"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

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lazar needs to be 3rd star for Elite 8/Final 4 Run

Historically, it takes three stars to make a Final Four run. For purposes of this article, I will define stars as players who will be drafted by the NBA after the season in question, or the following season.

This is the best predictor of which teams will make a deep NCAA run that I have found. When going through all Division I teams from the 2000-01 season to last year, there have been 46 teams with three or more future NBA draft choices and almost half of them – 46% - have made the Final Four. By contrast there have been 91 teams with just two future NBA draftees, and only 3 of them (3%) have made the Final Four. Texas and Kansas in – gulp – 2003, and LSU in 2006.

Granted, teams with MORE THAN 3 stars have been almost a sure lock for the Final Four, but even teams with exactly 3 future draftees have made the Elite Eight 48% of the time and the Final Four 35% of the time. The following is the breakdown:

Drafted playersTotal TeamsElite 8%Elite 8Final Four% Final FourNCAA Champions
4+151387%1067%Du 01, Md 02, Fl 06-07, Ka 08
3311548%1135%UCon 04, NC 05
1283135%62%Syr 03

So the question now is, does Marquette belong in the “3” row, with an even shot at the Elite 8 and a better than 1-in-3 shot at the Final Four, or in the “2” row where an Elite 8 is a longshot?

With Jerel McNeal knocking on the door of the 1st round at No. 32 in the latest nbadraft.net mock draft, and Wes Matthews closing fast at No. 50, Marquette clearly has two stars ready for the big dance. The variable here is Lazar Hayward, who has been in and out of the 2010 mock draft at nbadraft.net. I believe the NCAA run hinges on whether or not MU gets the ball to Lazar and he plays at that NBA-draftee level down the stretch.

If Lazar is NBA draftee No. 3, then we belong in this group:

North Carolina
Oklahoma State
Wake Forest

This wouldn't be the list I'd draw up of the 10 teams most likely to make the Elite 8, but based on the strong correlation between draftees and the NCAA bracket, you may want to put a couple of these down for extra upset wins.

If not, and it’s just Wes and Jerel, then we belong in this group.

Arizona St.
Ohio State
West Virginia

Certainly Oklahoma and other one-draftee teams can remember Syracuse’s 2003 run behind Carmelo Anthony as the only time a team with fewer than 2 NBA draftees made it all the way, but the odds are against them.

I’m looking forward to Lazar playing like the true superstar that he is for this big run.


Bob said...

Awesome analysis. The real question is one of "heart." The last two games have been spectacular displays of heart. The "heart" needs adjustments to strategy given the loss of Dominic's talent.

Unknown said...

What about George Mason? Has it occurred to anybody that maybe some marginal prospects are being drafted BECAUSE they made the Final Four? This theory is deeply flawed. MU didn't make the FF in 2003 because they had 3 future NBA player in Wade, Novak and Diener. They made it because they had an effective inside/outside game and they would never have been in NO without Jackson and Merritt

Gene Frenkle said...

Wow. That analysis answered a lot of questions I've had about NBA-type players vs. NCAA chances. Awesome work guys.

wisblue said...

I'd phrase this differently. Hayward is going to have to shine for MU to win one or two games in the NCAA. Unless they can upset Pitt or make it to the Big East semifinals MU may be looking at one of those 7 or 8 seeds that almost ensures an early exit.

JohnPudner said...

Richard - I'm not what your question about George Mason (2006). They did not have any marginal players drafted - they had NOONE drafted and are one of the two teams, along with Oklahoma in 2002, who went Final Four without an NBA draftee. Oklahoma is the more amazing of the two, since they went back to the Elite 8 the next year - still without a future NBA draft pick. I understand your argument on marginal players getting drafted bceause of big runs, and decades ago that may have been accurate, but the NBA scouting is so intense now and so much is on the line with every pick, that I just can't believe they are making emotional picks based on a nice NCAA run. I went into the spreadsheet with an open mind, and was just stunned at how strong the correlation was in the end.

Anonymous said...

If I'm reading this right, then there are usually about 5 teams a year with 3+ NBA draft picks. (45 teams over 8 years)

But this year, you've got 10 teams on the 3+ list. I'm wondering if you're overcounting potential NBA picks.

Or maybe this year the picks are overly concentrated on just a few teams.

bma725 said...

Keep in mind that while Syracuse only had one player drafted in that year or the following year, he was not the only NBA player on the team.

Hakim Warrick was a starter on that team as a sophomore, and made the key play in them winning the championship. He stayed in college two more years and ended up being a first round pick after his senior year.