody. There have been quite a few posters who claim that Notre Dame does not play defense (I mean before the Winthrop game), but with their offense how much defense did they really need? The Irish frontcourt rotation of Kurz (starter), Harangody (starter), Hillesland and Zeller provided "Just Enough" defense to win, for most of the season. His %OR, TORate and %Shots are Top 100 level for D1, while his DR%, %ORtg and %Poss are Top 500. The kid is solid.
    • Da'Sean Butler is one of the two most surprising names on the All-Rookie team. While well regarded locally as a senior HS baller in Bloomfield, NJ, Butler was an "also..." on most WVU recruiting evaluations. That he as a freshman logged 57.6% of the minutes at his position (4) in Beilein's system (a coach with a penchant for redshirting freshmen) suggests he impressed JB, no easy task. I believe that playing time and the "role" nature of most positions in Beilein's system hurt Butler when ROY candidates were discussed. With a reputation for athleticism, Butler may get a chance to show a lot more as an individual in Bob Huggins' system.
    • Tory Jackson -- logged 38% of the minutes in the Irish back court before Kyle McAlarney was arrested for illegal drug possession at the start of the Big East season. Through the end of the season Jackson's minutes shot up to 69.6% because he was called on to replace McAlarney in Brey's system. After stepping back the first month (fairly common when playing time and the player's role within the team increases dramatically...), his numbers began to recover and by season's end (with a bad loss to Winthrop excepted) he was slightly ahead of his pre Big East season efficiencies (but with nearly twice the PT). McAlarney will re-enter Notre Dame next month, but I suspect Coach Brey will play both in Notre Dame's backcourt next season.
  • The Surprises (bad ones) -- Jerome Dyson, Paul Harris and Hasheem Thabeet. Granted these players had good years by freshman standards. But much more was anticipated.
    • Paul Harris -- the near unanimous preseason ROY selection, based largely on his ability to lock down the player in front of him. He was far more likely to produce offensively from a steal and break away than off a set shot developed in a half court set. For a player who was going to a team noted for it's zone defense that ought to have been a warning sign. Ultimately, Harris started a single game (Colgate) and watched his minutes decline during the Big East regular season (from a 25.5 mpg in the OOC, to 18.6 in the Big East regular season) only to recover slightly in the BET and NIT. While definitely an asset when the ball was loose on the court -- his OR% is Top 500; his DR% is Top 100 -- his offensive production declined about 10% through the first month of the Big East regular season. He, like Lowry, compensated for a weak eFG% by getting to the line fairly regularly (FRate of 76.5 indicates that for every 4 FGAs he took 3 FTAs...).
    • If Hamady N'Diaye had Hasheem Thabeet's numbers Rutgers fans would be ecstatic. The Scarlet Knights would have played in the BET (no more, no less). But Husky fans expected more from their team. Thabeet went to Storrs with the reputation for shot blocking defense and inside scoring through athleticism. The defense part was correct, as Thabeet finished with 15.3 %Blk, (good for a #6 rank in D1) and Top 500 rankings for OR% and DR%. His offensive stats by contrast are a paradox: stats for field goal efficiency (eFG%) and ability to get to the free throw line (FRate) suggest he should have been more dominant on offense, but his %ORtg is a surprisingly low 96.2 (for every 100 possessions Thabeet scored 96 or so points). He struggled to convert free throws (0.513 FTM) and turned the ball over nearly 1 time in 4 when he had possession (24.5 TORate). Two areas to work on over the summer. Given that his role on offense did not expand over the course of the season, his %Poss and %Shot remained within 1% of their post OOC value throughout the Big East season, it was clear the staff and his teammates never regarded him as reliable option on offense.
  • No Surprise At All (thankfully) -- Eugene Harvey and Edgar Sosa. Two New York City guards who helped their respective teams. Sosa, with more to surround him than Seton Hall's Harvey, provided a sure handle and reliable (but not offensively dominant) shot for the Cardinals. Seton Hall was decimated by graduations and transfers in the wake of the Orr-to-Gonzalez coaching changeover, but Gonzo will bring in complementary talent for Harvey.

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