Rick Pitino, Trey Burke lead second annual data-based hoops awards
The Data-Based Coaching Awards debuted last offseason on SI.com, and they were such a hit (the Lexington-market ratings for the awards show beat Two and a Half Men, I was told) that they've returned for 2013. And expanded: There are now 14 categories, for coaches and players, all based on advanced stats rather than the typical criteria. Which tends to be ... nebulous, or whatever the punditry deems important in any given year. These awards come without hardware, but they at least have parameters.
1. EFFICIENCY KING: Rick Pitino, Louisville
He took a Final Four team from 2011-12 that already ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency -- and made it 14.9 points per 100 possessions better in '12-13. The Cardinals won a national title while finishing No. 1 overall in adjusted efficiency on kenpom.com, and Pitino had the top after-timeout efficiency of any coach in the NCAA tournament (minimum three games played).
2. BIGGEST TURNAROUND (one-year variety): Jim Baron, Canisius
The Golden Griffins went from 5-25 to 20-14 in Baron's first season, in large part because he brought along his sharpshooting son Billy, who had previously played for pops at Rhode Island. Still, getting a team to improve 23.8 points per 100 possessions -- the largest one-year gain in the nation -- is a remarkable feat.
3. BIGGEST TURNAROUND (two-year variety): Roman Banks, Southern
He took over one of the nation's worst teams two years ago, and presided over an absurd, 35.1-points-per-100-possessions gain -- and the school's first trip to the NCAA tournament in seven seasons, finishing off with a near-upset of Gonzaga in a 1-16 game.
4. ADJUSTED ATO KING: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
I took Synergy Sports Technology's after-timeout efficiency data, adjusted it for defensive strength of schedule, and Coach K's Blue Devils came out on top, at 1.017 points per possession. In second place was a decidedly less famous name: Eastern Kentucky's Jeff Neubauer, whose Colonels had the best raw ATO PPP of anyone in the nation.
5. BEST NCAA TOURNEY VS. EXPECTATIONS: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
At the outset of the tourney, kenpom.com's log5 projections gave the No. 9 Shockers just a 1.0 percent chance of reaching the Final Four -- even longer than the 2.1 percent odds that No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast was given of reaching the Sweet 16. Marshall's team proceeded to reach Atlanta by blazing the toughest trail of any Final Four team in the past 11 years.
6. BEST OFFENSIVE NCAA TOURNEY (min. four games): Rick Pitino, Louisville
I enlisted Crashing the Dance's Andy Cox to calculate Net Efficiency Margins for the Elite Eight teams -- essentially, a measure of how well they played vs. what the average D-I team would be expected to against each opponent. As good as Pitino's Cardinals were defensively all season, they won the NCAA tournament because of the quality of their offense, which was a full 28.5 points per 100 possessions better than an average D-I team's expectations. (Michigan came in second).
7. BEST DEFENSIVE NCAA TOURNEY (min. four games): Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
This race wasn't close. According to Cox's NEM stat, the Orange's tourney defense was more than twice as good as Louisville's, and 34.4 points per 100 possessions better than an average D-I team's expectations. The praise for Boeheim's 2-3 zone during March was entirely justified.
1. BEST HIGH-USAGE SCORER (major-conference category): Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke had one of the greatest point guard seasons of the past decade, combining high efficiency and high usage while piloting the nation's best offense ... and barely ever coming off the court. He posted a 121.2 offensive rating while using 29.0 percent of the Wolverines' possessions, and played 35.3 minutes per game.
2. BEST HIGH-USAGE SCORER (mid-major category): Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Among the reasons Wolters is an attractive second-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft: The 123.5 ORating he posted on 30.3 percent usage, coupled with a high assist rate, compares favorably to the numbers of a few recent mid-major point guards who made the leap to the league (Weber State's Damian Lillard, Hofstra's Charles Jenkins and IUPUI's George Hill).
3. TRANSITION KING: Russ Smith, Louisville
Smith, who often saw 1-on-4 breaks as prime rim-attacking opportunities, averaged a nation-high 8.4 transition points per 40 minutes. He and Peyton Siva also served as the primary ball-pressurers in the Cardinals' press, and Smith led the team in turnovers-forced percentage during the NCAAs.
4. TOP ALL-AROUND DEFENDER: Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon
While there's no perfect stat for evaluating overall defensive quality, there are strong numbers supporting Kazemi's case. Last season, while the 6-foot-7 forward was still at Rice, the Ducks ranked 158th in defensive efficiency; this year, with him in their lineup as a senior transfer, they ranked 10th. Kazemi led the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, at 29.0, ranked 52nd in steal percentage, at 4.1, and proved capable of guarding all five positions.
5. GLASS-CLEANER EXTRAORDINAIRE: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
The flat-topped Irish power forward was the closest thing the sport had to a 20-20 rebounder: He finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 17.4 (quite the feat in the Big East, and the third-highest rate in the nation) and a defensive percentage of 24.0. Michigan's Mitch McGary, judging by his NCAA tournament performance, may be ready to inherit this crown in '13-14.
6. RUTHLESS RIM PROTECTOR: Jeff Withey, Kansas
The 7-footer ranked fifth nationally in block percentage, at 13.7, but that doesn't tell the whole story. His presence in the paint helped KU lead the nation in two-point field goal percentage defense (39.3) and, according to hoop-math.com's data, hold opponents to the nation's lowest at-the-rim shooting percentage (52) as well.
7. THE ONE-NOTE SCORER: Ethan Wragge, Creighton
How one-dimensional was Wragge in '12-13? So much that 93.6 percent of his shot attempts (175 of 187) were from beyond the arc, making him the most three-point focused role player in the nation. It's an excellent role for him, though: He made 44.6 percent of those treys, and was the most efficient scorer in the Valley's best offense.