yardbarker
RealGM Basketball

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets BlogGeorgia Tech Yellow Jackets Blog

Comparing The Conferences

The Pac-12 has been suffering through a long dark period. The Big Ten has been dominant (at least in the pre-conference schedule) for the last few years. Should we expect a change this year? Is the Pac-12’s slump over? Is the Big Ten’s boom about to come to an end? Let’s take a quick look at some basic roster data and see if we can uncover any trends.

Part of predicting the season is noting the number of elite high school prospects on each roster. Not only are these players more likely to play well as freshmen, but they are also more likely to breakout later in their career. Recall, for example, Michael Snaer of Florida St. Snaer was a former Top 20 recruit, and while it took him three seasons, he broke out in a big way in 2011-12. After adding up the numbers…

- The Big East has the most former RSCI Top 100 prospects on rosters heading into the season with 58.

- But the Big East has more teams, and the Big East has only 3.9 elite recruits per team. The ACC has the most former Top 100 recruits per team with 4.6 per team.

- But James McAdoo is the only former Top 10 prospect in the ACC this season. That seems like an unprecedented lack of super-elite talent for the conference. If you want super elite talent, you probably want to watch the SEC, assuming everyone is declared academically eligible. John Calipari never lets us down on the recruiting trail.

- The SEC, however, is only welcoming ten Top 100 freshmen this year as a whole. Even the Big Ten, the land of typically poor recruiting, is welcoming more Top 100 freshmen than the SEC this season. And yes, the slumping Pac-12 brings in quite a few elite recruits this year.

Conf

T10

T100

T100 Fr

ACC

1

55

22

BE

1

58

17

SEC

4

49

10

B10

1

40

15

B12

3

33

11

P12

3

37

15

MWC

1

15

5

A10

0

11

3

The next table isn’t really roster data, but it does reflect some of my preliminary projections about playing time.

- The ACC is going to be the youngest conference in the nation this year, according to my projections.

- The Big East has a startlingly low number of key seniors on rosters this year.

- As usual, the MWC and A10 have more mature rosters. They lose fewer players to the NBA and that helps the top MWC and A10 teams compete, even without a plethora of blue chip talent.

Class

Sr%

Jr%

So%

Fr%

MWC

35%

30%

17%

17%

A10

33%

27%

19%

21%

P12

28%

32%

18%

22%

B12

32%

19%

26%

23%

BE

22%

32%

27%

19%

B10

27%

26%

23%

24%

SEC

25%

28%

24%

22%

ACC

25%

22%

23%

31%

The Pac-12 is getting older in a hurry, thanks in no small part to an influx of transfers. Note that your transfer numbers may vary slightly. I’m excluding transfer walk-ons and a few JUCOs who seem unlikely to play in the next table.

Incoming Transfers

D1

JUCO+

P12

15

8

SEC

10

11

BE

14

6

MWC

7

5

B12

7

5

A10

8

3

ACC

3

3

B10

5

1

The transfer table doesn’t mean the Pac-12 has suddenly become the conference of transfers. This is all a natural consequence of recent league history. The Pac-12 teams have struggled the last few years making those teams particularly attractive places for transfers to matriculate. If you want to transfer and PLAY in an elite league, you would have chosen the Pac-12 too.  On the other hand, the Big Ten has been on an upswing and few coaches have needed to dip into the JUCO ranks as a quick fix. Deverell Biggs of Nebraska is currently the only incoming JUCO player projected for the Big Ten this year.

Overall, the Pac-12 was a depleted league, but it is adding a number of impact freshmen and key transfers this year. The days of the league failing to field a Top 25 team are over. As for the Big Ten, the jury is still out. The teams at the top still have plenty of talent, but programs like Purdue could be in for a bit of a slip without an influx of can’t miss players coming in.

Freshmen Bring Hope

In-season improvements are common for freshmen. After all, freshmen make more dumb decisions early in the year, so they have more room for improvement. And as Harrison Barnes showed last year, by getting in a rhythm and taking fewer questionable shots, a freshman can improve dramatically between November and March. 

That also means that teams that play a lot of freshmen are the most likely to improve as the season goes on. Last year, we had hard evidence as Memphis, Michigan, St. Joseph’s, and Kentucky were all substantially better in March than they were in January.

But who are the young teams this season? You might think you know the answer if you read the preseason magazines and saw everyone’s returning minutes. But minutes lost are not a perfect predictor of freshmen playing time. San Diego State and Rhode Island both lost 69-71% of their minutes this off-season. But while Rhode Island has started over with a new group of young players, San Diego State has chosen to fill the lineup with transfers and bench players. In fact, the Aztecs aren’t giving any playing time to freshmen.

Team

Conf

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

SDSU

MWC

0%

0%

Rhode Island

A10

44%

41%

And that maturity has mattered a lot to the teams’ performances. While Rhode Island has struggled to a 1-10 start, San Diego St. has beaten Arizona and California. The teams with the most and fewest freshmen minutes are not always who you expect. 

Most Minutes to Freshmen

(Playing in a Top 11 Conference or Pomeroy Top 50)

Team

Conf

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

Virginia Tech

ACC

35%

33%

Fordham

A10

36%

40%

Portland

WCC

36%

33%

SMU

CUSA

36%

39%

Georgetown

BE

36%

30%

Rice

CUSA

38%

37%

Arkansas

SEC

39%

44%

Villanova

BE

40%

33%

Houston

CUSA

42%

41%

Texas Tech

B12

43%

46%

Rhode Island

A10

44%

41%

San Diego

WCC

44%

44%

Alabama

SEC

44%

37%

Rutgers

BE

47%

49%

UTEP

CUSA

49%

47%

Kentucky

SEC

53%

54%

West Virginia

BE

53%

42%

St. John's

BE

61%

61%

Texas

B12

61%

62%

Boston College

ACC

65%

70%

D1 Average

 

19%

18%

- It may be a bit of a surprise to see Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg play such a young team. He normally likes tight, experienced lineups. But Dorien Finney-Smith, Robert Brown, and CJ Barksdale are too good to bench. This is easily one of Greenberg’s best recruiting classes.

- Percentage of minutes usually matches percentage of possession’s used, but not always. While freshmen Otto Porter, Greg Whittington, and Jabril Trawick are playing a lot of minutes for Georgetown, the Hoyas’ veterans Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark get the majority of the shots.

- Texas Tech is terrible, but freshman Jordan Tolbert is the real deal.

- Alabama’s inability to make three-pointers and score against a zone defense is really holding the team back from becoming an elite team. Freshmen Levi Randolph, Trevor Lacey, Rodney Cooper, and Charles Hankerson have all missed a lot of open perimeter shots at this point in the season. But if the team can find other ways to score against zone defense, the Crimson Tide can still be great. And if one of these young players develops a jump shot, look out.

- I think Mike Rice is doing a fabulous job, but if you expect Rutgers to be a sleeper in the Big East, be aware how young his team is this year. They’ll be better eventually (especially after Kadeem Jack returns), but it is hard to win with this many freshmen in the lineup and no veteran stars.

- Yes, Kentucky has the best recruits, but could anyone other than John Calipari beat Kansas and North Carolina while working that many freshmen into the lineup?

- West Virginia is exceedingly young, but the formula seems to be working for them. Notice how the freshmen get 53% of the minutes, but only 42% of the possessions? This team is staying competitive by feeding the ball to Kevin Jones and watching Truck Bryant do his thing.

- Texas has been playing a weaker schedule in order to get its freshmen more confidence, but they were not ready to play on the road, looking outmatched against North Carolina on Tuesday. And Texas is going to have to go on the road regularly once Big 12 play starts. But as the team figures out who has the confidence to score against good defense, I expect they will be better. On Wednesday, it was freshmen Sheldon McClellan and Jonathan Holmes stepping up against the Tar Heels. (Interestingly, prized recruit Sterling Gibbs, the player who backed out of a commitment to Maryland, has the worst efficiency stats for Texas right now.)

- We knew St. John’s and Boston College were going to have a rough season with so many young players, and now Nurideen Lindsey has left St. John’s.

Fewest Minutes to Freshmen

(Playing in a Top 11 Conference or Pomeroy Top 50)

Team

Conf

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

San Diego State

MWC

0%

0%

Oklahoma

B12

0%

0%

UNLV

MWC

0%

0%

Iona

MAAC

0%

0%

St. Louis

A10

3%

2%

Colorado State

MWC

3%

3%

Dayton

A10

4%

3%

Southern Miss

CUSA

4%

3%

Kansas

B12

4%

3%

Missouri St.

MVC

4%

4%

Florida St.

ACC

4%

4%

Belmont

A-Sun

5%

4%

Georgia Tech

ACC

5%

5%

Arizona St.

P12

5%

4%

Missouri

B12

5%

4%

Iowa St.

B12

6%

5%

St. Bonaventure

A10

6%

4%

San Francisco

WCC

6%

5%

Auburn

SEC

7%

4%

Nebraska

B10

7%

5%

- Thanks to a host of transfers, San Diego State and UNLV have maintained veteran lineups despite losing players to graduation. And that’s why the MWC is having another great season.

- Oklahoma has gotten off to a fine start under new head coach Lon Kruger, but keep in mind that he is not breaking in any freshmen. Much like Mike Rice at Rutgers last year, he’s trying to ring some victories out of the current roster before loading up with recruits next season.

- I can’t remember a time when Kansas didn’t have a marquee freshman playing a big role.

Predictions 

My guess is that the teams relying heavily on freshmen will struggle in January. It is hard to go on the road in a hostile environment for the first time with a young team. But if you give them time, I would guess that at least some of these teams will show shocking improvement. Don’t be surprised if Villanova goes on a surprise run in the Big East tournament or if Arkansas suddenly starts springing upsets in February.

On the flip side, I’d be cautious about a team like Missouri. Are they peaking in December? And for a team like Arizona St., things are even more depressing. With a roster filled with older players, but few wins, there is not much hope.

By Conference 

Big Ten

Pct Min

Freshm

Pct Poss Fresh

Nebraska

7%

5%

Wisconsin

8%

8%

Ohio St.

15%

13%

Purdue

16%

16%

Michigan

18%

22%

Indiana

20%

20%

Northwestern

20%

14%

Iowa

21%

22%

Illinois

22%

18%

Penn St.

24%

21%

Minnesota

26%

25%

Michigan St.

31%

30%

If Wisconsin is always ranked high in the computer rankings, why isn’t Bo Ryan a regular in the Final Four? One hypothesis is that Bo Ryan doesn’t recruit the type of athletes you need to be successful in the tournament. I’m sure that matters to some degree, but Wisconsin hasn’t exactly been losing to North Carolina in the tournament. The last five years the Badgers have been knocked out by UNLV, Davidson, Xavier, Cornell, and Butler. The simplest and most correct answer is that the NCAA tournament represents a small sample of games, and anything can happen in a small sample.

But while that is right, it is not very satisfying. So let me throw out another explanation: Bo Ryan’s teams are over-rated in the margin-of-victory calculations because he always has a veteran team on the floor. Bo Ryan’s lineups are consistently more mature than his opponents. Not only does Bo Ryan depend a lot on upperclassmen, he also red-shirts a ton of players. That means Bo Ryan’s team typically features, at most one or two players under 20 on the floor at all times, and that means his team doesn’t have the same dumb freshmen mistakes as other teams. But it does not mean that we should predict Wisconsin will beat North Carolina or Kentucky on a neutral floor. 

Let me put it another way. Ryan Evans is a relative newcomer to the Badger lineup, but as a red-shirt junior, he’s been through a ton of Wisconsin practices. Compare him to Michigan St. freshman Branden Dawson who sees similar playing time at a similar position for the Spartans. Evans’ efficiency stats are better than Dawson’s at this point in the season. But if you had to wager, would you pick Dawson or Evans to thrive in March?

Pac-12

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss Fresh

Arizona St.

5%

4%

UCLA

9%

7%

Oregon

9%

11%

California

12%

9%

Oregon St.

12%

11%

Stanford

17%

19%

Washington St.

17%

17%

Colorado

24%

26%

Utah

27%

23%

USC

28%

26%

Arizona

29%

30%

Washington

31%

36%

The problem for the Pac-12 isn’t that the teams are playing too many freshmen. (If you get out a slide rule, the Pac-12 actually averages 18% of minutes given to freshmen which is lower than the D1 average and lower than the Big Ten.) The problem is that because so many players have left early for the NBA in recent years, the players who have stuck around are not good enough.

ACC

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

Florida St.

4%

4%

Georgia Tech

5%

5%

North Carolina St.

8%

7%

Miami FL

10%

11%

Virginia

15%

16%

North Carolina

17%

19%

Duke

24%

28%

Wake Forest

24%

16%

Maryland

28%

24%

Clemson

30%

22%

Virginia Tech

35%

33%

Boston College

65%

70%

On a lot of teams, the freshmen defer to the upperclassmen. See Wake Forest, Maryland, Clemson, and Virginia Tech where the percentage of minutes exceeds the percentage of possession’s used. But that isn’t happening at North Carolina. PJ Hairston and James Michael McAdoo take more than their fair share of shots when on the floor. 

Big East

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

South Florida

9%

9%

Syracuse

12%

10%

Notre Dame

12%

10%

Louisville

16%

18%

Cincinnati

17%

13%

Marquette

18%

15%

DePaul

21%

16%

Pittsburgh

21%

17%

Providence

27%

23%

Connecticut

28%

27%

Seton Hall

31%

19%

Georgetown

36%

30%

Villanova

40%

33%

Rutgers

47%

49%

West Virginia

53%

42%

St. John's

61%

61%

Earlier this year, I talked about how Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey refuse to play freshmen. And while Marquette is still below the D1 average, this season is the most minutes Buzz Williams has ever given to freshmen in his entire career. On the other hand, Mike Brey refuses to break the long-term trend. 

Big 12

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

Oklahoma

0%

0%

Kansas

4%

3%

Missouri

5%

4%

Iowa St.

6%

5%

Baylor

18%

21%

Texas A&M

21%

19%

Kansas St.

23%

29%

Oklahoma St.

34%

41%

Texas Tech

43%

46%

Texas

61%

62% 

It is hard to believe that “team transfer” aka Iowa St., is actually giving more minutes to freshmen than three other Big 12 teams.

SEC

Pct Min

Fresh

Pct Poss

Fresh

Auburn

7%

4%

Vanderbilt

17%

16%

Tennessee

18%

11%

Florida

20%

20%

Georgia

25%

31%

South Carolina

26%

26%

Mississippi St.

26%

24%

Mississippi

26%

28%

LSU

33%

35%

Arkansas

39%

44%

Alabama

44%

37%

Kentucky

53%

54%

LSU freshmen PG Anthony Hickey has been an extremely pleasant surprise, but he’s taken a few too many dumb shots this year. If he improves his shot selection, the win against Marquette can be more than a fluke.

Talent Squandered: College Basketball's Ultimate Underachieving Teams Since 2003

Today, I go looking for the ultimate underachievers, teams that had a lot of RSCI Top 100 recruits, but who struggled on the basketball court in the tempo free era (2003-2011).  PM100= Percentage of Minutes given to RSCI Top 100 recruits. 

10. Michigan St. 2006, Pomeroy Rank=33rd, PM100=78.2%

I was tempted to choose the 2011 Michigan St. team for this list, but the 2006 team had more “elite” talent and seemed to be a bigger disappointment to me.  Shannon Brown (RSCI #3), Paul Davis (#7), Drew Neitzel (#54), Maurice Ager (#54), Matt Trannon (#52), and Marquise Gray (#28) not only lost to George Mason in the NCAA tournament, they were a .500 team in the Big Ten.

9. Connecticut 2010, Pomeroy Rank=56th, PM100=75.0%

Somehow, despite winning the national title in 2011, Connecticut had a losing record in the Big East in 2010, and finished only 18-16 on the year.  It is hard to figure out how Kemba Walker (#15), Stanley Robinson (#18), Jerome Dyson (#36), Alex Oriakhi (#16), Ater Majok (#74), and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (#50) could only win seven Big East games in 2010, but then again this year’s national title squad went only 9-9 in Big East play. 

8. LSU 2011, Pomeroy Rank=227th, PM100=45.2%

Even with Ralston Turner (#100), Aaron Dotson (#98), Matt Derenbecker (#85), and Storm Warren (#72), LSU finished dead last in a horrible SEC West, and posted one of the worst Pomeroy Rankings of all-time for a BCS team.

7. Villanova 2003, Pomeroy Rank=54th, PM100=87.5%

Jay Wright seems to be such a cool, calm, and collected winner today, that we tend to forget some of his struggles earlier in his tenure.  The 2003 team was basically full of elite high school prospects, but finished with a losing record on the season.  Allan Ray (#39), Randy Foye (#56), Derrick Snowden (#82), Ricky Wright (#75), Andrew Sullivan (#56), Marcus Austin (#94), Curtis Sumpter (#42), and Jason Fraser (#5) were not enough to put together a winning team in the Big East.

6. Georgia Tech 2003, Pomeroy Rank=46th, PM100=86.3%

Paul Hewitt was an incredible recruiter, and so many of his years at Georgia Tech could fall into the disappointing category, but I am going to choose the 2003 team as the most disappointing.  That is because the 2003 team had all the same players as the 2004 NCAA runner-up team (Jarett Jack #46, BJ Elder #97, Marvin Lewis #61, Isma’il Muhammad #74, and Anthony McHenry #72) plus Chris Bosh (#5) and Ed Nelson (#49). Yet somehow that team finished with a losing record in the ACC and missed the NCAA tournament.

5. Rutgers 2009, Pomeroy Rank=141st, PM100=62.1%

Fred Hill finally built up the talent base in 2009, but his team still only won two games in the Big East.  He had Mike Rosario (#31), Gregory Echenique (#94) Hamady Ndiaye (#97), Corey Chandler (#72), and JR Inman (#87), and yet there were no memorable moments. This year with substantially less “talent”, Mike Rice Jr. won five Big East games, but more importantly he had his team competitive in just about every game. Rutgers lost six games by five points or less down the stretch in the Big East in 2011.

4. UCLA 2004, Pomeroy Rank=125th, PM100=71.8%

Ben Howland’s first year in the Pac-10 was downright dreadful and even though people have jumped back on the Steve Lavin bandwagon today, you have to remember how much people were attacking him at the end of his tenure at UCLA. Lavin had a rep for bringing in talented players who did not seem to understand fundamentals, but who would somehow go on a magical run at NCAA tournament time. But it all fell apart in Ben Howland’s first year when UCLA still had a lot of unprepared talent, and the team could not make that magical Lavin run. The 2004 team included Trevor Ariza (#19), Cedrick Bozeman (#19), Dijon Thompson (#28), TJ Cummings (#28), Michael Fey (#100), Brian Morrison (#24), and even Ryan Hollins who was not an RSCI Top 100 recruit, but who got a shot in the NBA. UCLA not only finished with a losing record in the Pac-10, they were blown out in a number of games including 25-point and 34-point losses to Arizona.

3. Wake Forest 2011, Pomeroy Rank=251st, PM100=59.4%

Even with Travis McKie (#49), JT Terrell (#51), and Ari Stewart (#39), Carson Desrosiers (#66), Ty Walker (#37), and Melvin Tabb (#93), Wake Forest had a terrible season. You can blame last year’s performance on youth, but that does not explain how Wake Forest was the worst BCS team in the tempo-free era.

2. Missouri 2006, Pomeroy Rank=160th, PM100=79.9%

Quin Snyder was a fabulous recruiter, but an absolutely terrible coach and his final season summarizes it best. Missouri finished in 11th place in the Big 12 despite the presence of Thomas Gardner (#38), Jimmy McKinney (#35), Jason Horton (#45), Marshall Brown (#47), Kevin Young (#93), and Kalen Grimes (#63) in the rotation.

1. North Carolina 2010, Pomeroy Rank=60th, PM100=96.8%

With the type of high school talent they bring in, North Carolina does not rebuild, they reload.  But something went terribly wrong in 2010.  Despite the presence of John Henson (#5), Ed Davis (#9), Tyler Zeller (#18), Larry Drew (#44), Marcus Ginyard (#29), Deon Thompson (#43), Will Graves (#79), Dexter Strickland (#24), Leslie McDonald (#44) David Wear (#37), and Travis Wear (#38), North Carolina finished 5-11 in the ACC. Injuries played a role, and Larry Drew gets a lot of the blame, but with North Carolina’s talent level, there is no way to label that season as anything other than a colossal failure.

Power Rankings For The Alumni Games

It is hard to imagine a more exciting barnstorming series than a tournament featuring NBA players suiting up again for their college.

Surprises And Flops, Part 2

Examining the surprises and flops this season in the Big East, ACC, Big 12 and Atlantic-10.

 

Basketball Wiretap Headlines

    NBA Wiretap Headlines

      NCAA Wiretap Headlines

        MLB Wiretap Headlines

          NFL Wiretap Headlines

            NHL Wiretap Headlines

              Soccer Wiretap Headlines