I just updated the Value Add rankings, and Marquette’s trip to Notre Dame tomorrow at Noon could have been a battle for MVP of the Big East except for Tim Abromaitis injury.
Jae Crowder has just nudged ahead of Kevin Jones for top player of the year by a microscopic margin (10.4% to 10.3% improvement to team’s scores) to far out distance 3rd place Jeremy Lamb (6.8%). But when I look at the rankings I did of returning Big East players this summer, you have to believe Abromaitis could well have been the top player this year except for the season-ending injury:
Preseason Total Value
1. Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh (forced to play PG, current #21)
2. Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (injured for year)
3. Jae Crowder, Marquette (current #1)
4. Kyle Kuric, Louisville (missed couple of games, current #23)
5. Kevin Jones, West Virginia (current #2)
6. Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut (current #3)
The fact is that Notre Dame looked like a middle of the conference team WITH Abromaitis, lost their potential MVP, and is still 4th place in the Big East and is on fire coming off wins against then No. 1 Syracuse and on the road vs. Seton Hall and UConn. While we'd certainly like to see Buzz grab Coach of the Year, it would be hard to by-pass Mike Brey going into the Noon showdown with Marquette.
If Davante Gardner is out tomorrow, the Irish may be a slight favorite in part due to having the 2nd best big guy (6-foot-9 or taller) in the Big East based on Total Value:
Players 6-foot-9 or taller in Top 50 of Big East
4 Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
10 Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
25 Andre Drummond, Connecticut
30 Henry Sims, Georgetown
38 Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova
41 Yancy Gates, Cincinnati
While that presents a match-up problem, the reason that Notre Dame is in 4th place in the Big East and on the verge of being ranked is that a 3-star freshman, Jerian Grant, is the 13th Best Player in the Big East. Like Marquette’s surprisingly strong performance from another 3-star, Todd Mayo, the 6-foot-5 Grant certainly had the lineage to suggest future greatness.
Grant's dad was Harvey Grant, who strung together a decade long-career (Bullets, Trail Blazers and 76ers), and his uncle and dad’s twin Horace Grant has NBA rings from the Bulls and Lakers. However, no one expected the 105th best recruit in the land to play 86% of Notre Dame’s minutes his first year, while being among Pomeroy’s leaders in assists and low turnovers, and hitting a cool 37% from behind the arc in almost 100 attempts. When I compared preseason rankings to rankings right now, Grant ranked as the biggest surprise in the Big East – almost enough to offset the Abromaitis injury as the biggest disappointment. While most of the 150 players are within 25 spots of their summer projection, here are the 10 players who have exceeded their expectations by the widest margin with their projected rank and actual rank to date:
Abromaitis would give Notre Dame three of the top 14 players in the conference, but even without him Notre Dame matches up almost even with a Gardner-less Marquette if you go through the best eight players from both teams – and Notre Dame averages exactly 3 inches taller per spot (6-foot-3 5/8” to 6-foot-6 5/8”):
|1||Jae||Crowder||10||Jack||Cooley||6-6 vs. 6-9|
|16||Darius||Johnson-Odom||13||Jerian||Grant||6-2 vs. 6-5|
|48||Vander||Blue||62||Eric||Atkins||6-4 vs. 6-1|
|53||Jamil||Wilson||79||Scott||Martin||6-7 vs. 6-8|
|77||Todd||Mayo||87||Pat||Connaughton||6-3 vs. 6-5|
|89||Junior||Cadougan||91||Alex||Dragicevich||6-1 vs. 6-6|
|122||Derrick||Wilson||106||Tom||Knight||6-0 vs. 6-10|
|125||Jamail||Jones||108||Mike||Broghammer||6-6 vs. 6-9|
The good news is that since January 24, Crowder (big jump to pass Jones for 1st), DJO (from 24th to 16th) and Blue (from 55th to 48th) are all shooting up in the rankings, the bad news is that Grant is too (from 23rd to 13th), so he is on the verge of earning All-Big East consideration in his first season.
Also as covered in the past, while the offensive Value Add is precise, you can make a 1% subjective adjustment within a team for the “team defensive stops” calculation, and if you do so with Marquette I believe it’s safe to drop Davante Gardner from his calculated 19th to 32nd, while raising Blue from his current 48th to 34th.
On the flip side of the nice surprises, below are the biggest 10 disappointments. While Abromaitis, through no fault of his own, is the biggest disappointment, he is followed closely by UConn's Alex Oriakhi who was benched the year after being the inside power for the NCAA title run and has been terrible. The third biggest disappointment is Providence's Kadeem Batts, whose academic problems cost him the first semester of his sophomre year after a very promising freshman campaign - but he is working to redeem himself on the court now.
Overall, 59 of the almost 200 players in the Big East have improved their team's overall scores this year by at least 2%. And while Crowder and Jones are clearly the best two players in the league by this measurement, I do want to make sure everyone knows I will be THRILLED if Darius Johnson-Odom wins the Big East player of the year. He is doing what he did last year at an even higher level - saving his dominant play for the big conference and (hopefully) tournament games.
While DJO is 16th in Total Value to date, he is shooting up rapidly and my only hope is that having two incredible seniors doesn't divide their votes for Big East honors after the year. With the way Blue has taken it to another level the last two games, and Gardner has been dominant on offense, we could easily have the three-and-half stars that Al McGuire said it took to win a title - particularly when you look at how strong we are down the entire bench.