Freshman Friday

Dylan Burkhardt

Looking up and down the Big Ten stats this year it is pretty clear that there just are not any impact freshmen. Last year’s all-freshman team consisted of Eric Gordon, Manny Harris, Kosta Koufos, Robbie Hummel, and E’Twaun Moore. Two of those guys were main cogs for the Purdue team that won the conference, Koufas and Gordon were one and done, and Michigan fans know all about Manny Harris.

This year’s freshman class doesn’t appear to come close to last year’s in terms of top flight talent. B.J. Mullens was the #1 player in the country but he hasn’t dominated games by any stretch. Delvon Roe was a 5 star All American but he is coming off of reconstructive knee surgery and doesn’t expect to be “himself” again until next year.  The only other Rivals top 100 prospects this year are William Buford (19), Devoe Joseph (61), and Korie Lucious (98). There are 8 others in the 100-150 range but once you get to that range you are just as likely to find a Kendrick Price as A.J. Abrams.

In an attempt to follow in other bloggers’ (who are better at this than me) footsteps I’m going to try to take a look at which Big Ten freshmen have played the best thus far. I could think of no better way to do this than a scatterplot

Stats from, taken on 1-14-08
Stats from, taken on 1-14-09

Spartans Weblog outlines the use of this chart:

Offensive rating is basically an attempt to use all the individual basketball stats currently available to measure a player’s efficiency in using possessions to score points.  The rating uses the same scale as team offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions).

Usage rate is determined by the number of shots taken and turnovers committed by each offensive player (i.e., the number of possessions consumed by the player).

Ken Pomeroy provides a good summary of how to look at the two numbers:

A very important aspect of offensive rating is that it must be used in conjunction with the possession usage (%Poss) column to have any value. The average player will use 20% of his team’s possessions while he is on the court.  The majority of players fall between 15% and 25%. A player that has a high offensive rating and uses a lot of possessions is especially valuable (example: Adam Morrison, 122.8 ORtg, 31.4% possessions used).

The best freshmen would be located in the northeast quadrant of the chart. The only guy in this quadrant is Iowa freshman Anthony Tucker,whose season went off the tracks when he blacked out in an alley and contracted mono. Tucker was a monster statistically until early December but hasn’t been a factor in the Iowa offense since.

I think it’s also worth taking a look at which freshmen are playing the most minutes.  A guy like Draymond Green has a decent offensive rating but he just hasn’t played near the minutes of say a Zack Novak who is starting for Michigan. There are 8 freshmen who rank in the Big Ten top 50 in terms of percentage of minutes played:

Matt Gatens – 78.2 (11)
Tom Pritchard – 73.6 (20)
Nick Williams – 69.3 (26)
Daniel Moore – 61.2 (33)
Zack Novak – 58.9 (37)
Lewis Jackson – 56.3 (42)
William Buford – 55.9 (43)
John Shurna – 50.6 (50)

Here are a few freshmen that I think are worth noting at this point in the season.

Matt Gatens (Iowa) – The Iowa guard can flat out shoot it and his eFG% of 64.1% is just ridiculous. He is the best three point shooter in the conference and is also Iowa’s second best rebounder.

Laval Lucas-Perry (Michigan) – LLP has only played a few games thus far but he has posted a great offensive rating  and an eFG% over 50%. Laval is starting now and will continue to get his chances to succeed in the Michigan offense.

William Buford (Ohio State)- The athletic wing is the Buckeyes third leading scorer and averages 10.3 ppg in only 23.3 mpg.His offensive rating isn’t through the roof but he definitely belongs in the conversation, especially now that he is being forced to step up without David Lighty.

Delvon Roe (Michigan State) – Delvon Roe is one of the best rebounders in the conference. Roe has a 14.3 OR% (3rd) and a 21.3 DR% (4th). Delvon’s offensive efficiency is still coming a long but he his rebounding sets him apart from other freshmen bigs.

Zack Novak (Michigan)- Novak doesn’t use a lot of possessions but he does play a lot of minutes. He is over-matched at the four night in and night out but he has already posted a couple solid performances in conference play.

BJ Mullens (Ohio State) – The big man has the hype but doesn’t quite have the substance yet.  Mullens is improving game by game and has scored double digits and shot over 50% in his last three contests.

Tom Pritchard (Indiana)-  The Indiana is averaging 29.7 mpg, 12.4 ppg, and 7.5 rpg. Those are solid numbers but he certainly hasn’t been overly efficient. Someone has to score some points even on bad teams and it appears that Pritchard is that guy — although KJ (SpartansWeblog) points out that his ORtg is significantly higher than IU’s team average of 87. Pritchard’s ORtg of 98.0 ranks 12th out of the 15 players who use more than 24% of possessions. Two of the three people trailing him also play for the Hoosiers.

Ralph Sampson III & Colton Iverson (Minnesota) – I haven’t watched Minnesota play quite enough but both of these guys seem to having very solid freshman seasons. They combine to average 36.1 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 3.3 bpg. Iverson has struggled in Big Ten play thus far with only 12 points in 5 games.  This duo of freshmen big man are at least worth keeping an eye on down the stretch.

John Shurna (Northwestern) – Shurna is another guy I don’t know a lot about. He definitely appears to be a guy who is heavily used by Northwestern, as his 27.4% possession percentage ranks third in the Big Ten.

Looking at this list raises the question: How did the conference improve by leaps and bounds while not bringing in any big time freshmen? I think there are two easy answers to this one. First, guys like Robbie Hummel and Manny Harris who were impact freshmen last year are back. Second, the quality of coaching in the league is better than it has been in years.

I’m sure I missed people that deserve mention in this article so please let me know if I missed anyone. Let’s hear who makes your all freshman team in the comments.


UMHoops is on twitter. Your guess is as good as mine as to what this means. At the very least it will have all the latest UMHoops posts so you can get them through twitter. We’ll see if it turns into anything more.

  • Great stuff. I’d probably vote for Pritchard for freshman of the year at this point. His OffRating of 98.0 doesn’t look that great, until you realize IU’s overall team rating is only 87.6 (raw number).

  • Drew

    I know this isn’t relevant to freshman friday, but does anyone know whether or not the shitty BTN will have halftime coverage Saturday night? I had a chance to go to this game and passed, and am sort of second guessing myself because I wanted to see the ’89 squad at halftime.

  • I would bet they would show a clip but I’m not sure what more…

  • Drew

    Thanks. I suppose I shouldn’t really expect much. That’s sort of frustrating though. I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but I’m sort of fed up with the BTN. The announcing is sub par, the camera work is often terrible (i.e. Assembly Hall), and the overall format of the broadcast doesn’t really do it for me. Dare I say “bring back ESPN Plus”… ha.

  • Ryan

    Perhaps they will be more extensive video coverage of the ceremony on after the game?

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  • Just to clean something up, Northwestern’s Shurna is John, not Josh. The kid can play, but like most freshman, he’s very inconsistent, especially on the road (though his best game this year came at Penn State), and you’re right, Northwestern counts on him a lot.

    As for my All-Freshman Team so far this year, here it is:

    Zack Novak (Michigan)
    William Buford (Ohio State)
    Matt Gatens (Iowa)
    Tom Pritchard (Indiana)*
    Shurna (Northwestern)

    LLP should be on this team by the end of the year, but he just hasn’t played enough games yet for me to add him at this point. He’d take Pritchard’s place, because while Pritchard does have decent numbers, he’s Indiana’s only real low post player and someone has to rebound and score from inside, it’s not that Pritchard is an overly impressive player.

  • Giddings

    Drew, agree with most of your criticism of the BTN, but at the same time I really have gotten used to be able to watch pretty much every single game played in the Big Ten this year. Last night’s Wisco/Minn game would have been on ESPN Plus (Local) in previous years, which would only be available here with ESPN Full Court PPV.