Deep Diving into the Pac-12 All-Freshmen Team

Posted by RJ Abeytia on March 7th, 2017

Earlier this season we arrived at a formula for evaluating the most efficient freshmen in the Pac-12. Essentially, we took net efficiency differential and factored in a player’s individual defense relative to his team. As of January 9 — the rough midpoint of the regular season — these were the five most efficient conference freshmen.

  1. T.J. Leaf, UCLA
  2. Lonzo Ball, UCLA
  3. Rawle Alkins, Arizona
  4. Markelle Fultz, Washington
  5. Lauri Markannen, Arizona

Arguably the most talented class of freshmen to ever enter the Pac-12, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball takes the cake. (AP)

Now that we’re at the end of the year, it is time to revisit this list and see how everyone grades out with a full body of work.  The key to this whole premise is the value put into player efficiency, as this list would look much different if you instead used statistical volumes or per game averages. KenPom, as a salient example, ranks Fultz as the best player in the Pac-12 based on a combination of ability and usage rate. However, I’m going to stray from the Great KP here and stick with the previous formula for a couple reasons. First, while usage rate is certainly something to consider, the other names on this list are similar enough in usage to merit a reasonable comparison. Second, KenPom uses the entire season to compile his numbers while we’re sticking solely with Pac-12 play (which is still a bit noisy thanks to unbalanced schedules). This serves to clean up the unwieldy variables of non-conference scheduling and make for a fairer analysis. Here is how our quintet now ranks using the key criteria cross-referenced with defensive efficiency relative to team defensive performance.

Player ORtg DRtg Diff. Hi-Lo Relative

to Team DRtg

Lonzo Ball, UCLA 132 101 +31 -2.8
T. J. Leaf, UCLA 132 103 +29 -1
Lauri Markannen, Arizona 131 103 +28 +2.3
Rawle Alkins, Arizona 114 101 +13 +0.7
Markelle Fultz, Washington 111 116 -5 +0.5


Remember, a negative number in the far right column is actually a good thing because it means a player is defending better than his team as a whole. That results in UCLA’s Ball and Leaf switching spots at the top compared with our previous ranking, and Washington’s Fultz falls to fifth place. Arizona’s Markannen, despite hitting something of a wall during league play for a while in February, vaults up to the bronze.

It is fair to express incredulity based on the assertion that Fultz is the fifth-best freshman in the Pac-12 this season. There are clearly some variables here for which it is unfair to ding Fultz. He’s on a much lousier team than any of the four players above him, and therefore his high usage rate would likely negatively impact the others in much the same way it has hurt Fultz. Even accounting for that, though, Ball has certainly played his way to the top of this list. We’ve talked all season long about how UCLA’s thermonuclear offense, powered by Ball, is historically good, but the team’s progress it makes on defense will be what determines the Bruins’ ultimate fate. Ball has provided leadership for this team on both ends of the floor this season and the numbers reflect that.

This isn’t just the Pac-12 All-Freshman efficiency rankings. This is the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, and Ball is our Freshman of the Year

Richard Abeytia (41 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *