This season, I'm going to try what I hope will be a weekly feature on the blog in which I examine some of the advanced statistical trends behind Robert Morris' team and players, the kind that may provide some explanation as to why they are performing a certain way (and what it means). I figured I'd give it a preseason run to work out some kinks and see how it plays with you all.
Originally, this post was supposed to be about something else entirely. For those who didn't see it, The Washington Post did an interesting statistical piece yesterday in which they came up with a formula estimating how much each college basketball player was worth to his team, monetarily speaking.
Branching off that idea, I was hoping to do a post in which I used that formula to examine how much each Robert Morris player was worth. Unfortunately, as a private school, RMU can be a little dubious with its revenue/expenses numbers, so there was no real way for me to figure out how much the program made last season, something which made figuring out the individual worth of players impossible without any kind of speculation.
One nugget in that formula, though, did lead to some interesting research. Part of figuring out a player's worth revolved around win shares. In short, win shares take a team's overall number of wins and figure out what percentage of those wins could be attributed to each player based on their statistical contributions. You can think of it like a pie, with the more important players being given a larger slice based on how they performed (though if you've divvying up a pie among a 12-member basketball team, everyone's still going to be pretty hungry).
What I found from looking at win shares was something that I believed to be a fact and routinely mentioned near the end of last season -- that Karvel Anderson may have had the most statistically impressive season of any player in Robert Morris' modern history.
Anderson's win share number was 6, meaning he was effectively responsible for more than one-quarter of the Colonials' victories last season. On the surface, that number may not mean much, but according to Basketball Reference, that win share mark was the highest in program history, which on that site goes back to 1997, as far as advanced stats like win shares are concerned.
Of course, those numbers don't exist in a vacuum. A player's win share is dependent on how many games his team wins, so a player can be incredibly valuable, but if his team wins only, say, 10 games, his number can only be so high. It's also possible that last season was a statistical aberration since Robert Morris played about half of its games with only eight players. When you're sharing the proverbial pie with fewer people, your slice is inevitably going to be bigger than it would be otherwise.
But there's more to back up this idea that Anderson's season was something special. And it lies with offensive rating.
A product of a complicated formula developed by analyst Dean Oliver, offensive rating is something of a catch-all number that measures an individual player's efficiency on the offensive end. Unlike his win share number, Anderson's offensive rating of 129 was not only the highest in Robert Morris history, but also Northeast Conference history. History, in this case, goes back to 2004, when KenPom.com began keeping track of the number for all Division I teams.
|Player||Team||Season||% of minutes played||Offensive rating|
|Karvel Anderson||Robert Morris||2013-14||76.1||129|
|Coron Williams||Robert Morris||2010-11||48.7||120.8|
|Jimmy Langhurst||Robert Morris||2008-09||65.6||120.5|
|Jalen Cannon||St. Francis (NY)||2011-12||61.1||119.9|
|Coron Williams||Robert Morris||2011-12||67.6||119.5|
|Karvel Anderson||Robert Morris||2012-13||58.7||119.3|
|Jason Brickman||LIU Brooklyn||2010-11||56.7||119.2|
I wanted to make sure to include percentage of total minutes played because, as you can see with the second name listed, there are players who are hyper-efficient in very limited minutes and thus their number is inflated compared to what may be their actual value.
What the chart shows is that Anderson, even while playing a good deal of minutes, managed to remain an incredibly efficient and productive offensive player. Theoretically, the more a player is on the court, a more things have a tendency to even out, especially if that player is a team's star player and has to do a larger share of the team's work. In those situations, those stars are often forced into contested (and sometimes outright bad) shots and they are a much more focal part of an opposing team's defensive game plan.
Given that reality, it makes Anderson's performance that much more impressive than even traditional stats like points per game and 3-point field goal percentage indicate. And when you combine it with something like win shares, you get something truly special.