Part One: The Team Stats
Part Two: The Player Stats and Style Doppelgangers
Part Three: More Doppelgangers - The Scorers
Part Four: More Doppelgangers - The Distributors
Part Five: Final Doppelgangers - The Backup Bigs (and Sutton)
Part Six: What Mattered Most?
Part Seven: Mike Anderson vs Nolan Richardson
Part Eight: Homework
In 2009-10, the Big 12 was resurgent. Not for a few years had this many programs looked to make noise on a national level, and that was with Oklahoma unexpectedly (for some) going into the tank. Kansas may have once again run away with the conference title, but K-State looked better than it had since the 1980s, Baylor and Texas A&M were downright scary-good at times, Missouri maintained after losing three tough seniors, Texas reached #1 in January before sliding, and Oklahoma State did something none of the others could do -- beat Kansas. Plus, Texas Tech looked great in the NIT, Colorado came on strong, and even last-place Nebraska looked rock solid at times (including both games they played in the Big 12 Tournament).
What will the conference do for an encore in 2010-11? How's a six-way title race sound? Good?
Actually, I shouldn't go there. As we'll see with the data below, the likely result of the 2010-11 race has a rather familiar tone to it. But in theory, we could be in for some fun. Kansas, defenders of their 26th (or so) straight conference title, lose their leader (Sherron Collins), their tree (Cole Aldrich), and almost certainly their precocious freshman (Xavier Henry). They likely return the Morris twins (there are rumblings that Marcus will test the pro waters, but I'll believe it when I see it), Tyrady Morningreed, and others, but it wouldn't surprise anybody should they take a step backwards in 2010-11. Meanwhile...
KSU really only loses Denis Clemente.
Mizzou returns most of its core (including the three sophomores who were their biggest contributors in 2009-10).
A&M's got experience and length.
Baylor is (barring an unforeseen leap to the pros by LaceDarius Dunn) returning their best player and has a ridiculous amount of size, even without Ekpe Udoh (who I assume is going pro).
Texas still has as much blue-chip talent as anybody, and a change in chemistry might do them well.
It seems that KU will have some serious challengers for the throne next year, doesn't it? Well let's apply some data to the matter and see what happens.
Here's what we're going to do: we're going to loosely project each team's performance in 2010-11 based on the current makeup of their rosters/recruiting classes and some general projections based on typical year-to-year improvement. I ran a couple of years' worth of data (I don't have a huge stockpile of basketball data like I do with football) based around the AdjGS concept I used for this year's Know Your Rival and Study Hall pieces.
The general goal of the Game Score concept (and therefore my Adjusted Game Score concept) is to take everything in the box score -- not just points scored -- and apply it to a point value based on the Game Score formula. With it, we can come up with a rough way of saying Player A was worth 8.6 points per game last year. With it, we can also start looking at overall averages and come up with conclusions like "On average, sophomores improve by 0.05 AdjGS/min from their freshman seasons," and "A 3-star Rivals recruit typically averages 0.33 AdjGS/min his freshman year." And with conclusions like that, we can set about making some projections, can't we?
Here are two data tables I need to share before we get started.
Per-Minute change from year to year
Your typical freshman doesn't make much of an impact (at least on a per-minute basis), and while they tend to show a little bit of growth in their sophomore seasons, if a big leap is going to happen, it takes place between years two and three. Clearly this is good news for Mizzou fans (Laurence Bowers, Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Steve Moore, Miguel Paul), not to mention fans of players like Marcus & Markieff Morris, Jamar Samuels, Quincy Acy, Tyshawn Taylor, Willie Warren (if he returns), David Loubeau and Dash Harris, all of whom were sophomores this season.
But not every freshman, sophomore, junior or senior is created equal. What if we bring recruiting rankings into the mix?
Breaking things out into smaller sample sizes makes data look a little weird by the time players get to their senior seasons -- by the time you get through defections, early declarations to the pros, etc., there just aren't as many seniors to average out there, but you still get a pretty good idea for how players tend to grade out on the AdjGS scale. With this data, we start to see some interesting potential conclusions about the balance between talent and experience. For example, it appears that a 4-star freshman gives you about what a 2-star junior or senior does, and a 5-star freshman gives you about what a 3-star junior or senior does.
So if we have general data based around recruiting profile and experience, then we can begin to make projections about both how much returning players can be expected to improve next season and what we can expect from incoming recruits.
Here's what we're going to do: based on career performance and the expected data above, we're going to come up with a general projection for each new and returning player in the conference for 2010-11, then I'm going to roughly assign a minutes distribution for each team. We'll then compare each team's projected performance to what they did this past year to get an idea for which teams are likely to improve and who may regress.
Disclaimers: Now, this obviously comes with a boatload of disclaimers. First, this data will only be as good as the recruiting rankings associated with each player. While we've worked in the past to show that recruiting rankings are pretty good predictors, they're obviously far from perfect. Second, not every 3-star sophomore, for example, is going to perform the same. Obviously. Third, while the AdjGS formula takes into account blocks and steals, obviously players can have an overall impact on team defense that isn't measured in the box score. The losses of J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor at Missouri, for instance, will probably have a slightly larger impact than what the projections below suggest, simply because they were so instrumental in Mizzou's low 3PT% allowed, and they were so good at disrupting and tipping passes. That's not necessarily something that shows up in the box score. For Kansas, Cole Aldrich altered far more shots than he blocked, and we'll have to see if his replacements have the same impact.
Finally, these projections are on the conservative side. Taking these figures into account, a lot of overachievers (Colorado's Alec Burks, for instance) are projected to regress back toward their recruiting ranking, and while that may be somewhat accurate, it may not.
The result of using extremely conservative projections is that every team is projected to regress in the end. Obviously that won't happen, especially as it pertains to conference play. Within the conference, improvement and regression are a zero-sum game, so once every team's figures have been projected, we'll adjust so that the teams that regress the least actually improve. Make sense?
One more thing: my current assumptions are that Ekpe Udoh, Xavier Henry, and Tiny Gallon are not playing for their respective teams next year, while the Morris twins, Willie Warren, and everybody else stays put. As news comes out regarding players' pro/transfer intentions and upcoming commits (obviously few teams are completely done recruiting at this point), then I can pretty easily amend these projections.
Let's (finally) get started. Today, we look at the Big 12 South, tomorrow the North.
(Players in bold below averaged at least 20 minutes per game in 2009-10.)
Making projections for Baylor right now is more than a little iffy considering we have no idea what is in store for either Ekpe Udoh or LaceDarius Dunn. If both return to Waco next year, Baylor could be pretty disgustingly good. They will have ridiculous depth in the frontcourt -- Udoh and Acy would combine with Anthony Jones, Cory Jefferson, Dragan Sekelja and five-star newcomer Perry Jones to form the most long-armed 2-3 zone of all-time. They could be a little thin in the backcourt -- Dunn would return, but they lose Tweety Carter and his 36 MPG. A.J. Walton averaged 18 MPG and will almost certainly move into the starting lineup, but after that they'll be relying on sophomores like Nolan Dennis or freshmen like Stargell Love (GREAT name) or Bakari Turner.
If Udoh and Dunn BOTH depart, BU could be in trouble. They'd still have decent frontcourt depth, but they'd have lost all three of their go-to options from this season, and Quincy Acy would have to move into a go-to role.
My guess: Udoh leaves, Dunn returns. That results in the following rough distribution of minutes and AdjGS points:
|Quincy Acy (6'7, 225, Jr.)
|LaceDarius Dunn (6'4, 205, Sr.)
|Anthony Jones (6'10, 195, Jr.)||0.22||0.33||9.0|
|A.J. Walton (6'1, 190, So.)||0.24||0.28||8.0|
|Perry Jones (6'11, 220, Fr.)||N/A||0.35||7.2|
|Stargell Love (6'2, 180, Fr.)||N/A||0.23||3.1|
|Cory Jefferson (6'9, 200, So.)||0.25||0.30||2.7|
|Fred Ellis (6'6, 215, Jr.)||0.18||0.28||2.5|
|Dragan Sekelja (7'0, 275, So.)||0.33||0.34||2.1|
|Bakari Turner (6'3, 180, Fr.)||N/A||0.23||0.6|
That's a pretty significant drop (though not the biggest in the conference). Plus, we'll see how overall team defense would be affected without Udoh -- they're still a long team, but Udoh was clearly the best overall defender last year. Once Udoh and Dunn make their decisions, I can adjust Baylor's projections accordingly.
It's already been a rather ugly offseason for OU (following an ugly regular season), and things could be just getting started. Tommy Mason-Griffin decided to go pro despite not being on anybody's Top 100 draft lists, and now it appears that Tiny Gallon may have received money from somebody tied to the OU program. His eligibility will be in question for a while, as will Willie Warren's, considering a) there was at least a rumor that he may have been tied to money too, and b) he could still decide to declare for the draft. Gallon and Warren could both return in 2010-11 ... and neither could return.
My guess: I'm not confident in this at all, but I'll conservatively say that Gallon's done and Warren returns. It's pretty clear that OU will try to sign more players this spring -- there are still quite a few uncommitted players on OU's offer list. As commits come in and we find out about Warren/Gallon, we'll adjust these projections, but for now ... yeah, they're REALLY ugly.
|Willie Warren (6'4, 203, Jr.)||0.44||0.49||16.9|
|Cade Davis (6'5, 199, Sr.)||0.33||0.33||10.9|
|Andrew Fitzgerald (6'8, 258, So.)||0.30||0.33||9.5|
|Steven Pledger (6'4, 217, So.)||0.24||0.28||8.1|
|Orlando Allen (6'10, 288, Sr.)||0.19||0.24||4.6|
|Kyle Hardrick (6'8, 229, So.)||0.21||0.26||4.5|
|Cameron Clark (6'7, 200, Fr.)||N/A||0.28||4.2|
|T.J. Taylor (6'3, 205, Fr.)||N/A||0.28||4.2|
|Tyler Neal (6'6, 175, Fr.)||N/A||0.18||1.8|
|T.J. Franklin (5'11, 166, Jr.)||-0.22||-0.18||0.0|
So OU stands to lose about the same amount as Baylor ... only, they weren't NEARLY as good as Baylor. And they could still lose Warren, the only player projected to average higher than 0.33 AdjGS/min. With him, this is a pretty bad team. Without him ... wow.
When they were on, OSU was one of the most fun teams in the country to watch this year. The long balls from James Anderson, Obi Muonelo, and Keiton Page just rained down from the sky, and they were capable of beating anybody (they were the only team in the conference to beat KU this year). Of course, when the 3's weren't falling, they pretty quickly degraded into unwatchability (the second half of their tourney game against Georgia Tech was just brutal), but that's neither here nor there. Anderson has declared for the draft, and Muonelo's eligibility is finally up after 12 years in Stillwater (not really), leaving the Pokes without their top two scoring options. Combined with the size of their incoming recruits, OSU's makeup and personality will flip almost 180 degrees next year. Matt Pilgrim and Marshall Moses -- both efficient scorers who rarely actually had to be counted on to score -- become leaders, and defenses will have to figure out what to do with Page, who pretty consistently found open shooting space toward the end of last season (while sharing the court with Anderson and Muonelo).
Pilgrim and Moses will potentially be challenged by a few newcomers -- Travis Ford brings in JUCOs J.P. Olukemi and Darrell Williams, plus four-star high school PF Michael Cobbins -- and overall OSU will have a lot more frontcourt depth next year. Plus they get Ray Penn back from his conference season ailments. They'll be pretty long and pretty deep ... but somebody will need to score, and it's not a given who that will be.
I REALLY like Matt Pilgrim, by the way. He will probably regress from a per-minute standpoint, but he's still a stud and exactly the kind of monster I'd love for Mizzou to have.
|Matt Pilgrim (6'8, 235, Sr.)||0.58||0.47||13.3|
|Keiton Page (5'9, 170, Jr.)||0.31||0.36||10.8|
|Marshall Moses (6'7, 240, Sr.)||0.37||0.36||8.1|
|Ray Penn (5'9, 165, So.)||0.20||0.26||7.8|
|Roger Franklin (6'5, 220, So.)||0.26||0.30||7.4|
|J.P. Olukemi (6'7, 215, Jr.)||N/A||0.38||3.9|
|Darrell Williams (6'8, 235, Jr.)||N/A||0.38||3.9|
|Michael Cobbins (6'8, 215, Fr.)||N/A||0.28||2.8|
|Fred Gulley (6'2, 175, So.)||0.03||0.14||1.7|
|Nick Sidorakis (6'4, 185, Sr.)||0.18||0.23||1.6|
OSU will lose nearly ten points of production without Anderson and Muonelo, and while it's possible that somebody steps up (look out for Roger Franklin, last year's stud recruit who took a backseat to Anderson) ... again, we're looking at everything conservatively, and there is no guarantee here.
Depending on Avery Bradley's stay-or-go decision (for the projections below, I say he's staying), Texas could return an interesting team next season. With Bradley, the 'Horns still have to replace Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason ... but it's not like they won't have any talent, right? Actually, Texas would shape up a lot like Mizzou's 2009-10 squad -- sophomores are their best players, but they've got some experience down the roster -- only, all of Mizzou's sophs were 3-star players this year, while Texas' sophs would be 5-stars (Hamilton, Bradley) or 4-stars (Brown). Plenty of talent here, and honestly, a new attempt at chemistry might produce excellent results. Or not. Since we're being conservative here, obviously the numbers are less confident in them than I am.
|Jordan Hamilton (6'7, 226, So.)||0.43||0.45||12.9|
|Avery Bradley (6'2, 180, So.)||0.32||0.38||12.8|
|J'Covan Brown (6'1, 185, So.)||0.32||0.34||10.1|
|Varez Ward (6'2, 192, Jr.)||N/A||0.36||9.7|
|Gary Johnson (6'6, 238, Sr.)||0.40||0.40||8.0|
|Tristan Thompson (6'9, 240, Fr.)||N/A||0.35||5.6|
|Dogus Balbay (6'1, 175, Sr.)||0.30||0.31||4.3|
|Jai Lucas (5'10, 150, Sr.)||0.20||0.26||3.3|
|Alexis Wangmene (6'7, 241, Jr.)||0.25||0.35||2.9|
|Clint Chapman (6'10, 239, Sr.)||0.30||0.33||1.3|
Texas sees the second-biggest statistical drop, though as I suggested above, I'm more confident in this team bouncing back than I am of Oklahoma State. Jordan Hamilton is a potential stud, and another year of experience for the Bradley-Brown combination (with plenty of experience in post-injury guys like Ward and Balbay) could bring outstanding results. Nothing is certain, but Texas' projected second-stringers have better recruiting rankings than most other teams' starters (even Wangmene was a 4-star recruit), and you can't overlook that.
Rick Barnes has to hope for three things in 2010-11: a) that the chemistry improves (some of that is out of his hands), b) that the point guard position sees infinitely more stability, either from Ward or Brown (Balbay is a great backup -- good defender, nice change of pace -- but if he's your starter, he holds you back significantly on offense), and c) that he does a better coaching job. I'm not nearly as down on Barnes as a lot of people, but there's no question that he failed to put the pieces together this season. It's not a cardinal sin -- there were plenty of years where Norm Stewart couldn't get it done, and he usually bounced back just fine -- but he does need to get some heavy introspection done in the in offseason and figure out why things didn't work out.
As sophomores, David Loubeau and Dash Harris were both fun and inconsistent. When they both showed up, ATM was nearly unstoppable. When they didn't, ATM was still pretty good because of Bryan Davis, Donald Sloan and good depth. Now, Davis and Sloan are gone, and while Derrick Roland is going to try for a medical redshirt, the prognosis is not good. The Aggies will have plenty of talent and pretty ridiculous length/athleticism next year, but until we know that Loubeau and Harris are ready to be focal points, we don't know for sure how good ATM is going to be. Harris was the perfect Mizzou-killer type of guard -- a stabilizing force and distributor with really no worry about scoring -- but he may need to become more of an offensive threat in 2010-11.
Oh yeah, and I LOVE Khris Middleton and Ray Turner. They're potentially my favorite non-Mizzou Big 12 players next year. They'll be sophomores, and we all know what happens when you count on sophomores, but they could be (inconsistently) outstanding.
|David Loubeau (6'8, 230, Jr.)||0.37||0.42||11.2|
|Dash Harris (6'1, 175, Jr.)||0.24||0.34||9.9|
|B.J. Holmes (5'11, 175, Sr.)||0.32||0.33||9.3|
|Khris Middleton (6'7, 215, So.)||0.34||0.35||9.1|
|Ray Turner (6'8, 220, So.)||0.37||0.37||7.9|
|Naji Hibbert (6'6, 200, So.)||0.10||0.20||3.4|
|Nathan Walkup (6'7, 210, Sr.)||0.28||0.30||2.8|
|Daniel Alexander (6'8, 195, Fr.)||N/A||0.28||2.5|
|Tobi Oyedeji (6'8, 215, Fr.)||N/A||0.28||2.5|
|Keith Davis (6'9, 220, Fr.)||N/A||0.23||1.7|
Like Oklahoma State, ATM is bringing in a ton of length and talent (Alexander and Oyedeji are both 4-star recruits), but it might take them a year to get things figured out.
Texas Tech will enter 2010-11 with almost certainly the most experienced team in the conference. The top four remaining players are seniors, they'll bring another couple of seniors off the bench, and juniors Robert Lewandoski and Paul Cooper (an incoming JUCO signee, and a hefty, hefty man) will fill in the rotation as well. Pat Knight really needs to succeed in 2010-11, as the '11-'12 team will be REALLY young.
CAN they win? It sure seems like it -- the top four seniors all averaged at least 0.40 AdjGS/Min this season, and even if they show just marginal improvement, if they mostly hold steady while the bench improves, that certainly seems like a team that could break into the conference's top six. The main problem: the whole was just not greater than the sum of Tech's parts in 2009-10. They held on for a while, getting to 16-7 (4-5 in conference) and holding out hope for an NCAA tourney bid; but they finished the regular season losing seven straight before finding their rhythm again in the NIT. Was it just a case of bad vibes that could disappear next year? Did they just run out of gas? Were they really just not very good, getting smacked in the face by law of averages? The answer to that question will determine their ceiling for 2010-11.
|John Roberson (5'11, 165, Sr.)||0.43||0.40||14.3|
|Mike Singletary (6'6, 217, Sr.)||0.42||0.39||13.4|
|D'walyn Roberts (6'7, 200, Sr.)||0.44||0.41||10.4|
|David Tairu (6'3, 180, Sr.)||0.40||0.38||8.8|
|Robert Lewandoski (6'10, 240, Jr.)||0.23||0.30||7.0|
|Paul Cooper (6'8, 280, Jr.)||N/A||0.38||5.3|
|Theron Jenkins (6'6, 211, Sr.)||0.28||0.30||5.0|
|Brad Reese (6'6, 189, Sr.)||0.30||0.31||2.3|
|Jamel Outler (6'3, 173, Fr.)||N/A||0.23||1.3|
|Mike Davis (6'2, 185, So.)||0.17||0.23||1.2|
The Raiders have to replace Nick Okorie and Darko Cohadarevic, and that's it. Their statistical loss is less than anybody else in the South, and they'll have a chance to move up in 2010-11 ... but is anybody actually confident that they can? I like their four seniors, but I don't like anybody on their bench, and with the overall depth in this conference, that could cost them.
Tomorrow, the North. Spoiler Alert: five of six North teams lose less production than anybody in the South. Next year's balance of power could be quite interesting.