It’s very much a Year of the Freshman in college basketball and the Pac-12 has followed suit. As we now find ourselves through two weeks of conference play, it’s a good time to check in on the headlining freshmen in the Conference of Champions. Washington’s Markelle Fultz is the Pac-12’s leading scorer and the front-runner as the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but there are a number of other high-scoring freshmen in the league. In fact, we could probably just list the top five scorers in the Pac, slap the top five freshmen label on them, and call it a day. Here’s what the list would look like if we did just that.
- Markelle Fultz, Washington – 22.1 PPG
- TJ Leaf, UCLA – 17.4 PPG
- Lauri Markannen, Arizona – 15.9 PPG
- Charlie Moore, California – 15.2 PPG
- Lonzo Ball, UCLA – 14.7 PPG
Pretty good, right? Those are your top five freshmen by scoring average. They’ve all played enough minutes for us to trust in the validity of their averages, but what happens when you rank these five players based on offensive efficiency? Here’s where things start to get interesting.
|TJ Leaf, UCLA||134.3|
|Lauri Markannen, Arizona||132.3|
|Lonzo Ball, UCLA||131.0|
|Markelle Fultz, Washington||119.4|
|Rawle Alkins, Arizona||107.7|
Well then. First, we see that Markannen, whose shooting splits are insane, vaults to the top of the group. California’s Moore gets voted off the island altogether; Arizona’s Rawle Alkins jumps into the picture; and Fultz slides down to fourth in our rankings. This is why efficiency is important to consider when judging players. Does Offensive Rating make Markannen a better player than the others? No, but it does clearly identify him as the most efficient offensive player regardless of draft potential. That’s all well and good, but what about defense? For that we turn to defensive efficiency, an admittedly noisy statistic compared with individual Offensive Rating, but still a useful and informative metric. Limited strictly to defense, here’s how the top five freshmen scorers in the conference.