Posted: 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013
There's plenty of debate in the Indiana and college basketball community in general about what we should expect of sophomores going into their second year. In an attempt to try and answer this question I went back two years ago to look at the performance of the 2011 class and then compare what they did in their sophomore seasons. I will admit right up front that this sample size probably isn't large enough to make a sweeping statement about the entirety of college basketball (pulling this data from online is very time consuming), but it gives us some insight into what we should expect.
First off let's take a quick look at the methodology. I admittedly stole a little bit here from The Big Ten Geeks with a few exceptions.
First off, I used the entire season's body of work. Some guys, like Big Ten Geeks, show a preference to conference numbers only. I took the whole body due to mainly the ease of lifting these numbers from a page in one day instead of meticulously spending a week on sorting them all out and entering them in by hand.
Next, I didn't count any players that didn't receive at least 10% of their teams minutes in both years. If you can't play enough to make Pomeroy's advanced metrics sheet for your team, your numbers would probably skew those of the guys who did play. There are already enough outliers and anomalies the way it is.
Finally, transfers and red shirts don't count either. Have to have to data points to work with here.
So what did the numbers show us?
Well first of all if we just take the 27 qualifying freshman from 2011 and average their sophomore gains in the next year we get a pretty ho-hum line. You can expect the average freshman in the Big Ten to play 12.4% more as a sophomore, while contributing an extra 3 points in his offensive rating (or an extra .3 pts per possession value). He'll be used .3% more than the previous year when he's on the floor and his shooting will get worse. You should expect more assists and less turnovers, while he cuts down on his fouling by a half a foul per 40 mins. Pretty uninspiring huh?
The problem is that by just using averages we don't take into account the lack of change between sophomores that had big freshmen seasons and those just getting their shot. Cody Zeller, Trey Burke and Dave Sobolewski really make the numbers look bad. So let's divide these guys into two categories, guys whose minutes per game didn't really change between the two years and guys who sat behind veterans as freshmen that got a lot more time as sophomores. Then what kind of numbers should we expect?
Conveniently this splits the group almost right down the middle. One group of 14 received 3 minutes or less in increased minutes as sophomores. The other 13 received an increase in minutes of at least 5 minutes. 10 of those 13 received an increase of at least 8 minutes. David Rivers of Nebraska topped the list acquiring an extra 20 minutes per game.
Here's what the average numbers look like per group.
As you can see here, players whose net change in minutes didn't really see all that impressive of a change last year. On average they played less minutes than as freshmen, were less efficient, but took better care of the basketball. Some of this can be explained via the Zellers of the world that just played really well as freshmen and statistically couldn't get much better as a sophomore. Others like Russell Byrd barely played the prerequisite 10% his freshmen year and increased that paltry number by a minute. Truly this group could even be split into the high volume freshmen and low volume freshmen and you would see an even greater difference. Basically guys in the Big Ten that couldn't get many minutes as freshmen that struggled to leave the bench as sophomores weren't very good. Shocker, I know.
As for the high volume of change players.
As you see in this group. Guys that found their way into a larger part of the lineup contributed greatly to the success of their teams. Most of these players were logjam types. As freshmen they received sparse minutes behind a bevy of veterans. As sophomores when given the opportunity to shine, they did so. Each player increased their minutes played by an average of 9:26 per game. Quite a large jump. Only 4 players that saw a significant increase in minutes were less efficient than they were as freshmen. Two of which saw the lowest jump in playing time. A net A/TO rate change of 4.3% per possession is certainly going to help that jump.
As you can see in the numbers, players that tend to earn their way off the bench are guys that are going to be much bigger contributors as sophomores. When we discuss the sophomore leap in college basketball, I bet we're mostly talking about those guys. They had the ability, just not the minutes to showcase it. Vice versa, the sophomore slumpers appear to be the guys with enough numbers to have something to slump.
So what can we infer from these numbers? I would say if you had a rockstar freshman putting up some big minutes for your team last year, you can expect more of the same. None of the big time frosh of 2011 really had much dip in production and a few had really big bumps. Frank Kaminsky and Trey Burke still had room to grow in their numbers and they did (**cough Yogi Ferrell cough**). Cody Zeller and Dave Sobolewski came out big and put up tough numbers to live up to, but still produced at All-Big Ten levels (AHEM Gary Harris).
For freshmen that you expect to not only crack the lineup but play considerably more than last year you should get excited. None of them are likely to set the world on fire, but all of them should show considerable improvement. The Jeremy Hollowell's of the conference should be expected to step up and have significant contributions to the team. If anything an extra 8-10 minutes a game and better efficiency numbers should be in their repertoire. I have a sneaking suspicion that the conference needs to look out for Michigan's Spike Albrecht. He's set to have an Andre Hollins/Shannon Scott type of year. Caris Levert and Hollowell should be on your radars as well.