Blog Entry

A different kind of rating for the best players

Posted on: January 6, 2012 10:57 am
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:00 am
The value, ability and worth of Mike Scott is about ready to become a discussion worth having. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

If I told you I had a best-players-in-college-hoops list with Jared Sullinger atop it, you wouldn't be surprised. You'd actually probably get bored pretty quickly. But if that same list had Russ Smith second, Mike Scott fifth and two players sixth and seventh -- neither of them Kris Joseph -- you'd probably bellow me out of the room.

And you'd have that right. Few casual fans know who Russ Smith or Mike Scott play for. But I wanted to bring to light the rankings Nathan Walker put together this week over at The Basketball Distribution. (Goodman, you can stop readi -- oh, it seems you've already left. Very well. We need an update on Robbie Hummel, anyway.)

Walker's one of the younger upcoming stat salesmen out there. He's written for Basketball Prospectus (required time served for all accredited salesmen of stats) and pretty much only tweets in tempo-free language. He created a top-100 player list in accordance to a stat I have many reservations about: plus-minus. I'll save my mistrust of plus-minus for another time, but in per that stat and the strength of schedule for each team, he's arranged which players are doing the most damage. It doesn't read like our Player of the Year feature, which is updated each Thursday.

The caveat: the player must be on the floor enough and be involved enough to warrant consideration, which I appreciate. Lots of guys can compile good tempo-free numbers in limited minutes. Fair enough -- but those players shouldn't be taken as seriously as everyone else if they're not getting involved more often. For the sake of this list, the floor requirement: playing in at least 25 percent of the team's minutes. Here's the top of the list. Read it and scoff.

rankplayerteamEfficiency Impact/100
1 Jared Sullinger Ohio State 19.4
2 Russ Smith Louisville 16.8
3 Thomas Robinson Kansas 15.8
4 Damian Lillard Weber State 15.8
5 Mike Scott Virginia 14.9
6 Dion Waiters Syracuse 14.7
7 James Southerland Syracuse 14.0
8 JaMychal Green Alabama 13.9
9 Cody Zeller Indiana 13.7
10 C.J. McCollum Lehigh 13.6
11 Marcus Denmon Missouri 13.4
12 Anthony Davis Kentucky 13.2
13 Jae Crowder Marquette 13.2
14 Jared Berggren Wisconsin 13.1
15 Isaiah Canaan Murray State 12.9
16 Jarrod Jones Ball State 12.8
17 Brian Conklin Saint Louis 12.5
18 Jamaal Franklin San Diego State 12.4
19 Ryan Pearson George Mason 12.1
20 Herb Pope Seton Hall 11.7

There are some really worthy names in that list. Guys who deserve more recognition, like Jae Crowder, Jamaal Franklin and Ryan Pearson. But the plus-minus flaws the data -- somewhat. There's simply no way on earth James Southerland is the seventh-most valuable college basketball player. Numbers can fail us; they can work us past the focus of the lens they so often provide. I think we have a case of that here.

I do find it interesting how these players, from a broad perspective, help their teams while on the floor. For instance, having Cody Zeller as a top-10 MVP candidate is completely reasonable, in my opinion. C.J. McCollum at 10? Not so much, even if he is all Lehigh's got.

If you're wondering: Doug McDermott is 21st; Harrison Barnes is 57th -- tied with John Henson; and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is 58th. Mike Scott intrigues me, though. He's been the subject of two pieces by respected basketball minds. He's been very good. I just don't know how truly good he is -- and the same goes for his team. In his case, I think the numbers have shown to be great, but he's not shown to match them, tangibly, yet. If the ACC's this down, Scott has no excuses. He can prove he's a top-10 player nationally by preying on the weak league over the next eight weeks.

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Category: NCAAB

Since: Jan 6, 2012
Posted on: January 6, 2012 11:25 am

A different kind of rating for the best players

Matt, you should have put Nathan's Team Efficiency Impact rankings in the piece. That one seems to be much more indicative of a POY-type ranking, without the outliers like Southerland. The use of percentage of minutes adequately equalizes the rankings for a player who's missed some time, like Sullinger. Sully would run away with all the stat metrics, like he does with EI/100, but when it comes to POY-type awards, if a guy's missed multiple games, that should be taken into consideration. Maybe he's still the POY at season's end, but right now, I'd roll with Thomas Robinson.

The TEI list also acknowledges that Russ Smith is playing well, ranking him 28th, but since he's played less than half of Louisville's possible minutes, how can he be touted as the #2 player in America? It does shine a light on who needs more minutes, and Russ certainly heads that list.

And yes, we always need more updates on Robbie Hummel, thank you.
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