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November 15, 2012
Inside the numbers
Please welcome Jordan Garretson to HawkeyeReport.com. Jordan is a former sportswriter for the Daily Iowan and a certified hoops numbers junkie. Each week he will be talking Hawkeye hoops and going beyond the box score with a deep dive inside the numbers for the Iowa team and players.
Welcome to my column.
It doesn't really have a set formula or recipe quite yet, but I can tell you what to expect. Expect something that takes you inside the numbers more than your average recap or feature story. Expect to go beyond the box score. Expect to have your curiosity provoked. Basically, I will focus on a few trends and statistics and discuss the context of those numbers within each column.
If you have an affinity for statistics, especially advanced statistics beyond just points per game and the like, you should enjoy. If you have any comments or questions, shoot me an e-mail.
Aaron White's value
So far Aaron White and Mike Gesell are clearly Iowa's two best players, at least through two games - so the preseason darling, Devyn Marble, still has plenty of time to state his case. But here, I'm going to discuss White. He's obviously important for the easily-identifiable reasons, as listed below, with his rank on the team listed in parentheses:
Points per game: 15.0 (1st)
Rebounds per game: 7.0 (1st)
Steals per game: 2.5 (1st)
Now, the steals might not be as viable in the long term of the season, as he's almost tripled his average of 0.9 from last year. But it's clear from the basic numbers alone that White has already proven himself as an invaluable member of the team, much as he was last year.
Two advanced numbers stood out to me with White. If you're familiar with baseball saber metrics, win shares are almost a basketball equivalent of the baseball WAR metric - wins above replacement. That statistic estimates the number of wins added to a team by a player compared to the average replacement player at his position. Win shares in basketball are a little different because this isn't compared against a replacement player, but a stand alone number in its own right. For a more detailed explanation of the stat and how it's calculated, go here:
Here's a listing of Iowa's players, sorted from highest win share to lowest:
Aaron White: 0.5
Melsahn Basabe: 0.3
Mike Gesell: 0.3
Eric May: 0.3
Adam Woodbury: 0.3
Anthony Clemmons: 0.2
Zach McCabe: 0.2
Gabriel Olaseni: 0.2
Devyn Marble: 0.1
Josh Oglesby: -0.1
Now there are obviously some issues with this metric so early in the season - as with all statistics, advanced or not. The data will become more viable as more game is played and thus more data is available. We know Oglesby probably will be worth much more than a negative fraction of a win share, and Marble won't rank second-to-last among players in the rotation. But we can note that White not only leads in win shares, he leads by two-tenths of a win. That seems small, but considering only two games have been played, that's a rather hefty lead. There is little separation between rest of the team, and White's number, besides Oglesby's negative value, is really the only outlier.
Another number that stands out about White is his rank in points-rebounds-assists per 40 minutes among Big Ten players:
1. Cody Zeller (Ind): 45.3
2. Brandon Paul (Ill): 43.1
3. Mitch McGary (Mich): 40.0
3. Brandon Ubel (Neb)*: 40.0
5. Remy Abell (Ind): 38.9
6. Austin Hollins (Minn): 37.6
7. Aaron Craft (OhSt)*: 37.4
8. Aaron White (Iowa): 36.9
* indicates only played in one game
We already know from the first numbers above that White is versatile because he leads Iowa in so many categories. But what we forget is White is only averaging 26.0 minutes per game thus far, so to score 15 a game and average seven rebounds is even more impressive. This versatility is White's biggest value. He can really play and guard about three different positions.
Aaron White might be Iowa's most irreplaceable player, simply because he does more things well than just about anyone else on the team.
You can follow Jordan Garetson on Twitter here and visit his Iowa basketball blog, "No Beer In Heaven."