"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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sagarin ranks MU #9 in country - Acker and Butler furthest ahead of projections

Wow, what a start! Looking strictly at the numbers, Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings have Marquette as the 9th best team out of 347 Division 1 teams, though still an underdog playing in Florida against #20 Florida State tomorrow. Marquette is #33 according to Ken Pomeroy but a clear underdog against #17 Florida State in his rankings.

No one believes we are really a top 10 team, and few would put us in the Top 25. It’s only six games into the season, and MU is very inexperienced and our starting center and point guard already are out for the season, but I wanted to take a quick look at who gets statistical credit for the fast start.

On October 22, I laid out the projected Win Credits for each player on the team, which pointed to a 19-win season. That still may be correct, but I wanted to look back at those projections player-by-player through the fast start.

Who gets credit for the wins?

First a very brief review of how the Win Credits system calculates how many wins a player has been worth to the team statistically, using Jimmy Butler as the example. The formula for Butler through six games shows:

STEP 1 = 100 points + 42 rebounds + 13 assists + 11 steals doubled + 7 blocks doubled – 357 opponents points/10 = 155 contributions

STEP 2 = 155 contributions / 638 team contributions X 6 wins = 1.5 Win Credits

Going back to my October 22 preview post, a typical junior coming off the 1.3 Win Credits Butler had as a sophomore, would improve to 2.0 Win Credits as a junior.

Based purely on stats, we would have expected Butler to be almost dead even with Dwight Buycks as a distant 2nd best player behind preseason All-Big East selection Lazar Hayward. However, his yearly statistics last year don’t measure his incredible finish late in the year, and the fact that he is the hardest working player Buzz has ever coached.

Who besides Butler is ahead of pace?

Therefore it is really no surprise Butler is way ahead of his projected pace. Here is a review of how valuable each player was expected to be in the October 22 post, and which players have been most responsible for the team being 6-0 instead of 4-2 at this pace. In short, Acker is also way ahead of his projected pace, and Cubillan and Buycks are also producing much more than expected.

(Listed in the order of how much they were PROJECTED to contribute, so Mo Acker is listed 9th based on expectations, even though he has actually been the 3rd best player through six games.)

1. Lazar Hayward (Oct. 22 projected 6.4 Win Credits, 1.4 so far) – The only reason Hayward is slightly off his projected pace and just behind Butler to date is the fact that he has only played 25 minutes a game due to 20 fouls and resting with the South Dakota game well in hand. His 12 assists show his continued unselfish play as he gets his young teammates involved and once again takes on the tough task of guarding opposing centers with Otule out.

2. Dwight Buycks (2.1, 0.8) – Many were surprised when I said the 3-star junior JC transfer projected to have more impact than the 4-star freshman. However, 3-star juniors are usually better than 4-star freshman, and at only 6-foot-3, the Milwaukee native is just behind Lazar and Jimmy with 33 REBOUNDS, and actually leads the team with 24 assists to get a solid 0.8 Win Credits, ahead of even the high projection I gave him.

3. Jimmy Butler (2.0, 1.5) – As mentioned above, Butler is actually slightly ahead of Hayward statistically as MU’s top player.

4. Jeronne Maymon (1.7, 0.3) – I really don’t understand some of the bloggers impatience on Maymon, asking why he isn’t “producing” more. As I pointed out October 22, the typical 4-star freshman in the Big East produces a moderate 1.7 Win Credits his freshman year, and clearly most of that is later in the year as they mature. I believe his 0.3 Win Credits are about what you would expect, and he clearly looks like a man among boys at times when he rips the ball away from people. He is already the best rebounder on the team, grabbing 30 rebounds in only 101 minutes for an average of a rebound every 3.4 minutes for tops on the team. Lazar is next at one rebound every 3.9 minutes, Butler and Fulce are at one per 4.4 minutes.

5. Erik Williams (1.7, 0.0) – His 22 minutes are disappointing, but really 11 points and 5 rebounds in half a game is a nice outing. If he and Maymon play a typical 4-star freshman season, MU has at least a great eight-man rotation.

6. David Cubillan (1.3, 0.6) – What a start! We’ve already gotten half of what we’d expect from Cubillan based on his first three years, but the biggest relief is to see his shooting touch finally back (8 for 20 on 3-pointers). However, the most impressive thing is that running the point, where Crean decided he simply couldn’t play, he has 22 assists to only 8 turnovers, almost 3-to-1.

7. Darius Johnson-Odom (1.2, 0.6) – Another player who is ahead of pace out-of-the-gates. His fearless drives and willingness to gun up the 3-pointer at the slightest opening (12 for 24 on treys, are you kidding me?) make defending him a nightmare. I think we are going to occasionally be screaming at him for charges and out-of-control turnovers, but we screamed at Wade for them too.

8. Joseph Fulce (0.9, 0.1) – While the dunk contest got the excitement up of a full return, Otule’s injury really puts some pressure on him to improve his defense. His four blocked shots in limited play are a good start, and he looks comfortable with the mid-range jumper.

9. Maurice Acker (0.8, 0.8) – Mo already has produced as much in six games as he was projected to contribute all year. Typically seniors improve a good bit, but based on his first two years here Mo Acker projected to be our 9th best player this season, and until Junior went down I thought it was good he was going out on a high note. WOW, WAS I WRONG! Based purely on the Win Credits stats, Mo has been MUs third best player behind Hayward and Lazar so far, and has already been worth the 0.8 Wins we would have expected him to contribute the whole season. Leading the team with 14 steals and completely disrupting opposing guards, just behind DJO for third in points, one behind Buycks in assists, and stroking half of his treys (9 of 18).

10. Chris Otule (0.6, injured) – I don’t know how many teams could go 6-0 after losing their starting point guard and center, so this one really stinks. Didn’t expect a huge contribution based on last year, but obviously at 6-foot-10 and improved, he finally gave us the options against big opponents.

11. Youssoupha Mbao (0.3, 0.0) – With Otule out, it would really be nice to get some minutes out of the 7-foot-2 Mbao. However, 3-star freshman usually produce almost nothing (0.3 Win Credits) their freshman season, so we just have to see.

12. Robert Frozena (0.0, 0.0) – You’ve got to love a walk-on who has already hit a three-pointers AND produced a traditional 3-point play with the bucket “and-one!”

While no one believes MU is really the 9th best team in the land, we are playing with the House’s money at this point. This is fun, and if the pattern of inexperienced teams improving throughout the season plays out, we may get to skip the NIT year I was anticipating. The seniors sure deserve it, Lazar for four straight years and Cube and Mo for sticking it out and improving their games so dramatically.

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