Behind the Numbers: The Other Guys of the YearPosted by KCarpenter on February 16th, 2011
Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor.
The Player of the Year race in college basketball is an interesting and bizarre thing. The most talented player is rarely selected, and the winner is seldom a National Champion. I don’t want to go so far as to say the race is a popularity contest, but it’s something akin to one. Instead of picking the best player, the voters like to pick the most emblematic player, or failing that, the most interesting. Oh, and that player has to almost inevitably be a bit of a ball hog. Evan Turner was not the best basketball player in the country last year, as fans of the Philadelphia 76ers know all too well, but he was a skilled-enough, multi-talented player on a pedigreed team that won a lot of games. With that logic in mind, it’s pretty safe to pencil in Jimmer Freddete, Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams, Kemba Walker or Nolan Smith as the front-runners of that race. This was true in December, as well. I don’t want to say that the national Player of the Year race is dead, just that it’s perpetually unsurprising, even if the final result does have that extra spice of arbitrariness thrown in for good measure.
So instead of breaking down the Player of the Year race and debating just how good, on the scale of really good to incredibly good all those familiar faces are, I thought we could take some time to show some love to some mostly unfamiliar faces who are having extraordinary and superlative seasons of their own. Maybe they don’t play a great all-around game, maybe their teams don’t win, and maybe some of them aren’t good so much as weird, but let’s celebrate them all anyway. We need a name for this party, though, so let’s call it the Other Guys of the Year Awards, dig into the depths of Ken Pomeroy’s stats tables, and hand out some imaginary statuettes.
The first awards go to a pair of players who play for the same team in the Big South. The Iron Man Award goes to Khalid Mutakabbir of Presbyterian who has played 96.1% of all available minutes, a greater percentage than any other player in Division I. Mutakabbir has used those minutes well, shooting a high percentage from the field, and a very impressive 51.7% from beyond the three-point line. The Ultimate Ball-Hog Award goes to Mutakabbir’s teammate, Al’Lonzo Coleman, who somehow comes off the bench, yet uses 36.3% of all possessions, more than The Jimmer himself. While Coleman is undoubtedly president of the Ball-Hog Club, let’s give some special recognition to the other players who, despite living outside the national limelight, have managed to dominate the ball more than Mr. Fredette: Special thanks to Keion Bell of Pepperdine, Anatoly Bose of Nicholls State, Brandon Bowdry of Eastern Michigan, Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, and Will Pratt from Northwestern State. You have all out-Jimmered the Jimmer, except for, you know, the winning games thing.
Admittedly, the Ball-Hog Award is a little unfair: lots of these guys are on the list, not because they shoot whenever they get the ball, but also because they turn the ball over at a pretty high rate. However, some recognition needs to go to those ball hogs who don’t turn the ball over to waste the possessions, but rather try to make every possession they get go towards taking shot after shot. So without further ado, I want to reward the aforementioned Anatoly Bose of Nicholls State with the Remorseless Gunner Award, for taking an astonishing, league-leading 36.9% of his team’s shots, while having only the fourth-best True Shooting Percentage on his squad. I’d also like to give an honorable mention to Cameron Jones of Northern Arizona University for using 36.4% of his teams shots, while having a worse offensive efficiency rating than every other starter on the team.
For the Award for Best Illustration of Usage-Efficiency Curves, I’d like to honor the pair of league-leaders in offensive efficiency. Both Bill Cole from Illinois and Ryne Smith from Purdue have, so far, posted an offensive efficiency rating of 139.5. Bill Cole uses 11.7% of his team’s possessions while Ryne Smith uses an even 11%. For the Award for the Case That Almost Single-Handedly Makes Me Question the Validity of Usage-Efficiency Curves, I have to honor a familiar name: Derrick Williams. Lest anyone forget, this Arizona sensation has a ridiculous True Shooting Percentage of 71.9%. He uses 28.1% of his teams possessions, which is simply absurd. Derrick Williams also is one of three players (playing major minutes), who can brag about posting a free throw rate that is, somehow, over 100. The only other two players who can claim the Living at the Line Award are Arsalan Kazmeni from Rice, who has posted a free throw rate of 104.5 (when he wasn’t busy being one of the nation’s best rebounders) and O.J. Avworo, the 6’0 Navy point guard who gets to the free throw line at an astounding 111.7 rate.
While Kazmeni and Avworo get to the line with what I suspect is a somewhat charming alacrity, the winners of the Mercilessly Pummeled Award are, likely, somewhat less cheerful. Will Pratt of Northwestern State (and the newly formed Ball-Hog Club) gets fouled roughly 9.5 times per 40 minutes, putting him clearly ahead of Gilberto Clavell of Sam Houston State and (who else?) Derrick Williams who each are fouled 8.6 times per 40 minutes. And while this trio probably aches every morning after a game, we know who is free from blame: Jason Brickman of Long Island and Zach Urbanus of the Citadel, this year’s winners of the George Oscar Bluth Memorial No Touching Award, given to the two players who have managed less than one foul per game while playing at least 40% of available minutes. May we always remember and cherish their genteel and gentle brand of defense.
In fact, may we always remember all of these players. College basketball is one of the biggest sports in the world when you consider the number of teams and players involved, all of whom, could, in any given March, play each other on the road to the national championship. There are potentially around 5,000 players who could be cutting down the nets in early April. It’s a big sport, and in the rush of Kembas and Jimmers, we forget about guys like Khalid Mutakabbir, who plays nearly every minute of his team’s games, and players like Will Pratt, who takes fouls at a rate that would make the rest of us want to never touch a basketball again. The Player of the Year will be, no doubt, great and worthy of our extended consideration. But for now, let’s be content to take a moment and consider the Other Guys, who are interesting and outstanding, in their own, often weird, way. They may not all be winners and they may not be helping their team win, but they are accomplishing things beyond anyone else in the game. These things may be inconsequential, but they are accomplishments nonetheless. So let’s hear it for the weirdos and outliers: long may you run.