Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Final Preseason Projections (Probably) Are Up

Unless some major news comes in over the next 24 hours, I probably won't run the season projection model again. Last Friday, CBS's Eye on College Basketball (which has the best reporting on college basketball anywhere) posted a listing of all the injuries and suspensions they were aware of. I incorporated all of that information into the model, as well as the news that's come in yesterday about the suspensions of a couple of Indiana's freshmen for the first nine games of the season, as well as this morning's reversal of the NCAA's earlier decision clearing Maryland's Dez Wells to play immediately.

The Wells decision actually brings me to a point that I've been meaning to post on for a while now. Those who analyze college basketball--fans and media alike--tend to put far too much stock into the impact of a single player on a team's fortunes. While it's true that there is the occasional transcendent player who can singlehandedly take an otherwise ordinary team and turn them into a very good one--Blake Griffin is the most recent example--for most teams at the major conference level, the addition or subtraction of a single player isn't usually enough to move the needle very much.

So, let's look at what the model projected for Maryland as of this morning, when Dez Wells was assumed to be benched for the season under the NCAA transfer rules. (The model isn't as high on the Terps as a lot of humans, mostly because it sees Alex Len not for his potential NBA draft status but for his rather pedestrian freshman season, and it sees the Terps' highly-touted freshmen, Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare, as, well, freshmen. But the projection itself isn't all that important--just take note of it as a baseline:
Logan AronhaltSR+MD27.
James PadgettSRMD27.
Nick FaustSOMD28.
Jake LaymanFRMD23.
Shaquille CleareFRMD18.
Varun RamSOMD20.
Charles MitchellFRMD14.
Pe'Shon HowardJRMD16.
Alex LenSOMD11.
Seth AllenFRMD7.
John AuslanderJRMD2.
Maryland TEAM200.023.759.44.816.515.723.716.426.542.910.716.45.46.918.368.0
Maryland OPPONENTS200.

So what's it look like once Dez Wells and his projected 10.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game are thrown into the mix? Not much different on the bottom two lines.
Logan AronhaltSR+MD27.33.910.
James PadgettSRMD25.
Nick FaustSOMD28.
Dezmine WellsSOMD27.
Jake LaymanFRMD20.
Shaquille CleareFRMD15.
Varun RamSOMD17.
Charles MitchellFRMD10.
Pe'Shon HowardJRMD13.
Alex LenSOMD7.
Seth AllenFRMD3.
John AuslanderJRMD2.
Maryland TEAM200.023.860.04.916.815.923.716.126.642.610.615.
Maryland OPPONENTS200.026.362.06.619.413.219.112.624.637.

That's because you don't just add Dez Wells' stat line to the baseline. There are only 200 minutes per game to go around, so those 27.6 minutes that Wells is projected to play have to come from somewhere. And while Wells is likely to be a better player than the guys whose minutes he's taking, those guys weren't going to be just standing around doing nothing. They'd be taking shots, and getting rebounds, and playing defense that whole time, too. And these guys aren't just folks plucked off the quad; they're ACC-level basketball players. So the net effect is that the Terps will probably score about a half point more per game, and give up about a half point less per game with Wells than they would have without him.

One point per game, net, isn't nothing. But it's not a whole lot, either. According to the model, it's enough to move Maryland up from the #124 spot to #114 nationally, and to leapfrog Clemson for the #9 spot in the ACC.

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