"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How valuable is Jerel McNeal?

Anybody up for some legit statistical analysis of Jerel McNeal's productivity and value to Marquette? The guys over at Villanova by the Numbers posted an exceptional evaluation of the talented Mr. McNeal earlier this week.

As any MU fan knows, McNeal is a box score stuffer extraordinaire - - which is generally good (steals, rebounds, points) and sometimes bad (turnovers, low shooting percentage, and propensity to take too many shots at the expense of more efficient teammates like Fitzgerald and Cubillan). Rather than the rote aggregation of numbers and a simple ranking, their analysis uses fairly standard metrics employed by Pomeroy and others. Their evaluation suggests that McNeal is a drag on offense and a boon on defense for the Golden Eagles. Turnovers and poor shot selection played roles in the offensive liability, but McNeal's sublime defense seems to makeup any shortcomings on offense. Still, the analysis indicates that if McNeal can improve his offensive efficiency, MU could see a spike in overall offensive production.

Their analysis is purely a statistical exercise however, and fails to account for McNeal's 'presence' on the court (the guys over at FireJoeMorgan just threw up in their mouths). By 'presence' I don't mean to imply that MU benefits just from McNeal showing up -- but his ability to break down a defense off the dribble does in fact allow MU to have a more dynamic, wide-open attack. While McNeal's absence plots out as a net gain in offensive efficiency for MU -- anybody who saw the Providence, St Johns, or Michigan State games knows that MU was crippled, unable to break down defenses or create easy shot opportunities as a result of defensive pressure. I'd argue that the modest spike in offensive efficiency in those final games had more to do with higher percentage shooters like Cubillan, Fitzgerald and Matthews taking more shots in McNeal's absence -- more than MU suddenly becoming a better offensive team. They were not a better offensive team ...... unless you are a fan of the Mike Deane weave, that is.

Beyond that, I'd posit (but don't have the numbers) that the offensive efficiency of the teams MU played without McNeal was higher than the Golden Eagles' season average (moreso than the small spike in offensive efficiency the Golden Eagles realized in his absence).

Read the Villanova Viewpoint analysis here.

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