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The New Coaches At South Carolina And Kansas State

This spring South Carolina hired Frank Martin and Kansas St. hired Bruce Weber to replace him. I’ve written a lot of words about Martin and Weber in the past. Martin is one of the best coaches at teaching offensive rebounding in the nation. Weber’s teams are constantly competitive but struggle in close games due to an offense that fails to get free throw attempts. Weber’s teams win with some of the best man-to-man defense in the nation. But Frank Martin’s defense is almost equally good. In fact, their tempo free stats were nearly identical at their previous schools:

Coach

School

Years

Avg Adj O

Avg

Adj D

Bruce Weber

Illinois

9

111.6

89.8

Frank Martin

Kansas St.

5

112.6

91.2

Martin’s teams were more consistent. His worst team was 44th in the nation in the Pomeroy Rankings, while Weber’s worst team was last year’s Illinois squad which finished 73rd. But Weber’s team achieved a higher peak reaching the national championship in 2005.

Overall these are both incredibly “safe” moves for the two universities to make. Even in their worst seasons, Martin and Weber are going to be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. But what will it take for these coaches to reach a new higher level with their new schools? To answer that question, let’s take a look back.

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

First let’s look at how freshmen have performed under each coach. The thing that stands out for Bruce Weber is how terribly inefficient his freshmen have been. This lack of efficiency is startling given the large number of Top 100 recruits Illinois has had on the roster the last few seasons. DJ Richardson had a fabulous freshmen campaign, but over the years, very few of Bruce Weber’s players have been efficient in their first year. (The exceptions tend to be solid three point shooters like Jamar Smith and Tyler Griffey.) Demetri McCamey’s freshmen year was widely praised because of a few huge games, but a 92.7 ORtg while using only 22% of the possessions when on the floor was far from spectacular.

Fr Year = Freshmen Year

PctMin = Percentage of Minutes Played

ORtg = Offensive Rating, Points Produce Per 100 Possessions

PctPoss = Percentage of Possession’s Used when on the Floor

Player

Fr Year

PctMin

ORtg

PctPoss

D.J. Richardson

2010

76%

105.3

18%

Demetri McCamey

2008

67%

92.7

22%

Tracy Abrams

2012

52%

89.4

16%

Jereme Richmond

2011

50%

102.3

22%

Brandon Paul

2010

47%

92.3

27%

Jamar Smith

2006

46%

123.6

18%

Rich McBride

2004

31%

104.5

14%

Chester Frazier

2006

28%

83.0

13%

Brian Randle

2004

27%

96.8

16%

Mike Tisdale

2008

25%

106.1

19%

Mike Davis

2008

25%

93.7

16%

Nnanna Egwu

2012

24%

83.0

15%

Meyers Leonard

2011

20%

79.7

18%

Tyler Griffey

2010

18%

116.6

19%

Mycheal Henry

2012

14%

99.4

22%

Brian Carlwell

2007

13%

94.2

17%

Calvin Brock

2006

11%

84.7

23%

Mike Shaw

2012

11%

63.6

16%

Jeff Jordan

2008

10%

73.2

18%

Crandall Head

2011

8%

77.6

20%

Richard Semrau

2007

7%

94.1

22%

Shaun Pruitt

2005

6%

77.7

24%

Bill Cole

2008

6%

95.8

21%

Warren Carter

2004

5%

*

*

Joseph Bertrand

2004

4%

*

*

Average

 

25%

92.6

19%

*Bertrand and Carter didn’t even use 25 possessions as freshmen (and Bertrand was a redshirt!)

The next table shows freshmen under Frank Martin. Once again there are a handful of efficient three point shooters (see McGruder and Spradling), but other than Michael Beasley, Frank Martin hasn’t exactly been producing dominant rookies. But the difference between Weber and Martin is that freshmen are rarely horrible under Martin. The lowest ratings under Martin are not nearly as low as the lowest ratings under Weber.

It isn’t about playing time. Martin has given his freshmen more minutes and seen steadier production. And it isn’t all about Michael Beasley. Even without the big man, Martin’s players would be substantially more efficient and earn more minutes on average.

I think the key is style of play. Bruce Weber’s runs a precision shooting-based offense, and few first-year players have the skill set to pull it off. Meanwhile Frank Martin often gets players to fight like crazy for offensive rebounds right off the bat. Frank Martin knows how to teach players a physical style of basketball in a relatively short period of time. And that is great news for South Carolina fans. With a few strong post players, South Carolina can be competitive again in year one.

Player

Fr Year

PctMin

ORtg

PctPoss

Michael Beasley

2008

78%

120.7

34%

Jacob Pullen

2008

58%

103.7

22%

Will Spradling

2011

55%

115.8

15%

Angel Rodriguez

2012

52%

93.3

26%

Jamar Samuels

2009

51%

110.4

21%

Thomas Gipson

2012

43%

99.8

24%

Wally Judge

2010

28%

93.8

18%

Shane Southwell

2011

28%

80.5

14%

Rodney McGruder

2010

27%

126.5

14%

Ron Anderson

2008

27%

114.6

15%

Martavious Irving

2010

23%

90.9

12%

Dominique Sutton

2008

19%

110.8

13%

Fred Brown

2008

19%

109.8

20%

Jordan Henriguez-Roberts

2010

18%

94.5

14%

Adrian Diaz

2012

17%

97.6

21%

Nick Russell

2010

10%

78.9

16%

Victor Ojeleye

2009

4%

*

*

Average

 

33%

102.6

19%

Though not listed, both coaches gave playing time to seven transfers at their previous school and again Martin’s transfers debuted as the more efficient players. Martin’s incoming transfers played similar minutes to Weber’s transfers, but since Martin has used seven transfers in only five years, Martin obviously recruits and uses transfers more frequently.

Player Development

In the next two tables I look at changes in playing time and efficiency for all returning players. The change in minutes is the difference between the most recent season and the debut season. For inherited players, the change in minutes is the difference between the most recent season and the last season under the previous coach.

I also compare the change in ORtg for the same time period. But since shot volumes can impact efficiency, I adjust this based on the rule that 1% more possession’s used is worth 1.25 points of efficiency. Thus a player that moves from shooting 20% of the time to 24% of the time and keeps the same efficiency tallies a 5 point increase in his ORtg.

Returning Players

ChPctMin

ChORtg

Yrs Ret

Meyers Leonard

59%

39.2

1

Shaun Pruitt

58%

30.0

3

Warren Carter

58%

17.1

2

Mike Davis

57%

22.3

3

Chester Frazier

48%

26.6

3

Bill Cole

46%

22.8

3

Luther Head

43%

14.7

2

Mike Tisdale

40%

6.8

3

Rich McBride

40%

4.2

3

Brandon Paul

36%

5.5

2

Trent Meacham

32%

9.6

2

Brian Randle

32%

12.6

3

Calvin Brock

32%

8.2

3

James Augustine

27%

15.0

3

Jeff Jordan

21%

16.1

2

Tyler Griffey

20%

-14.6

2

Roger Powell

19%

5.7

2

Demetri McCamey

16%

24.0

3

Deron Williams

16%

15.7

2

Jack Ingram

15%

11.7

1

D.J. Richardson

10%

1.0

2

Richard Semrau

7%

-29.1

1

Dee Brown

2%

-0.4

3

Dominique Keller

-4%

-5.4

1

Marcus Arnold

-5%

-16.9

1

Alex Legion

-10%

-2.4

1

Jamar Smith

-13%

-11.5

1

Nick Smith

-16%

2.3

2

I love the table for Bruce Weber because it shows what all college coaches try to do. The seven players with the greatest leaps in minutes played were also among the players with the greatest jumps in efficiency. From Meyers Leonard to Luther Head, the off-season improvement translated into a major increase in playing time.

Meanwhile players that saw their efficiency fall often saw their minutes slip. Nick Smith treaded water on an improving Illinois team and rode the bench. Richard Semrau had medical issues and failed to earn more playing time.

They may have been recruited by Bill Self, but Luther Head, James Augustine, and Deron Williams all improved significantly under Bruce Weber. But Dee Brown’s senior year under Weber was about as effective as his freshmen year under Bill Self. Brown used 5% more possession when on the floor as a senior, but he saw his efficiency fall by almost 7%.

In the next table, I show the player changes for Frank Martin. At first glance, Frank Martin seems to come out ahead of Bruce Weber. After starting at a higher level, Martin’s players show comparable improvements. Even if you throw out Darren Kent, (whose terrible sophomore year under Bob Huggins was more small sample size than anything), the average improvement under Martin is almost as much as the average improvement under Weber.

So what is happening? Why isn’t Martin’s offense substantially superior? If Martin gets substantially better first year performances, and has nearly as many players improve, why isn’t Martin an elite offensive coach? There are really two problems. First, Martin has used more transfers and had more players transfer. That additional roster turnover has meant less time for player development. But the second factor is a little more complex:

The critical fact is that Martin hasn’t been able to assign playing time based on improvement in play.  Rodney McGruder, Dominque Sutton, Fred Brown, and Will Spradling were all solid players as freshmen. They seemed to deserve more playing time as their careers went on. But none of those players took the next step forward. They’ve all earned more minutes because they were good, but no one took the next step and became a superstar.

Instead what you have seen is that the ineffective reserve players have improved under Frank Martin from year-to-year. Backup guard Shane Southwell improved from a horrible to bad passer, and backup guard Martavious Irving improved from a bad to decent three point shooter, but improvements aren’t that critical when they happen for back-up players.

Returning Players

ChPctMin

ChORtg

Yrs Ret

Rodney McGruder

54%

2.6

2

Bill Walker

54%

18.5

1

Darren Kent

46%

51.5

2

Dominique Sutton

41%

0.7

2

Fred Brown

32%

-2.8

1

Jordan Henriguez-Roberts

31%

17.5

2

Will Spradling

22%

-5.5

1

Blake Young

22%

-3.4

1

Martavious Irving

22%

19.7

2

Ron Anderson

19%

-4.9

1

Jacob Pullen

16%

19.2

3

Denis Clemente

16%

3.9

1

Nick Russell

13%

25.0

1

Shane Southwell

13%

12.6

1

Jamar Samuels

9%

-1.5

3

Luis Colon

8%

-15.3

3

Victor Ojeleye

6%

-27.8

2

Clent Stewart

2%

-1.6

1

Chris Merriewether

1%

7.2

2

Wally Judge

-9%

3.8

1

Curtis Kelly

-16%

-7.4

1

Bottom Line: Bruce Weber’s motion offense takes time. Almost no one steps in and can run it with smooth consistency as a rookie. It doesn’t even matter if you are a top 100 recruit – odds are you will struggle to master the skills in the first year. But Bruce Weber is great at identifying returning players whose skill set has improved and riding those players. From Deron Williams to Warren Carter to Demetri McCamey, Weber always seems to maximize the minutes for his most improved players.

The best thing you can say about Weber is that he usually has the right lineup on the floor. The worst thing you can say is that even with the right lineup, his motion offense often fails. Near the end of his tenure at Illinois, Weber talked about how he was too obsessed with winning now, but that was actually his greatest strength. But rather than wishing that Brandon Paul had been tougher, I think Bruce Weber should look in the mirror and ask a tougher question. If so many players struggle with his “jump-shooting” offense, is it the right offense? Or like John Calipari, should Bruce Weber re-invent his offense to better match the type of personnel he typically manages to recruit?

For Frank Martin, I wouldn’t curse the lack of player development too much. Sometimes getting a player to reach his potential early looks like a lack of player development.  Martin got Dominique Sutton and Rodney McGruder to play well as rookies.  But Sutton was always an under-sized forward, and probably couldn’t get any better in the Big 12. And McGruder was not a consensus Top 100 recruit out of high school (although Rivals and ESPN tagged him as such). McGruder may simply lack the athleticism to become a true college superstar.

But if good players don’t become stars, how can Martin’s team truly compete at the highest level?  The physical offensive play will be enough to make South Carolina relevant again. But Martin had a transcendent college player in Jacob Pullen and he did not make the Final Four or win a Big 12 title. The challenge at South Carolina won’t be winning, but to reach new goals. And it will start by finding a way to develop solid players into efficiency superstars.

 

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