Monday, October 27, 2014

ISU MBB Better 1 through 9?

Fran Fraschilla has been spending time at ISU practices again this fall.  Here's one of his comments:

Fran Fraschilla @franfraschilla
My thoughts on Iowa State: While Ejim/Kane will be missed, talent level from 1 to 9 better this year. McKay is 1st rim protector Fred's had.
At first blush, it appears reasonable.  But when you consider that Ejim and Kane were two of the very best players in the conference and country, it makes Fran's assessment a very bold one.  Could it be true?
First you'd have to decide who the best 9 players were last year and this year.  Going off my All-Big 12 rankings last year, the top 5 were Kane, Ejim, Morris, Niang, and Hogue.  Arbitrarily, I'll go Naz, Thomas, Edozie and SDW after them.  From this article, the top 7 are Niang, BDJ, Hogue, McKay, Morris, Long and Nader.  For the next two I'll pick Custer and Thomas. 
Starting from the top, could Niang be better this year than Kane was last?  Qualitatively, Niang was their 'most important' and probably 'most talented' player last year, so it'd be easy to reason he will more talented and more important this year.  Quantitatively, it will be very hard for Georges to match the volume of statistics Kane put up last year.  DeAndre was among the leaders for every major category except blocks, including second in points, first in assists and third in steals.  Niang could eclipse Kane's scoring; he's projected to average 18.4 ppg in the article referenced above, and I think could average closer to 20 during conference play.  His rebounding could improve, with increased quickness and playing a more suitable SF or PF defensive position.  SI's projection has him at 5.6 rpg and I have him at 6 per game, which would get close to the top 15, where Kane was last year.  3.5 assists per game would put him about where Niang was last year, well off the top of the leaderboard.  I don't expect him to be among the conference leaders in blocks or steals or minutes.  Statistically, this matchup goes to Kane.
In my All-Big 12 ratings, I take into account minutes per game, because they're listed on the Big 12 website and it should be a good indication of the total impact a player has on his team's success.  Both Kane and Morris were in the top 10 of minutes played per game, but I don't expect to see any Iowa State players on this list.  Fran was right about there being 9 players who could see playing time on any given night, and there just aren't the minutes to go around.
A few things are working for Georges in his pursuit of POY honors.  First is the preseason hype.  He's been listed on the All-Big 12 first team and several individuals' All-American watch lists.  This gives him an advantage that Kane certainly didn't have, and puts him ahead of Ejim at this point.  Secondly, the Big 12 seems to have transformed into a guards' league, but both my list and the official preseason lists are split between guards and forwards, with only Staten and Anderson being the type of stat sheet stuffers Kane and Smart were the last couple years.  It doesn't look like either's team will be good enough to put them in serious contention for end of the year POY.  There are no super freshmen guards coming in either.  If Niang can outplay the best of the forwards, he's got a shot.
Ejim might not have been super talented, but he put up big numbers as well.  BDJ should contribute nicely but he won't be expected to carry the same type of load that Ejim did.  Another case of more talent but fewer numbers.
Hogue and Morris were very close in my ratings last year, so I'll say the 2014-15 Hogue will statistically be better than the 2013-14 Morris. 
McKay certainly looks to have more athletic talent than Niang will ever have, and may be able to outperform statistically if he's near the top of the league in rebounds and blocks.  It will depend on how many minutes he plays early in the Big 12 season, which will essentially be his first action of the year.
Again Morris and Hogue were close last year so I say each will be better this year, and better than each other last year.
Naz should improve, as a 3 point specialist with plenty of other options around him.  It sounds like he could handle the ball a little more too, which would help his assist numbers.  He could see some nice minutes off the bench, mostly at the 2 with some at the 1 and 3.
Here is where this year's team becomes undoubtedly stronger than last year.  Nader should be a huge upgrade over Matt Thomas.  He can score in more ways than Matt and defend more positions.  Nader will see minutes as a staple of the second unit.
Custer over Edozie is a no brainer.  He fits a role as a scoring point guard backup whereas Edozie was a spot minutes space filler. 
Matt Thomas had a bit of a rough go as a freshman, but he was obviously better than SDW last year, and should have improved over the off season.  Unfortunately for him, he won't see nearly as many minutes as he did early last year.
So I think statistically, ISU will be better at 6 or 7 of the top 9 spots.  That's impressive in it's own right.  If you assume all the returning players improve, will BDJ, McKay, Nader and Custer be able to replace the production of Ejim and Kane (and Edozie and SDW)?  I think so.  All four can score in their own ways.  BDJ and Custer will replace some of Kane's assists, and the combination of BDJ, McKay and Nader should replace all of their rebounds. 
Back to Fran's assessment.  As a whole, 1 through 9, Iowa State is easily both more talented and better statistically than last year.  Individually, matching Kane and Ejim's production probably won't happen for a variety of reasons, but you can argue that Niang is already more "talented" than either, and BDJ and McKay are too.  Fran looks to be right in that every spot on the depth chart is more talented than last year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ISU @ Texas, October 18, 2014

Somebody wanted my analysis of yesterday's game, so here it is.  The offense had a great game against what had been a very stout Texas defense.  Sam Richardson set a record with 37 completions last week and nearly matched it with 36 last night.  Richardson was accurate too, completing 65%, and pushing his season percentage to a very respectable 61%.  A Mangino-coached unit can be expected to throw the ball a bunch but this is unprecedented for Iowa State.  Sam is on pace to set season records in attempts (Wallace, 443), completions (Arnaud, 247),  and touchdowns (Bandhauer, 20), with an outside shot at completion percentage (Wallace, Jantz, .621) and yards (Wallace, 3245).  There's one more record he's on pace to break - lowest interception percentage.  Richardson's current percentage is 2.1%, ahead of Arnaud's 2.5% in 2008.  In other words, he could end up being the least turnover prone QB in ISU HISTORY.  That puts things in perspective a bit.

Mangino seems to be getting back into the play-calling groove.  It's improved every week and he's really starting to get the most out of all 'his' players.  People forget he hasn't called a game in 5 years, since he was at Kansas.  In his first year, he's had to make his scheme fit the existing players instead of finding players to fit his scheme.  Of everything about the Cyclones, his influence on the offense now and in the future excites me the most.

What worries me the most about the future is the continued stagnation of the defense.  Once again, two of our best defensive players (Knott, 3rd in tackles and Brackens, 8th in tackles) as of the middle of the season, weren't in the starting lineup the first game of the season.  The personnel decisions on that side of the ball have been suspect for the last couple years.  ISU needs to win their early games to go to a bowl game, and to win those games, they need to play their best players from the very first snap.

Jared Brackens is getting a bad rap for allowing the long pass late that gave the Longhorns the go ahead touchdown.  I think he did the best he could, but was put in a bad spot.  Brackens, a linebacker, shouldn't have had to cover Jaxon Shipley a senior wide receiver, without help over the top.  If the two corners were covering the outside receivers, one of the two safeties should have been available to cover the slot.  At the least, they should have had the safeties in a two-deep zone available to help the man coverage underneath.  Especially considering Texas needed about 30 yards in 28 seconds for a long field goal attempt.  The coaching on the defensive side of the ball needs to improve.

Updating a previous 'feature', I've got ISU projected for just over 4 total wins for the year.  I guess that'd be an improvement on last year.

New Feature!!! - I'd always wanted some way to measure ISU's football team against all others.  Similar to a kenpom for college football.  The closest thing is the former BCS standings, which were calculated for any team that was in the top 25 of either poll or the computer rankings.  The BCS is over, but the site still maintains the rankings, albeit with a slightly different formula.

ISU is not on the bcsguru list.  And rarely found itself on the BCS final standings.  So the best I can do is use the six computer rankings, which are available for every D-I team.  I'll use the same method the BCS used, throwing out the top and bottom rankings and averaging the remaining 4.  Using this method, ISU's current ranking is 80th, out of 128 FBS/Div I-A schools.  I wish I had context for that ranking but I don't.  Maybe my next project will be to calculate their year-end ranking as far back as I can.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My 2014-15 Pre-Season All-Big 12 Basketball Team

I'd like to get this out before the official team gets released but missed it this year.  The Big 12 looks to have a lot of individual talent again this year, returning 15 of the 27 players listed on the year-end All-Big 12 teams.  Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia all bring back talented freshman.  Only 3 of the 10 listed on the official teams are seniors, so the conference looks to have plenty of talent next year, too.

Here are my teams, based on last years' stats.

My top 10 matched 8 players on the official teams.  The differences were Anderson (this is the last year you'll have to hear about him from me!) and Monte, with Foster and Nash replacing them.  

My feelings on Anderson are well known.  If there's a player I feel bad for, it's him.  He's in the same vein of do-everything Big 12 guards like Staten and Kane last year.  Trent Johnson is a good coach and unlike other teams that are out-matched every game, TCU keeps playing hard.  They picked up a good player in Karviar Sheppard before last year and would seem to have the same built-in recruiting advantages that Baylor has - proximity to the DFW market and a Christian school.  A couple things going against it are a terrible basketball arena and really, really poor fan support.  It wouldn't surprise me to see TCU build something within the Big 12 but if they can't make the first step (8th or better finish) this year before Anderson leaves, they could be really bad for a while.

Monte was undervalued last year in the postseason awards.  He was 5th in assists and 7th in steals while playing the 9th most minutes in conference play.  This year, I'd expect his assists to improve since he should handle the ball more with the change of Kane to BDJ in the backcourt.  His steals may improve too.  If the backcourt provides the rim protection as advertised, it will allow more defensive gambling around the perimeter.

Foster was a good freshman last year, scoring a bunch of points.  He'll have to add more to his game to make the first team post-season.  LeBryan Nash is my pick this year for player most likely to underwhelm.  Last year was preseason first team pick Eron Harris.  If there's a second guy I might feel bad for it would be Nash.  He's shown no progress to this point in college, if anything maybe some regression.  As a top 10 overall recruit, he should have been in the NBA a couple years ago, and is now looking like a second round pick.  Most other coaches would be able to take advantage of his physical gifts but not Travis Ford.  

I'm surprised neither of the big recruits made the list, Cliff Alexander or Myles Turner.  Every year since I've been following, there's been a freshman make the first team.  Both these guys were top 10 recruits.  I expect both of them to make at least third team (and then go pro). 

All three of the new ISU players have a shot at post season honors.  I was glad to see BDJ make newcomer of the year.  It's about time people start recognizing what Hoiberg is doing with transfers.  Post-season, I'd expect BDJ to be second team, at least, with McKay and Nader having a shot at honorable mention.