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College Basketball Injury Splits Part 1

It is time for my first look at this year’s injuries and suspensions. I look at all meaningful injuries in the top seven conferences, plus key injuries for a few other elite teams (like Gonzaga). I am generally going to limit the splits to situations where we have at least three games with and without the player. And, with a few key exceptions, I also limit my analysis to players who were playing at least 20 minutes per game when in the lineup.

Obviously, all of these splits involve small samples. These stats are descriptive, but not necessarily predictive of the future. But part of the discussion below will be to decide whether what we see in the splits was caused by the injury and whether the trend is likely to continue.

Note that the splits can only say something about players that have played part of the season. For a player like Florida’s Chris Walker who has yet to play a minute of college basketball, there is no data to describe what impact his suspension has had on the Gators.

Off = Points Scored Per 100 Possessions, Adjusting for Opponent and Venue

Def = Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions, Adjusting for Opponent and Venue

W = Wins

L = Losses

PWP = Pythagorean Winning Percentage

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Notre Dame

113.3

101.7

8

4

0.776

Notre Dame (no Grant)

110.5

105.4

3

3

0.633

           

Washington St.

105.0

102.2

5

5

0.578

Washington St. (no Lacy)

89.8

97.6

2

5

0.278

           

Vanderbilt

104.2

96.4

8

4

0.709

Vanderbilt (no McClellan)

109.6

110.1

1

3

0.487

           

Georgetown

113.1

93.5

10

3

0.899

Georgetown (no Smith)

101.7

104.0

1

3

0.435

Don’t let the win over Duke fool you. Notre Dame hasn’t been the same team without leading scorer Jerian Grant. Even Sunday’s home win over a bad Virginia Tech team on Digger-Phelps-Appreciation-Day ended up with a closer final margin than Notre Dame would have liked. Notre Dame has been playing like the 109th best team in the nation with Grant out, which would leave the team well short of the NCAA tournament.

DaVonte Lacy was the highest scoring and most efficient offensive player for Washington St. Not surprisingly, the team has fallen apart without Lacy in the lineup. But it is distressing how poorly Washington St. has played. The 25 point game against Arizona (which Deter Kernich-Drew also missed) was frankly embarrassing and the 89.8 number for the team’s offense reflects that ineptitude.

When Vanderbilt dismissed Eric McClellan, you might have assumed that it would hurt the Commodores’ offense. After all, McClellan was the team’s leading scorer. But McClellan had become an offensive liability. He was a high volume shooter, without necessarily getting the approval of his coaching staff, and his ORtg was unacceptably low. Since McClellan has been out, Vanderbilt’s offense has actually improved slightly. But shockingly Vanderbilt has had four of its worst defensive games of the season, including giving up 113 points per 100 possessions against an offensively inept Alabama team. Part of that is also due to the absence of Josh Henderson. Henderson has been out for more than four games, but his absence (and the team’s lack of frontcourt options) wasn’t exposed until SEC play. I don’t think this necessarily reflects how Vanderbilt will play going forward, but it is fair to say that in the four games without McClellan and Henderson, Vanderbilt’s defense has fallen apart.

With Joshua Smith missing the last four games due to academics, and with Jabril Trawick missing three of those games with a jaw injury, Georgetown’s rotation is now decimated. Georgetown head coach John Thompson III likes to use a short rotation, but that strategy has backfired given these player losses. Georgetown was competitive for the first 30 minutes in the last two games, but gave up a huge run late against Xavier and Seton Hall, and I don’t think that timing is a coincidence. The Hoyas have been relying far too heavily on their starters and the team has simply run out of gas late in games. Georgetown’s current level of play is not even that of an NIT team.

The next set of teams also have clear splits, but these all reflect situations where I want to see more data before I draw any strong conclusions.

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Seton Hall (missing Auda, Edwin, Gibbs, and/or Teague)

109.1

105.2

6

5

0.603

Seton Hall

107.2

95.2

5

2

0.797

           

Creighton

122.8

94.7

13

2

0.952

Creighton (no Gibbs)

129.8

108.3

2

1

0.889

           

Northwestern

99.5

99.7

7

9

0.492

NW (no Sobelewski)

88.7

79.5

2

1

0.778

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida (missing Wilbekin, Hill, Finney-Smith, and/or Casey Prather

113.7

93.3

8

2

0.907

Florida

113.6

90.7

7

0

0.930

-Most people have probably written Seton Hall off at this point. But high volume scorer Fuquan Edwin has missed four games, rebounding monster Gene Teague has missed four games, rebounder and efficient finisher Patrik Auda has missed 6 games, and stud PG Sterling Gibbs has missed a game too. When all four of those players have been available, this has been a significantly better team. Now the stats are not saying that Seton Hall is going to the NCAA tournament. But with all these players available, they’ve played more like an inconsistent bubble team, rather than a conference bottom feeder.

We clearly need to see more. This weekend’s Georgetown game was only the second time since November that all four of these players have been in the lineup. The small conference games suggest they were decent, but the only quality opponent Seton Hall has faced with the full complement of players was Oklahoma, a game Seton Hall narrowly lost in New York City.

Also, if you are worried that these numbers are being inflated by the Georgetown game, they are not. When I adjust for Seton Hall’s opponents, I factor in in Georgetown’s lower level of play without Joshua Smith. Regardless, the punchline is clear: Don’t assume you know this year’s Seton Hall team yet.

-Creighton is a worse team without Sterling Gibbs, but the defensive drop-off you see here looks to be a bit of a one-game fluke. Creighton had one of the worst defensive games of the year against Providence, allowing 134 points per 100 possessions, and that can’t all because Gibbs was out. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Gibbs loss does have larger ramifications for the defense. As a 6’5” guard, Gibbs size is important to the team’s defense.

-Next up, we have a split that seems like random noise. Northwestern didn’t suddenly learn to play defense when Dave Sobelewski went down. This split mostly reflects Illinois and Indiana’s complete inability to make jump shots. Northwestern has capitalized with two wins in the last three games.

-Finally, I saw a lot of people make national title picks this week and include Florida in the group of title contenders. And I completely agree. Scottie Wilbekin, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather have all missed games this year. But as the table shows, when Florida has had all of these players, the Gators have played like the tenth best team in the nation. Florida has wins against Kansas and Memphis with their current lineup, but they also narrowly beat a mediocre Auburn team with that lineup. In the end, I think Florida will end up closer to No. 1 than No. 10, but we need to see more games with everyone available. (Of course, even today, calling Florida full strength is a little deceiving because Chris Walker and Damontre Harris have not been eligible, and Eli Carter has never been fully healthy.)

The next table shows some of the most baffling splits:

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Michigan

117.9

93.8

4

4

0.935

Michigan (no McGary)

121.6

98.7

7

0

0.917

           

Oregon St. (no Moreland)

110.3

106.4

8

4

0.602

Oregon St.

116.7

104.6

2

3

0.779

           

Gonzaga

121.6

99.7

10

2

0.907

Gonzaga (no Bell)

112.7

92.4

5

1

0.907

           

Oregon (no Artis/Carter)

120.1

103.2

9

0

0.851

Oregon

115.8

102.3

4

4

0.806

-In the Michigan split, I dropped the first two games of the year (which McGary also missed). Michigan has gone on an incredible winning streak with Mitch McGary out. The team has gone 7-0, and the win at Wisconsin this weekend was one of the most impressive efforts any team has pulled off this season. But, the splits say something different. The splits say that while the offense has been better in recent games, Michigan’s defense has been significantly worse, and that has meant the team’s overall performance (as measured by the PWP) has been fairly steady.

The biggest reason for an improvement in Michigan’s record is a change in the Wolverines’ luck. Or if you don’t like that term, Michigan has handled the pressure of close games better and won those games. Since McGary went down, Michigan has won close games against Stanford, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Meanwhile, prior to the injury they were losing close games to Arizona and Charlotte. But the numbers suggest that overall, Michigan has been about the same quality of team early and later in the year.

McGary was clearly hurt before he elected for surgery, so I’m not surprised the offense could get better without him. But I am surprised to see the defensive drop-off. Jordan Morgan has a reputation as a quality defensive player, but his elevated minutes have not translated to better team defense. The one point win at Nebraska, where the team gave up 118 points per 100 possessions, suggests that Michigan has some defensive issues without McGary on the court.

In the final analysis, Michigan probably wasn’t as bad as we thought when the losses were piling up. And they probably are not as good as they were in the Wisconsin win. But this is still a talented team that will earn plenty of wins in the Big Ten.

-Oregon St.’s Eric Moreland is a very good offensive player and his return was over-shadowed by the start of Pac-12 play. The Beavers started 1-3 in the conference and most people just assumed this was another lost season. But with Moreland in the lineup, the early returns do suggest that this is a better offensive team. Even when Moreland struggled from the floor, 2 of 12 on Sunday, he had 5 assists, and his ability to get to the free throw line allowed him to get 15 points. Oregon St. still isn’t a good team because they can’t stop anyone. But they will outscore a few more teams before the Pac-12 season is over.

-With Gary Bell out, Gonzaga’s offense has clearly been worse. But the team has buckled down defensively, and other than the crazy loss to Portland, Gonzaga is actually playing good basketball.

-Did anyone think that Oregon would suddenly become a worse team when Dominic Artis and Ben Carter returned? But they’ve been worse on offense and in the standings. The key point here is that I think it is sometimes much harder to integrate players into the lineup mid-season. We take it for granted that players can just slide right in. But when players join midseason they lose the chance to build chemistry in the early games. The next table shows that a number of teams have struggled to integrate quality players into the lineup:

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Maryland

108.1

96.9

7

5

0.779

Maryland (with Allen)

108.9

99.1

4

2

0.747

           

North Carolina

112.0

92.1

7

2

0.905

UNC (with McDonald)

101.1

92.6

4

4

0.732

           

Penn St.

114.9

103.1

8

4

0.775

Penn (with Johnson)

105.2

104.2

1

6

0.527

-At some point Seth Allen may be able to elevate Maryland’s play, but we have to remember he is coming off a foot injury. Allen is still a step slow offensively and defensively.

-I really don’t believe North Carolina’s Leslie McDonald is a liability in the long-run. He shot 36% and 38% from three the last two years and if he can duplicate that, he’ll help the Tar Heel offense. But right now he’s making just 31% of his threes  and North Carolina’s offense has been dreadful. (Joel James did miss several games since McDonald returned, but given UNC’s frontcourt depth and James limited role, it seems hard to believe his absence explains UNC’s recent offensive swoon.)

-John Johnson was a great three point shooter at Pitt, but so far those same shots are not dropping for Penn St., and since he joined the team mid-season, Penn St.’s play has slipped.

Click Here for Part 2

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