We’re about one-quarter of the way through a 2013-14 basketball season with a team that still has an aura of enthusiasm surrounding them despite a loss to New Mexico on Saturday afternoon.
And for good reason.
Mick Cronin has established himself as one of the top coaches in the country and has a strong chance of leading UC to a conference championship this year. But the roster he’s working with is one of the strangest compilation of players since his first team that was made up of walk-ons, JUCOs, and a football player. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The 2013-14 iteration of the Bearcats is one that simultaneously boasts a wealth of returning experience and one with a number of question marks. The reason is due to the incredibly high turnover on the roster.
Gone are the staples of Cincinnati’s NCAA Tournament team in Cashmere Wright, JaQuon Parker, and Cheikh Mbodj. Players like Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, and Titus Rubles are back but almost half of the Bearcats’ roster for this season is made up of freshman. They’re extremely talented but at the same time very green. It’s still a bit early but we have been able to identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of these freshman and what roles they serve on this team.
And while we’re only eight games into the season, all Bearcats green or grizzled have played enough to allow us to determine an optimum lineup. The best five players that give Cincinnati the biggest bang for their buck, if you will. In doing so I’ll evaluate each player’s major stats on a per minute basis to measure efficiency. You don’t see this too often but I’ve become quite fond of it in recent years.
The data points du jour in basketball (college or pros) are points per game, minutes played per game, and rebounds per game. Those are all well and good in most cases but don’t really do much for me when measuring efficiency, which can be had by looking at everything on a per minute basis. Essentially, it equalizes data for those all players regardless of how much time they spend on the court. Players might see less playing time but they might make the most of it. If Player A scores 10 points in 10 minutes, he’s averaging 1 point per minute. But if Player B scores 20 points in 10 minutes, he’s scoring at twice the rate of Player A and thus warrants more playing time.
Now I should mention a few things before we start digging into the data. First of all, the stats below look very, very small but that shouldn’t come as a shocker. Players average more time on the court than the points they score. The numbers are easier to wrap your head around if you take into account how many minutes that player spends on the court. For example, Sean Kilpatrick scores 0.67 points per minute. But he averages 29.5 minutes on the court per game, bringing his contribution to the scoreboard during that time to 19.6 points.
Overall, I would advise you look at the below numbers on a comparative rather than absolute basis.
Secondly, as we start making hypotheses about an optimum lineup I should mention a couple of other caveats at play when looking at the following data. The stats in the below tables don’t account for:
- Qualitative measures such as leadership and court presence
- Contributions defensively like standing in the right place, checking off to the proper players, etc.
- Their ability to mesh within Mick Cronin’s offensive/defensive system
Still, even with these limitations, we can make educated assumptions about which players give Mick Cronin and this Bearcats team the biggest bang for their buck on the court this season. And by the look of it, those five players are:
- Sean Kilpatrick
- Troy Caupain
- Shaq Thomas/Jermaine Sanders
- Titus Rubles
- Justin Jackson
Jeremiah Davis III
|Points Per Minute||0.67||0.34||0.39||0.29||0.20|
|Assists Per Minute||0.11||0.06||0.10||0.04||0.07|
|Steals Per Minute||0.06||0.01||0.06||0.02||0.03|
|Rebounds Per Minute||0.13||0.10||0.12||0.11||0.13|
|Blocks Per Minute||0.00||0.01||0.01||0.01||0.00|
|Turnovers Per Minute||0.05||0.05||0.07||0.02||0.03|
Guyn still serves a purpose, however, at shooting guard with Kevin Johnson. At this point, I would split time with those two at the position to help groom the youngster while keeping Guyn and his defensive contributions on the court.
|Points Per Minute||0.40||0.28||0.27||0.26|
|Assists Per Minute||0.05||0.07||0.04||0.04|
|Steals Per Minute||0.07||0.06||0.05||0.04|
|Rebounds Per Minute||0.24||0.15||0.18||0.22|
|Blocks Per Minute||0.02||0.02||0.01||0.04|
|Turnovers Per Minute||0.06||0.05||0.05||0.09|
Here’s where it starts to get a little fuzzy and part of that admittedly is my definition of this group of players. Obviously Titus Rubles deserves as much court time as he can get. Like with Sean Kilpatrick, the numbers bear that out. But after him is a toss up between Shaq Thomas, who has yet to break out this season, and Jermaine Sanders, who has made some surprisingly good contributions this year. Honestly you could make the argument for either right now.
Then there’s highly touted freshman Jermaine Lawrence. He’s shown flashes this season but just hasn’t quite gotten his feet under him just yet. By the numbers, he deserves playing time as much as Thomas or Sanders. But his inexperience and propensity to turn the ball over docks him a few points in my book. Lawrence’s potential is obviously sky-high but right now he’s behind Thomas and Sanders in the pecking order. That by no means regulates him to that spot this season. If he continues to sharpen his game, Lawrence could easily put up Titus Rubles-like numbers from this position by the end of the year.
|Points Per Minute||0.45||0.26|
|Assists Per Minute||0.05||0.04|
|Steals Per Minute||0.05||0.00|
|Rebounds Per Minute||0.28||0.23|
|Blocks Per Minute||0.14||0.06|
|Turnovers Per Minute||0.07||0.06|