"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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hayward and Wade 2 of the only players still alive in the NBA playoffs; ranking the best COLLEGE players still playing

As the NBA “Final Four” tips off shortly, Kevin Durant will be the best former college player on the court still playing for an NBA title. (if you’ve been away, before you read this read the great piece on Marquette taking on Ohio State on the aircraft career.)

Dwyane Wade isn’t far behind and is probably the 2nd best, but since the Value Add database doesn’t go back prior to 2006, I can’t compare him to other pre-2006 players like Tim Duncan at Wake Forest or tell for sure if he would rank ahead of the next best Value Add COLLEGE players still playing, James Harden and DeJuan Blair.  This table ranks the COLLEGE careers of the players on the four remaining teams, for players who were in college since 2006 (Updated table, thanks to LA on MUScoop for catching that I had listed the line for Indiana's Darren Collison instead of Kansas' Nick Collison who unfortunately played for Kansas back in 2003):

rankPLAYERCollegeNBACollege Career Based on Value Add/Class
1Kevin DurantTexasOKCin 2007, he was the 1st freshman to be top Value Add, and Anthony Davis is the 4th
2James HardenAZ StOKCOnly player to be top 10 as a FR and SO in 2008, 2009
3DeJuan BlairPittSAAs a SO in 2009 already 3rd best behind Blake Griffin and Ty Lawson
4Kawhi LeonardSD StSAIn 2011, 2nd best SO behind Derrick Williams
5Russell WestbrookUCLAOKCIn 2008 as a SO already 11th overall
6Mario ChalmersKSMIAIn 2008, 4th best as a junior which is better than 3rd as SR (Cole)
7Rajon RondoKYBOS21st best overall in 2006, first year of database
8Reggie JacksonBCOKCIn 2011 5th best junior, so could continue improvement
9James AndersonOkl StSAIn 2010, 6th best JR, 3 spots behind Jimmy F Butler!
10Cole AldrichKSOKCIn 2009, was 5th as a SO but slipped a little JR year
11Norris ColeCleve StMIAIn 2011 3rd best player, but that was as SR
12Eric MaynorVCUOKCIn 2009 was 6th best, but like Cole that was as SR
13JaJuan JohnsonPurdueBOSSteady improvement until 7th best as SR in 2011
14Lazar HaywardMarquetteOKCAlso steady improvement until 34th at MU, but actually behind Jimmy F Butler even then
15Cory JosephTexasSAIn 2011, 12th best freshman
16E'Twaun MoorePurdueBOSSteady improvement until 63rd as SR in 2011
17Daequan CookOSUOKCIn 2007, 40th best freshman
18Dexter PittmanTexasMIAIn 2009, was top 5% of players as a junior
19Patrick MillsSt. Mary'sSAIn 2009, was already top 10% as a sophomore
20Joel AnthonyUNLVMIAIn 2007, top 10% of all players
21Avery BradleyTexasBOSIn 2010, 46th best FR
22Derrick ByarsVandySAIn 2007 broke top 5%, but that was as senior
23Sean WilliamsBCBOSIn 2007 broke top 10% as a junior
24Terrel HarrisOkl StMIASteady improvement, but still only broke top 5% as senior in 2011
25Greg StiemsmaWiscBOSWas still not in 10% of all players in senior year of 2008

Probably the most overused statement about former college players is, “He was so good in college, I wonder why he wasn’t great in the pros.”

There are 4000 D1 players every year, and even among the top 5% of players every year (ranked 1st to 200th) almost all are wishing they were sitting where Lazar Hayward is with Oklahoma City trying to grab a ring. (Listen to interview with Lazar by clicking here.)

It is very rare to have an NBA player who was not excellent as a college player.  Of the 25 players on the four remaining rosters who played in college since 2006, only Greg Stiemsma did not make it into the top 10% of all college players by his senior year.  This is not a criticism of a former rival, as Stiemsma is in the top 50% of NBA players.  However, the former Badger is one of the rare exceptions like Andre Drummond who is trying to become an NBA player WITHOUT being at least pretty dominant at the college level.

When pulling up the database for the other players on the roster, Durant is clearly the greatest since he was already the best Value Add player in the country as a freshman.  This year Anthony Davis became the 4th freshman to top the Value Add list.

James Harden stayed around for two years, and is the only player I can find who was one of the best 10 players in the country both his freshman and sophomore seasons, according to Value Add.

It’s a close call between him and DeJuan Blair for the 2nd greatest Value Add player in the Final Four.  I give a slight edge to Harden for two incredible years, but actually as a sophomore Blair was better.  He was already the third best player in the country in Value Add behind only Blake Griffin and Ty Lawson, and is on pace to be in the top 10% of all NBA players by the time he hits his peak performance in the next few years.

San Antonio has stayed at the top of the NBA by correctly valuing players like Blair both in drafts and in trades.  In 2009, they didn’t pick until the 37th choice.  The Spurs watched as 36 other teams picked before they grabbed Blair with their first pick.  Many of those picks were on guys who it was clear at the time would never reach Blair’s level.

As for Lazar Hayward’s great career at Marquette, there are really 13 players left in the playoffs who were even bigger stars in college.  Lazar was the 34th best player in the country, but not until his senior year.  Guys who make the top 50 as a freshman or sophomore are usually big stars, and guys like Jimmy Butler who break into the top 10 as a junior usually do very well. 

Norris Cole was the 3rd best Value Add player last year while at Cleveland State, and should be good, but that’s not the same as a guy like Harden, Blair or Wade who is already dominant as a sophomore.

Still, Hayward’s steady climb throughout his MU career gives him the 14th best COLLEGE career of any player still on the court, and the ranking of the 25 above puts them in order.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ohio State Added to the Slate

Let me start this by inviting Mike Broeker and everyone involved in scheduling at Marquette to take a bow. Landing the Ohio State University in a neutral site game on an aircraft carrier is nothing less than a massive coup. Last year, the North Carolina/Michigan State game that kicked off the season was one of the most talked about sporting events at the time. I imagine that this will likely garner similar publicity, and is a fantastic way to promote Marquette while also giving the team a great early-season test.

With the kudos portion of the article out of the way, I decided to take another brief look at the schedule as it stands. According to Value-Add, Marquette currently is ranked #12 in the country for the 2012-13 season with a rating of 32.96. Here's a look at the opponents:

The Sure Things

(N) Ohio State (9th -- 33.80) The Buckeyes are a top-ten team according to Value-Add, and will be a formidable foe. While Jared Sullinger is headed to the NBA and William Buford graduated, they return a ton of talent including DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft.

(H) Wisconsin (23rd -- 29.17) The Badgers are always tough, thankfully they come to the BC this year. There may not be much star-power, but Bo Ryan gets the most out of players like Ben Brust, Ryan Evans, and Josh Gasser, and much is expected out of freshman Sam Dekker.

(A) UW-Green Bay (109th -- 15.38) Surprised to see the Phoenix this high? Brian Wardle has them headed in the right direction, and Alec Brown may be the best big man in the Horizon. This will be a tough road game against a team that returns their top-four scorers.

(H) LSU (129th -- 13.29) Marquette will be looking for revenge on a Tiger team in transition. They have a new coach in Johnny Jones and lost four of their top seven scorers. Much will be expected of sophomore McDonald's All-American Johnny O'Bryant.

(H) Milwaukee (206th -- 5.54) Just saw this one confirmed on IWB's website. Looks like the series will continue, and with a road game at Green Bay, there's no way we're playing the Panthers away this year.

The Question Marks

(A) Florida (15th -- 32.16) or Missouri (18th -- 31.30) With Georgetown/UK already set, it seems Marquette will likely play one of these two on the road. It could be a number of other teams, but these two have been the most frequently mentioned.

(N) Texas (10th -- 33.70), North Carolina (29th -- 28.12), Butler (81st -- 18.23), Illinois (104th -- 15.54), USC (111th -- 15.11), Mississippi State (125th -- 13.69), Chaminade (Division II) Marquette will play three of these seven in Maui, my hopes are to see anyone but Chaminade in the opener with a path that includes Texas and UNC if the Warriors keep winning.

The Unknowns

This slate gives us two high-major home games, two true road games (including a SEC team), and four neutral site games, of which at least two should be against top-level teams. There will be one mainland game coming back from the Maui. Last year, two of the four mainland teams won their conferences (Belmont and Middle Tennessee), so it's possible to get another decent mid-major there. That leaves three more buy games. Hopefully the scheduling crew can at least get teams inside the top-300 to avoid the major RPI drains. Can't wait to see the rest of the schedule as it's unveiled.

NBA Combine invites validate statistical NBA Indicators and DraftExpress, while NBADraft.net strikes out with snubs of Crowder, DJO and others

The announcement of the 60 players invited to the NBA combine this week confirmed something I’ve observed for the last several weeks; while the mock draft on Draft Express  is certainly missing a few players who will contribute at the NBA-level, it is DraftNet that bears almost no resemblance to a statistical analysis of which college players will make the jump. (scroll to the bottom for the table below of which mock draft missed which players)

The combine list is the first true indicator of who the NBA teams believe will be drafted.  There are 60 players invited to the combine and 60 players are drafted, so except for a few extra European players who will make the draft without going to the combine – this is basically the list until some underperform at the combine itself.

While I am sure both mock drafts will become much more accurate after being adjusted for who is invited to the combine and how they perform there, DraftNet was off on an incredible 19 players heading into the mock draft, more than twice as many as DraftExpress, whose mock much more closely mirrored my statistical analysis.

Adaption of Statistical Analytics to NBA Drafts a proven winner

A decade ago stat-skeptics may have challenged this proposition when Mark Cuban paid Jeff Sagarin and Wayne Winston over $100,000 ayear to start guiding moves with statistics.  However, in the ten years before that decision the Mavericks had a .303 winning percentage and after hiring Sagarin and Winston they had .691 winning percentage capped by a World Championship.

Maybe a few stat-skeptics were still around when the Indiana Pacers hired another of the true statistical masterminds, Kevin Pelton, in March of 2010 while suffering through a 32-50 season that would be their fourth straight out of the playoffs.  The answer to the headline, “Can Numbers Turn Around the Pacers?,” after that hire was also yes, as just two years later they have gone from doormat to giving the Heat a scare as the 3-seed in the East.

Why we can’t print statistical NBA indicators like we do Value Add

The Spurs in-house analytic team is one of the best in the NBA, and their ability to evaluate college players that are undervalued has made them the virtual Moneyball team of the NBA but with equal resources.  The difference between the Spurs and Billy Beane is that Beane lost all competitive advantage when Moneyball the book was printed and the teams with more money could adapt his statistical analysis, while the Spurs analytics effort has been kept close to the vest and therefore enabled them to maintain a huge advantage in statistical analysis over most teams even though they have received few high draft choices due to such consistent great play over the years.  The Spurs get the most wins per dollar spent year after year.

So while we are all happy to make public who we believe are the best/most valuable college players on Pomeroy, Value Add, or other sites, the public and draft sites are not aware of the statistical measurements of NBA Indicators.

If Sagarin ran a site updating the public and other teams on the draft order he was recommending to the Mavs and Pelton did the same team for who his stats said the Pacers should pick, then their statistical analysis would lose all competitive value because other teams would grab the identified undervalued players in the middle of the first round right before the Mavs, and later in the round right before the Pacers.

Likewise when I meet with an NBA team and they ask me to run numbers on three specific players they are looking at as surprise picks, I keep that in confidence.  I don’t go to the next team and say, “hey, you may want to look at these three guys I just heard about.”  In fact, I never even let an NBA team know what other NBA teams I’ve talked to. 

I can only pass on historical questions such as one I recently got from an NBA team about how our system projected David Lee to be a strong NBA starter by his fourth NBA season while every other statistical analysis said he was a likely bust.  In that case, I can convey to  other teams the flaws in competing evaluations that kept them from seeing Lee’s potential, and how we handle them, but even in a historical case I’m not going to print the formulas like I do with Value Add, because then every other team would simply run our NBA Indicator numbers and know our evaluation of each players’ NBA potential before I even told the team with whom I was meeting.  In the case of Lee, our system was the only one that works, as from his fourth through eighth seasons he has averaged over 10 rebounds a game while his rookie points per game of 5.1 has increased all but one year to 10.7, 10.8, 16.0, 20.2, 16.5 and 20.1.

So while there may be a small gap in statistical knowledge of how good a college player based on whether a fan believes Crowder is the 2nd best player in the nation based on his Value Add, or the 8th best player as rated at www.kenpom.com or one of the top 10 players as selected by the AP All-American voters or a little lower based on some other evaluation, the knowledge is all public.

However, there is a huge gap between public knowledge and the statistical evaluation of a player’s NBA potential and where he should go in the draft since anyone providing that knowledge to NBA teams has to keep it out of the public domain and even secret from other teams, and therefore you end up with a situation like this year where prior to the combine the intel of www.nbadraft.net was nowhere close to reality, while the www.draftexpress.com was pretty close.

So while I keep strict confidence on what NBA clubs tell me in meetings – never divulging it publicly or in conversations with other NBA clubs – there is a consensus out there on a couple of things pertaining to this draft.  Every team I’ve met with knows before I can tell them that Anthony Davis is BY FAR the best player in this draft if not in several drafts and Jae Crowder is the top statistical sleeper in this draft no matter which exact methodology is used by a particular club.  Even if a particular analytics team isn’t weighting a particular stat properly to measure the top prospects, they would have to really mess up the math to conclude that there was a better player than Davis or a better “sleeper,” as in player who would not have been considered a prospect coming into this season, as Crowder.  Analysis is getting better and better, and that means fewer Jeremy Lins are going to be missed, just as fewer college stars slip to Division 2 or 3 anymore.

But because this info is kept close to the vest until the combine list is reveals, DraftNet didn’t even have Jae Crowder or Darius Johnson-Odom in their mock draft, or for that matter Jared Cunningham (Oregon State), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), Tu Holloway (Xavier), Bernard James (Florida State), Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara) or Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State) – all of whom were tabbed for the combine.  Likewise, their mock draft included Robert Sacre of Gonzaga, Maalik Wayns of Villanova and five other players on whose stats indicate they are great college players but unlikely to be able to contribute at the pro level.  While any of those players could play poorly in the combine and drop out to create a spot for a lesser prospect like Sacre or Wayns at the end of the draft, the fact is that as of now DraftNet’s intel has been way off.

While we can certainly give them a pass to them on four combine participants that both mock drafts missed in Hollis Thompson (Georgetown), Miles Plumlee (Duke), Robbie Hummel (Purdue) and Tony Mitchell (Alabama), the fact is that even without breaking confidences and revealing the specific players my program and the internal analytics of several teams indicate will be NBA contributors, DraftExpress certainly appears to be operating on much better intel.

That is good news for Crowder, who is a 1st rounder based purely on statistical NBA Indicators and still a solid pick at 43rd pick in Draft Express, and DJO, who has slipped a few spots but is still a solid 47th pick of 60 in Draft Express heading into the combine.  While admittedly other considerations such as height and the potential to move down a position in the pros will be balanced against stats and the incredible strength and near zero percent body fat on both players – the fact that DraftExpress was so much more accurate overall is a good sign that both have a chance to shore up their draft status at the combine rather than having to leapfrog other players to get into the draft.

While the majority of combine invites were easy to predict, the following is the complete list of any player that was missed by either of the mock drafts:

PlayerTeamDraftNetExpressCombineWho missed?
Quincy Acy Bayloryesnoyesexpress
Jae Crowder Marquettenoyesyesnet
Jared Cunningham Oregon Statenoyesyesnet
Marcus DenmonMissourinoyesyesnet
Kim English Missouriyesnoyesexpress
Terrance HenryMississippiyesnononet
Tu Holloway Xaviernoyesyesnet
Robbie Hummel Purduenonoyesboth
Bernard James Florida Statenoyesyesnet
Orlando Johnson UC Santa Barbaranoyesyesnet
Darius Johnson-Odom Marquettenoyesyesnet
Greg ManganoYaleyesnononet
Khris Middleton Texas A&Myesnoyesexpress
Tony Mitchell Alabamanonoyesboth
Cameron MooreUAByesnononet
Kyle O'Quinn Norfolk Statenoyesyesnet
Miles Plumlee Dukenonoyesboth
Robert SacreGonzagayesnononet
Henry Sims Georgetownyesnoyesexpress
Hollis Thompson Georgetownnonoyesboth
Casper WareLong Beach Statenoyesnoexpress
Mitchell WattBuffaloyesnononet
Maalik WaynsVillanovayesnononet
Alex YoungDenveryesnononet

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Top 50 College Basketball Teams in 2014 (Way, way too early, but objective)

In an overly enthusiastic moment during a back-and-forth on a blog a while back, I gave Marquette a 15% chance of winning a national title in 2014 if their roster held firm.  Today I punched up the www.valueaddbasketball.com database for a more scientific look at how the teams stack up for the 2013-14 college basketball season.  Let's start by looking at Marquette's roster - and keep in mind that while Value Add is a very precise measure, Projected Value for future seasons is of course just an estimate that can be dramatically changed by who works out harder in the offseason.

Marquette 2014 Roster With Projected Value Adds

2014 RosterHtClass2014 VA
Blue, Vander6-f-44 Sr4.01
Gardner, Davante6-f-84 Sr5.54
Otule, Chris6-f-114 Sr2.42
Thomas, Jake6-f-34 Sr1.73
Wilson, Jamil6-f-74 Sr4.07
Anderson, Juan6-f-63 Jr3.19
Mayo, Todd6-f-33 Jr3.99
Taylor, TJ6-f-33 Jr2.31
Wilson, Derrick6-f-03 Jr1.20
Ferguson, Jamal6-f-32 So2.95
Taylor, Steve6-f-72 So3.46
Burton, Deonte6-f-51 Fr2.88
Wilson, Duane6-f-31 Fr1.89
2014 Total Projection39.64
Average Freshman Class3.40
Total Projected 2014 Value43.04

This really might be the most balanced roster in the country, because while no player approaches the 9% level of a typical All-American, all 13 players are easily above the 1% that indicates a strong 6th, 7th or 8th player in a rotation.  (3% or better is typically a good BCS starter)

The Top 50 teams of 2014

In a vacuum that looks great, but this is the first time I've been able to see how Marquette stacks up against the other 340 teams out there.  While obviously this is a moving target, the following are the things you need to track to have a measure of how good each team should be:

1. The projected Value Add of each player on a team based on the standard percent increase from a freshman becoming a sophomore, etc.  For incoming freshmen, the average Value Add of past freshman since 2006 (e.g. the average freshman ranked as high as Deonte Burton is now has produced 2.88% Value Add, so that is his estimate).  The fact that so much of MUs roster has two years to improve, gives it one of the best projected Value Adds in the country, though the young Texas team has the best at 45.25.

2. The Value of Transfers.  TJ McConnell has quietly been one of the 15 most valuable players in the country the past two years at Duquesne, and after his transfer year he adds to Arizona's incredible roster to give them the highest projected Value Add.  Obviously there will be many more transfers between now and then, but since Value Add gives each player a specific value, if Rodney Hood signs with Louisville we simply add his 5.63 and Louisville moves up from 35th place (25.42) to 16th place (31.05).

3. Who will leave for the NBA after the 2013 season?  I have NOT added the value of any player projected to go in the 2013 draft to a team's total, but I have listed them in case they stay.  So if James McAdoo and PJ Hairston decide they want to stay at UNC they move into 2nd in the country, and if Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin decide they want to stay at Kentucky then the Wilcats become the favorite.  But normally players go once they are good enough to make it. Marquette and UConn are the only two teams in the country to put five SENIORS in the NBA in this database (2006-2011), which does not count Travis Diener (2005).  Hopefully DJO and Jae Crowder will make it 7 seniors in 7 years, and 8 in 8 with Diener.  Usually a player leaves when they are good enough to make the NBA - and no team in the country has been able to watch as many future NBA players play through their senior year as Marquette.

4. Finally, since most of the 2013 freshman class is not yet signed, I have credited each team with the average freshman value it has put together each season.  During the seven years in the database, John Calipari has averaged recruiting a freshman class that has put 12.1 Value Add in a season, way more than any other team.  Marquette just averages 3.40 in freshman Value Add each class, the 40th best total in the country.  Therefore I gave each team their "average" freshman class of the last seven years in a second column, then added two together in the next column.

The following is the resulting top 50 for the 2014 season.  My "15% chance of a title" was definitely high, but objectively Marquette does look like the 7th best team in the country two years from now.  Providence and Iowa project as the other potential huge jumps.  Odds are not all three really contend with the national powers, but this far out we are just looking at potential, and the potential is there for another Final Four.

Hopefully none of the rumors of changing internal academic policies chasing players out of the program are true, because Buzz has this team lined up to give us a shot.  Here is how the Top 50 stacks up:

Rnk2014 TeamProj VAAve. FrTotalAssume gone to NBA
1Texas45.259.3054.55Kabongo, Myck 6.43
2Arizona46.315.0051.31No projected 2013 draftees
3Kentucky36.7412.1048.84Noel, Nerlens 10/Goodwin, Archie 7.34
4UCLA40.195.2045.39Muhammad, Shabazz 10.5
5Maryland40.553.4043.95Len, Alex 2.11
6Providence39.773.7043.47No projected 2013 draftees
7Marquette39.643.4043.04No projected 2013 draftees
8Iowa39.183.6042.78No projected 2013 draftees
9Connecticut36.396.3042.69No projected 2013 draftees
10North Carolina34.627.4042.02McAdoo, James 6.44/Hairston, PJ 5.86
11Michigan St.37.373.8041.17Dawson, Branden 8.48
12Memphis35.735.3041.03Thomas, Adonis 5.37
13Ohio St.32.058.4040.45Thomas, Deshaun 9.56
14Indiana34.905.4040.30Zeller, Cody 14.5/Oladipo, Victor 6.65
15California34.803.5038.30No projected 2013 draftees
16Kansas31.245.1036.34No projected 2013 draftees
17Georgetown30.505.0035.50Porter, Otto 12.08
18Michigan30.714.4035.11Burke, Trey 10.72/Hardaway, Tim 5.1
19Stanford34.710.0034.71No projected 2013 draftees
20Notre Dame33.900.0033.90No projected 2013 draftees
21Duke25.247.4032.64No projected 2013 draftees
22Virginia32.090.0032.09No projected 2013 draftees
23Houston31.710.0031.71No projected 2013 draftees
24Alabama27.454.1031.55No projected 2013 draftees
25Baylor27.253.9031.15Austin, Isaiah 9.08
26Florida25.995.0030.99Young, Patric 6.53
27Arkansas27.083.9030.98Young, BJ 11.67
28Texas Tech30.640.0030.64No projected 2013 draftees
29Louisville25.425.1030.52Dieng, Gorgui 9/Blackshear, Wayne 4.1
30Mississippi27.413.1030.51No projected 2013 draftees
31Pittsburgh26.533.5030.03Adams, Steven 9.28
32Colorado26.713.1029.81Roberson, Andre 9.77
33Nevada Las Vegas29.200.0029.20Moser, Mike 7.39
34Villanova25.363.7029.06No projected 2013 draftees
35North Carolina St.25.163.8028.96Brown, Lorenzo 7.48/Leslie CJ 5.33
36St. John's28.960.0028.96No projected 2013 draftees
37Syracuse23.595.2028.79Carter-Williams, Michael 4.31
38Tennessee28.450.0028.45No projected 2013 draftees
39Oklahoma St.27.950.0027.95Nash, Le'Bryan 6.93
40New Mexico27.100.0027.10No projected 2013 draftees
41Texas A&M26.910.0026.91No projected 2013 draftees
42Rutgers22.264.3026.56No projected 2013 draftees
43West Virginia26.520.0026.52No projected 2013 draftees
44Xavier26.440.0026.44No projected 2013 draftees
45Oregon State25.520.0025.52No projected 2013 draftees
46Iowa State21.663.8025.46No projected 2013 draftees
47South Florida25.260.0025.26No projected 2013 draftees
48Seton Hall24.600.0024.60No projected 2013 draftees
49Harvard24.590.0024.59No projected 2013 draftees
50Virginia Tech24.420.0024.42No projected 2013 draftees

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Top 40 Players of the Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012 seasons

With at least West Virginia leaving for the Big 12 for next season, this year marked the end of an incredible 7-year run in which Marquette was blessed to be part of the greatest basketball conference ever assembled. Certainly my friends in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC can all argue that with a few weak teams in the bottom few spots each of them were sometimes ranked higher overall, but as far as having the most top level players and teams, this run was unmatched.

While I am excited about the additions of a Houston team that I believe is on the verge of going to the next level, and consistent excellent play of Temple and Memphis, I did want to pause and run the database to calculate the top 40 players of the Big East Golden Era. These are purely stat driven – I didn’t know who any of the other top 40 were before I ran it last night, and I won’t print out tables now that you can pull whoever you want up at www.valueaddbasketball.com. 

These are based on career totals, so obviously 4-year players usually have more value to a school than one-and-dones. Several great players did not make the list because they only played one year during the era, as Steve Novak, Quincy Douby, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, James White and Rudy Gray finished in 2006. By the same token, Otto Porter of Georgetown projects as the best Value Add player next year, but since he only played his freshman year of 2012 during the era, he doesn’t make the list.

40th to 31st best player of Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012

Without further ado, here is the countdown:

40. FLYNN, JONNY - SYRACUSE 13.76 – sophomore year was already top 1% in assists and minutes played and nationally ranked both years in offensive efficiency (see ORtg at www.kenpom.com) before leaving for pros.

39. HARRIS, PAUL - SYRACUSE 13.82 – ranked all three years in offensive rebounding and drawing fouls.

38. PRICE, A.J. - CONNECTICUT 14.09 – top 1% in assists his first two years before shifting to a shooter his senior year and going 82 of 204 for 40.2% beyond the arc.

37. GATES, YANCY - CINCINNATI 14.19 – nationally ranked in offensive rebounding and blocked shots all four years, and defensive rebounding all but his sophomore year. Also ranked in eFG% (see www.kenpom.com, shooting percentage with an extra half shot made awarded for every 3-pointer made) his sophomore and junior year.

36. GAUSE, PAUL - SETON HALL 14.41- the best ball hawk of the era. He was 1st in the nation as a sophomore stealing the ball 6.9% of opponents trips, then he went up to 7.2% his junior year but didn’t have enough minutes to qualify. His senior year he picked up his offense to play 74% of all minutes and still stole the ball 5% of all trips for 5th best in the country.

35. NICHOLS, DARRIS - WEST VIRGINIA 15.05 – ranked 6th in ORtg his junior year despite playing 86% of the minutes, and then played just as much his senior year and stayed in the top 3% offensively. Didn’t shoot a lot, but his junior year he was 42% on treys, 57% on two-pointers and 84% from the line.

34. JOSEPH, KRIS - SYRACUSE 15.25 – nationally ranked in steals and getting to the line each of his last three years.

33. SAPP, JESSIE - GEORGETOWN 15.27 - part of a very steady, strong defensive effort his sophomore and junior seasons to help Georgetown smother opponents en route to consecutive 2-seeds.

32. CUNNINGHAM, DANTE - VILLANOVA 15.27 – was nationally ranked in offensive rebounding and blocks all four years to give them just enough size to dominate with a 4-guard offense.

31. MONROE, GREG - GEORGETOWN 15.31 – top 1% in defensive rebounding his sophomore and final season, and nationally ranked both years in shooting, blocked shots, and drawing fouls.

30th to 21st best player of Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012

30. JARDINE, SCOOP - SYRACUSE 15.44 – ranked in steals and assists all four years, and in top 1% of assists each of last three years.

29. ADRIEN, JEFF - CONNECTICUT 16.17 – was ranked each of his final three years in offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, blocks, minutes, not fouling and drawing fouls.

28. GIBBS, ASHTON - PITTSBURGH 16.31 – his junior year was one of the top 20 offensive value add seasons of the era, as he was 17th in ORtg and 36th in shooting in the country due to an incredible 49% from behind the arc on 102 of 208 shooting.

27. MATTHEWS, WESLEY - MARQUETTE 16.55 – ranks lower than the other two Amigos because he was the late bloomer, but Value Add says he had the best single season of any of the three with his 6.38% Value Add his senior year after having a solid but not elite 10.17% in his first three seasons combined. His top 2% in getting to the line that year was crucial since he hit 83% of his free throws once there, and he was also ranked in overall shooting with 37% from beyond the arc and 52% from inside it.

26. THABEET, HASHEEM - CONNECTICUT 16.75 – three years of absolute dominant shooting (64th and 17th last two years), pounding the offensive glass and especially blocking shots (ranked 6th, 11th and 6th again his three years in the latter).

25. WRIGHT, CHRIS - GEORGETOWN 16.79 – capped a four-year career by finishing in the top 2% in assists, but it was his sophomore and junior years in which he was ranked in eFG% and minutes played.

24. YOUNG, SAM - PITTSBURGH 16.89 – nationally ranked in shot blocking all four years. His first two years nationally ranked in offensive rebounding as well, but then shifted focus to shoot more his last two years and was nationally ranked offensively the last two years.

23. CLARK, JASON - GEORGETOWN 16.99 – last three years ranked in eFG%, steals and minutes played.

22. JACKSON, RICK - SYRACUSE 17.07 – nationally ranked in defensive rebounding his last three years, but truly dominated as an offensive rebounder (top 5% all three years) and shot blocker (top 2% all three years.)

21. CROWDER, JAE - MARQUETTE 17.07 – his senior season nudges out Terrence Williams, Gorgui Dieng, Hasheem Thabeet, Greg Monroe and DeJuan Blair for the best defensive season of the era. It was also the 14th best offensive year of the era, so the mirror of Kemba’s final season as the two are virtually tied for the best overall season of the era. Crowder’s junior year was the 23rd best of any junior.

20th to 11th best player of Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012

20. SMITH, JERRY - LOUISVILLE 17.15 – only averaged about 58% of the minutes his first three seasons, but when he came in he stole the ball (nationally ranked all four years) and popped treys at an alarming rate (177 of 423 for 42% over his first three years). He had a very poor senior year offensively, but Pitino knew how much value he could bring in this role.

19. WALLACE, JONATHAN - GEORGETOWN 17.15 – nationally ranked in assists his first two years, and was one of the top shooters in the country his last two years. He put up over 300 treys between his last two years, hitting 49% and 45%, while going 87% and 79% from the line. His eFG% was 63.9% his junior year for 22nd in the country, and 63.5% his senior year to come in at 19th.

18. FISHER, COREY - VILLANOVA 17.16 – nationally ranked in steals and assists all four years, including ranking in the top 2% in assists his senior year.

17. BLAIR, DEJUAN - PITTSBURGH 17.25 - Clearly the best player of the era, as he accomplished all of this in his freshman and sophomore seasons. His sophomore season he put together the 6th best defensive season of the era and 5th best offensive season. Crowder was better defensively his final year, Kemba was better offensively his final year, but Blair would have almost certainly been both the best offensive and best defensive player of the era if he had played past his sophomore year. His final year he was 1st nationally in offensive rebounding, 10th in defensive rebounding and nationally ranked both years in those categories as well as blocks, steals and drawing fouls.

16. HAZELL, JEREMY - SETON HALL 17.45 – His senior injury cost him half the year and ended his streak of putting up exactly 290 treys in back-to-back years and hitting a solid 35% of them – most from the parking lot. But he was also ranked all four years in steals AND not fouling or turning it over, a tough combination.

15. BUTLER, JIMMY - MARQUETTE 17.6 – While Lazar had to carry the load with a great 2010, it was actually Butler’s incredible efficiency that resulted in the 2nd best year of any junior – behind only Kemba. He was actually the 4th most efficient offensive player in the country in limited use his sophomore year, and was still 7th his junior year as the 11th best in the country at getting to the line.

14. MCNEAL, JEREL - MARQUETTE 18.1 – ranked in steals, shots taken and assists all four years, and improved his ORtg and cut down on his turnovers every season.

13. HAYWARD, LAZAR - MARQUETTE 19.28 – in the top 3% in defensive rebounds his final three years and top 2% in steals his senior year while having to put up the 10th most shots in the country to carry MU to the unexpected bid.

12. JONES, DOMINIQUE - SOUTH FLORIDA 19.41 – one of best at drawing fouls, assists and steals while playing over 87% of all minutes all three years.

11. RUOFF, ALEX - WEST VIRGINIA 19.57 – ranked in steals and ORtg all three seasons.

Best 10 careers of the Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012

I had him behind the other Amigos and Lazar when using the much more simple Win Credits formula, and obviously many fans remember the shooting fall off and the heart-breaking injury. However, the much more precise Value Add calculations say that over his entire career DJ was the move valuable MU player of the era. Dominic James started by having the 5th best year of any freshman during the era, and that was the best season any of the Amigos had until Matthews nudged him out his senior year. After falling off some to have the 46th best sophomore year of the era, he did have the 26th best junior year and he was nationally ranked in steals and assists all four years to likely be one of the top few in those two categories in the country during those four years. Even as the free throws stopped falling his senior year, he was still hitting 52% of his shots from the floor and was 62nd in the country with a 3.9% steal percentage. If hopes hadn’t soared so high after the freshman year, it would be easy to see the value he continued to add every year until the injury.

Pitt was a top 5 seed all four years of him running the point, as he was nationally ranked in ORtg, assists and avoiding fouls every year. His senior year he led Pitt to a 1-seed as the 11th best assist man in the country.

One of the most versatile players, ranking nationally in defensive rebounding all four years and assist rate all but his freshman year. After three strong years he dominated defensively to rank 60th in both steals and defensive rebounding his senior year, making it the greatest defensive performance of the era until Crowder’s 2012 season.

Easily the best offensive season of the era at 8.41% in the title run, ahead of Quincy Douby (Rutgers in 2006), Kevin Jones, Steve Novak and DeJuan Blair. He was part of the inspiration for Value Add, as his 116.7 ORtg was great but not in the top 100 of the country. The fact that he maintained that level through the diminishing returns of playing 92.4% of all minutes while using 31.4% of possessions was significant since Dean Oliver had shown that even Kobe Bryant becomes a below average player when called on for 35% of possessions.

When WVU was struggling his freshman year people may not have noticed the 6-foot-7 guy who was already 146th in the country in steal percentage, but by his sophomore year his nationally-ranked 54.0 eFG% was getting attention. By his senior year he was ranked 137th in offensive efficiency despite having to play 88% of the minutes to lead WVU to a 2-seed and the run that ended with his injury vs. Duke.

All four years he was nationally ranked in assists, steals, possessions, drawing fouls and getting to the line. He deferred more as a freshman, ranked 69th in assists, but gradually took over to end up leading Nova to a 2-seed as one of the top shooters and overall offensive players his senior year.

Pomeroy says his senior year was very similar to DJOs, Freeman just ranks higher because he was already the 205th most efficient offensive player in the country his freshman year and just got better. He was the 42nd best shooter in the country in 2010, hitting 57% of his twos and a Novak-like 59 of 133 treys for 44.4% from behind the arc.

I have to eat my words after believing he was getting “Notre Dame hype.” He took the greatest percentage of shots of anyone in the country over three years and still had an eFG% of over 50%. He backed that up on the defensive end by being in the top 1.5% three straight years in defensive rebounding. Combine the two, and I have to admit he is in contention for the greatest player of the era.

Perhaps the greatest scorer off the offensive glass in the country his last three seasons, and somehow put up his eye-popping numbers while hardly ever fouling or turning the ball over. While I argued hard that Crowder deserved POY this year, I understand West Virginia fans wanting him rewarded for the amazing career of dominance. His performance this year was the third best offensive performance of the era, and he would have had the highest Value Add in the conference in 2008 or 2010.

1. Hibbert, Roy - Georgetown 24.112
Three years of utter dominance, including a junior year in which he shot 67.1% from the floor for the 4th best eFG% in the country. He was in the top 50 in the country in blocked shots every year, and ranked in offensive and defensive rebounding every season. No one was as dominant on both ends of the court from 2006 to 2007, the best the Big East saw during the era. If Blair had played one more year he would have been the top, but Hibbert was more valuable over the course of three years than Blair was over the course of his two.

DJO and the other 10%-plus Value Adds
I must make a note on Value Add not calculating DJO’s spectacular career as one of the top 40, while all of us who watch him play know that he was truly elite. Two points I would like to make on DJO’s greatness. First, of the more than 1,000 player seasons you will see if you put in “BE” under conference in the database, DJO is one of only 54 players to add more than 10% of Value to their team over their careers – and here are the other 14 besides those listed above:

List of all other 10%-plus career Value Adds
Others with at least 10% Career Value Add - Abromaitis, Tim - Notre Dame; Brooks, Marshon - Providence; Douby, Quincy - Rutgers; Flowers, John - West Virginia; Gray, Aaron - Pittsburgh; Green, Jeff - Georgetown; Hansbrough, Ben - Notre Dame; Hill, Herbert - Providence; Johnson-Odom, Darius - Marquette; Knowles, Preston - Louisville; Kuric, Kyle - Louisville; Kurz, Rob - Notre Dame; Lamb, Jeremy - Connecticut; Napier, Shabazz - Connecticut; Nichols, Demetris - Syracuse; Padgett, David - Louisville; Rautins, Andy - Syracuse; Summers, DaJuan - Georgetown; Theodore, Jordan - Seton Hall; Wanamaker, Brad - Pittsburgh; Wright, Cashmere - Cincinnati.

What DJO did that did not hit the stat book to become part of Value Add
Second, as precise as Value Add is at calculating how many points a player impacts the score of the game through the stats we can record, in DJO’s case there are a lot of things you cannot measure. We can measure how good opposing defenses are overall, but we can’t measure all of the double teams that DJO saw as coaches knew they could not match up. When I was at the LSU game I remember noting how they started to abandon the offensive boards – our Achilles Heel – because they were so scared of DJO beating them down the court on a quick release.

So as big a stat guy as I am, there was no stat for Crowder finding seems for lay-ups because DJO drew so much attention. Or for the additional offensive rebounds Marquette would have given up if opponents could have pounded the boards instead of getting back to avoid a thunder dunk by DJO on the other end. The reason I run rankings purely with Value Add is that I can’t make those adjustments for DJO, when I don’t get to see Louisville, Georgetown and Syracuse play every week to see who on their teams might be doing things that do not show up either. So I certainly hope that the most exciting player MU has seen play since Wade (DJO) and the guy who put up the single season greatest numbers since Wade (Crowder) are both rewarded later this year with great paychecks.