Friday Figures: Diving into the Big 12’s Freshmen Guards

Posted by Chris Stone on February 16th, 2018

Welcome back to Friday Figures, a weekly look at interesting and (occasionally) important statistical facts from the Big 12. This week, we’re diving into the big numbers surrounding some of the Big 12’s best freshmen guards.

Trae Young’s struggles aren’t Oklahoma’s only problem. (Photo Credit: Timothy J. Gonzelez, AP)

  • Trae Young’s struggles are real, but Oklahoma’s problems run deeper. By now, the Oklahoma freshman phenom’s recent troubles have been well-documented. Young has converted only one of his last 17 attempts from behind the arc, and 7-of-41 during the Sooners’ recent four-game losing streak. Dating back even further, the team has lost seven of its last nine games as its leading scorer has struggled to adjust to attention from quality opponents. Against KenPom’s Tier A group — the equivalent of games against the top 50 — Young is shooting just 33.1 percent from three-point range and his turnovers are up during conference play. Yet, it’s not clear if Oklahoma’s offense has any better options. With Young on the floor, the Sooners are still averaging 1.15 points per possession, per Hoop Lens — the equivalent of a top 20 offense. So what gives? It’s the defense. In Big 12 play, Oklahoma is conceding 110.1 points per 100 possessions, seventh in the league, per KenPom. There’s only so much the Sooners can do about opponents shooting 38.0 percent from three, but they rank dead last in tcreating turnovers with a lowly 14.5 percent turnover rate that would 347th nationally over the course of an entire season. While Young’s inefficiency has been a lightning rod for criticism, it’s arguably missing the bigger issue. Poor defense magnified by some bad three-point luck is swinging the pendulum against the Sooners.
  • Jarrett Culver’s emergence has been a boon for Texas Tech. At this point, everybody knows about the Red Raiders’ stifling defense but Culver’s development has turned them into a more well-rounded Final Four contender. Head coach Chris Beard inserted Culver into the starting lineup last month after a foot injury sidelined senior Zach Smith, but, since losing its first game without Smith, Tech has reeled off seven straight wins and taken sole possession of the top spot in the Big 12. Culver’s presence transforms the Red Raiders’ offense — they average 1.12 points per possession with him on the court compared to just 1.05 without him, per Hoop Lens. Culver has been Texas Tech’s most frequent three-point shooter this season, converting 38.4 percent of his chances and logging a sub-14.0 percent turnover rate. Once a sub-300 recruit nationally, Culver ascent has helped make the Red Raiders the favorite to win the Big 12 this season.

  • Marcus Garrett has a bright future. Against Iowa State on Tuesday, the Kansas freshman was a team-high +18 in just 19 minutes, while the next best Jayhawk clocked in at +6. Now, there are obviously some problems with single game plus-minus numbers given small sample sizes, but any time a player outperforms the rest of his team so significantly is worth investigating. Garrett’s individual box score numbers — three points, one rebound, one assist and one steal — weren’t particularly impressive, but the Cyclones managed just 0.91 points per possession while he was on the floor, per Hoop Lens. Although such a small number is outlier good, it’s consistent with how the 19-year old contributes to his team. His 98.2 defensive rating is tops among Jayhawks’ guards by about three points per 100 possessions as opponents commit significantly more turnovers when he’s on the floor — Garrett leads the team with a 3.2 percent steal rate. He still needs to smooth out his offensive game as he’s an ineffective and often unguarded shooter, but Garrett has the potential to be a major player for Kansas in time if he becomes even halfway threatening on the offensive end.
Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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