Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Quarter Win from Normal: Tyler Hansbrough in 2009

30 Helens 76 ACC-Area Sportswriters agree: Tyler Hansbrough is awesome. And if you look at the numbers, everybody appears to be right. The guy scored 19.9 points and grabbed 8.8 rebounds per game in ACC play. He willed himself to the free throw stripe almost 8 times a game. He extended his range beyond the three-point line. He intensely out-intensified everyone who crossed his path, and he carried his team to first place in the conference.

Here's the thing, though: there wasn't anything extraordinary about Tyler Hansbrough's 2009 season. And I don't mean that in an "After three years we've come to expect greatness from Psycho T, so he has to do something more in his senior year to really impress" way. I mean that he didn't do much more than would be expected of any ACC-level big man.

The one thing Tyler Hansbrough did very well, just as he has throughout his career, was score points. Even after adjusting for the pace of play (Carolina plays 6.8% faster than the league average) and the quality of his teammates (Hansbrough was set up well and often by three better-than-average passers in Lawson, Ellington, and Green), Hansbrough would score 16.9 points per game for a typical ACC team in conference play. That rates Hansbrough best among big men and 8th-best in the league.

As a rebounder, Hansbrough racked up large numbers, but on a percentage basis he was just about average. A 6'9" and 250-pound player should rebound 1 out of every 9 of his team's misses; Hansbrough rebounded 1 out of every 9.5. Someone that size should rebound one out of every 6.2 of his opponents' misses; Tyler rebounded 1 out of every 5.8.

Defensively, Hansbrough grades out below average. Someone his size is expected to block 1 out of every 22 two-pointers attempted by his opponents; Hansbrough blocked one out of every 72. He should have recorded a steal once every 59 defensive possessions; Tyler made a steal once every 119. Even with a better than normal foul rate and slightly better than average defensive field goal percentages, Hansbrough was a little more than a point per game worse than an average big man.

All in all, Hansbrough was a slightly better-than-average ACC big man this year. His reputation and eye-popping counting stats made him a shoo-in for first-team all-league honors (and, it would seem, the frontrunner for a repeat as ACC Player of the Year), but in terms of actual value he was the fifth-best player on his own team.

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