"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

Monday, March 05, 2012

2,121 Most Valuable College Basketball Players in 2012

I believe our stat team (sorry they never want to be mentioned by name, but I’ve found researchers, data entry people, programmers and engineers are sometimes like that) has nailed how to account for perimeter defense and point guard play within the Value Add system. We just ran the program, and you can look up any team, such as the opponent drawn in the NCAA on Selection Sunday, to see where there players are ranked by clicking on the following four links (NOTE: on March 8, some updates were made to correct a few players on the following 4 links, mainly the 37 players who share a name with another Division I player - such as 53rd ranked Dion Waiters - who shares a name with a player on Jacksonville State.):

Air Force to Furman ranked players

Gardner Webb to Marist ranked players

Marquette to Syracuse ranked players

Temple to Youngstown State ranked players

The 20 most valuable players in the country are listed below, with an explanation under the table:

1Anthony DavisKentucky6'10" Fr7.06-5.31 12.361st
2Jae CrowderMarquette6'6" Sr6.11-4.45 10.562nd
3Draymond GreenMichigan St.6'7" Sr4.27-
4Kevin JonesWest Virginia6'8" Sr7.86-1.38 9.242nd
5Cody ZellerIndiana6'11" Fr6.69-2.08 8.762013
6Thomas RobinsonKansas6'9" Jr4.54-3.87 8.401st
7Will BartonMemphis6'6" So5.79-2.37 8.162nd
8John ShurnaNorthwestern6'9" Sr7.21-0.91 8.12 
9Jared SullingerOhio St.6'9" So5.05-3.01 8.061st
10Jordan TaylorWisconsin6'1" Sr5.20-1.281.507.982nd
11T.J. McConnellDuquesne6'1" So3.40- 
12C.J. McCollumLehigh6'3" Jr4.46-2.4417.902013
13Marcus DenmonMissouri6'3" Sr7.39-0.34 7.732nd
14Isaiah CanaanMurray St.6'0"Jr6.16-0.5417.702013
15John JenkinsVanderbilt6'4" Jr7.
16Damian LillardWeber St.6'2" Jr7.591.0017.591st
17Tyler ZellerNorth Carolina7'0"Sr5.32-2.22 7.541st
18Doug McDermottCreighton6'7" So7.420.00 7.422013
19Mike ScottVirginia6'8" Sr5.70-1.72 7.422nd
20Scott MachadoIona6'1" Sr5.23-0.1627.402nd

I’ve run the Offensive and Defensive Value Add numbers before, so the new adjustment is the next value of 0.5% to 2.0% (explanation below on why that seems to calculate correctly) for players who have to bring the ball up the court and/or guard the perimeter. In most cases Assist Ratios and Minutes Played made it pretty clear who the team relied on to get the ball up the court. However, occasionally we would have to look up a big player with a high assist rate, to make a judgment call that Draymond Green really does bring the ball up a good bit for Michigan State so gets some credit, but Henry Sims is leading Georgetown in assists by whipping the ball around from the high post, so the Hoyas guard credit goes to others.

While the initial Value Add equations are precise measurement of the points a player adds to his team’s score and takes off the opponent’s score, I believe the updated program with the Point Guard/Perimeter defense adjustment passes the eye test and yields a much more accurate result than the first show I took at accounting for guard play a couple of weeks ago. While it doesn’t figure into the calculation, I noted in the far right column if a player was projected to go in the NBA draft either in the 1st round, 2nd round, or in 2013. As you can see, 18 of the top 20 Value Add players are projected NBA draft picks.

I also looked at Ken Pomeroy’s top 10 players of the year, and nine of them are in my top 11, with only Mike Scott a little lower at #19.

T.J. McConnell of Duquesne was the unknown for me until he came in at #12, but in going to look him up he may be my next year’s Jae Crowder, a player who does so many things well that he is under appreciated. He is in the top 100 in shooting, hitting over 50% of his shots including 45% of three pointers, is in the top 100 in assist rate, and is 12th in steals despite just missing the top 100 in NOT fouling. Definitely a player to watch despite playing for a mediocre team.


As far as the math behind the new calculation, good shooting guards tend to average 0.5% less value add than good front line players, due to often having to guard the perimeter rather than grab rebounds. Point guards average a bit lower than even shooting guards. Because Value Add is a very precise measurement (you can add the Value Adds on all players on a BCS team and get a very clear picture of where they rank in their conference), our stat team concluded that we could not adjust in a way that gives some teams more additional credit than others without distorting the overall team’s Value Add.

Therefore, all 345 teams were given an extra 2.5% to be split, with 0.5% being given to the better guards/perimeter defenders, and 1.0% to point guards. However, if a point guard averaged better than a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio then he received an extra 1.5%, and for better than 3-to-1 an extra 2.0%. Whatever the combination and number of players credited, the sum of the entire team’s players always adds up to exactly 2.5% since what we are doing is redistributed a little bit of the credit the front line is getting for rebounding or scoring in close to the guards who often break pressure or guard the perimeter without benefit of statistical credit. (You don’t always see all 2.5% for a given team, because sometimes a player receiving credit still does not make the sheet because he did not have a net positive.)

The players who do not look as good in this system as their true talent level are players from UNC and Kentucky, since with 8 and 6 projected NBA draft picks there simply aren’t enough possessions to go around. I still believe this is an accurate reflection of value, because UNC and Kentucky can replace any one star with another NBA-level player, while a star is more valuable to any of the other 343 teams since they will replace him with a much worse player.

So if you want to scout potential NCAA opponents, you could look at Alan’s s-curve. He has MU playing Davidson in the opening round, so if you go to the Air Force-Furman list and see that Davidson has no projected NBA picks but three top 300 players in point guard Nik Cochran and two big guys in De'Mon Brooks (6'7") and Jake Cohen (6'10"). A win there could put MU up against Florida, who on the same sheet we see has three projected NBA picks and three top 100 players.

Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi today give us Belmont, who I have been saying could be the surprise Sweet 16 team since I did Value Add this past summary. That being said, I do believe we would match up pretty well since they rely on two great, but small, guards in 41st ranked Kerron Johnson (6'1") and 141st ranked Drew Hanlen (5'11"), and I believe DJO and Vander Blue would be up for that defensive challenge. Scott Saunders (6'10") and Ian Clark (6'3") make Belmont one of nine mid-Majors with four Top 400 players.

Hope this gives you a head start on your brackets!

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