Players Ken Pomeroy Is Going to Love in the 2013-14 College Basketball Season
Ken Pomeroy does not care about your press clippings, your wingspan or your NBA potential.
All college basketball's favorite advanced stats guru cares about is the numbers, and he's created a player of the year award that eliminates any biases that voters may have.
This is how Pomeroy decides his player of the year, called the kPOY:
I used a combination a player's offensive rating and his possessions used, which was valued relative to his team's offensive rating. On defense, I used the proportion of his team's Dean Oliver-formulated stops that he was responsible for.
Meaning Pomeroy cares about your offensive efficiency, how much you play, how much you're used and how much influence you have on the defensive end.
Keep in mind if there's a built-in bias to Pomeroy's system; it's that it loves big men. Last year's top 10 included six post players. Eight of the top 10 were big men in 2012, including the top four, and Draymond Green was the winner. And Jared Sullinger won the inaugural kPOY in 2011.
With that in mind, these 10 guys should be on the kPOY watch list for 2013-14.
All advanced stats used in this piece come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
10. Joe Harris, Virginia
Sometimes we concentrate too much on the numbers that we're used to, like how many points per game a guy averages.
That's what is beautiful about the advanced stats movement becoming more mainstream. The Ken Pomeroys of the world are teaching us to appreciate a team like Wisconsin, which does not put up a ton of points but is actually a really good offensive team annually.
That's why a guy like Virginia's Joe Harris is appreciated by stat men like Pomeroy. Harris plays on a slow-tempo team, but he makes the most of the possessions he's a part of.
Last season, Harris made 50.2 percent of his twos, 42.5 percent of his threes and 74 percent at the line. He's sort of a poor man's Doug McDermott with those numbers.
Harris will once again be the Cavaliers' go-to guy, and he'll play on a team that's expected to improve. He could be the Wisconsin of the kPOYs.
9. Davante Gardner, Marquette
Davante Gardner is probably the best player in the country out of those who play only half their team's minutes. For the last two years, Gardner has put up great efficiency numbers without racking up the minutes.
The reason he hasn't played more is he's a big, big man and carries a lot of weight. Marquette lists him at 290 pounds. But he did play more minutes as a junior than a sophomore, and he did play a total of 55 minutes in Marquette's final two games, so it's possible for him to stay on the court for long stretches.
When Gardner played long stretches, he produced, too, averaging 14.9 points in the 11 games when he played 25 or more minutes.
Gardner is here because he's a fairly high-usage player in the minutes he does get, and he always gets his points. Gardner made 59.4 percent of his twos last season and drew 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes. At the line, he shot 83.5 percent. That's unreal for a big man.
There's only one thing left to say. Get this man more minutes, Buzz Williams!
8. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Cory Jefferson was one of the most efficient big men in the country last season. In fact, the only players in the country who used at least 19 percent of their team's possessions and had a higher offensive rating than Jefferson were Iowa State's Tyrus McGee and Weber State's Scott Bamforth, both three-point specialist guards.
Jefferson was also a solid rebounder and decent shot blocker.
The next step for Jefferson is to get more touches. His 19.2 percent usage rate is that of a role player. It will be a challenge playing next to Isaiah Austin, who also deserves a lot of touches.
It will also be a test for Jefferson to see how well he can score without Pierre Jackson getting him easy buckets. Jackson's passing had a direct impact on Jefferson's efficiency. Jefferson showed an improved postgame, but he'll miss working the pick-and-roll with Jackson.
7. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Pomeroy's player of the year ratings love success, and Kentucky is going to have plenty of it. The star for John Calipari's team could be any number of guys, but if you're betting, Julius Randle has the best odds.
The kPOY has also had a thing for Kentucky big men in the past. In the first year of the award, Terrence Jones finished 10th, and Anthony Davis finished fourth in 2012. Randle's game shares some similarities to Jones—they're both lefties, for one. Randle also has the advantage of playing with so many talented players that he should be able to avoid a lot of double-teams.
The concern for his postseason accolades is whether he gets enough touches and minutes to earn that kind of attention. The other postseason awards may not penalize him for that, but the kPOY will take that into consideration.
6. Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga
Przemek Karnowski is a dark-horse pick, and you're probably thinking... "Who?"
The same would have been said last year for anyone who put Kelly Olynyk on a list like this, and Olynyk finished sixth in the kPOYs last year.
The minutes will be there for Karnowski with Olynyk leaving, and with his size—he's 7'1"—it's going to be tough for anyone in the WCC to match up with him, as was the case with Olynyk.
Karnowski was a high-usage guy in limited minutes last year, using 27 percent of Gonzaga's possessions when he was on the floor. He was not as efficient as Olynyk—few big men were—but he did get to the free-throw line at a higher rate than Olynyk. He also made a solid 56.7 percent of his twos.
Olynyk made 56.2 percent of his twos as a freshman and played similar minutes as a freshman and sophomore. The one concern with Karnowski is whether he'll have the stamina to play enough minutes to make a big impact.
5. Mitch McGary, Michigan
Mitch McGary gave us a six-game preview of what he can do in the NCAA tournament. McGary averaged 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in that six-game stretch.
It took McGary most of the season to find his place in the Michigan offense and for John Beilein to trust him, but when those two things happened, he was awesome.
As I wrote the other day, the challenge next season for McGary is scoring without the help of Trey Burke and also playing the four, which is a possibility.
The defensive and rebounding numbers should not be a concern. He gets a lot of steals for a big man and is a decent shot blocker. He'll produce on that end. If he scores like he did in the tournament—and he should get his opportunities—his numbers are going to be great across the board.
4. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The media loved Marcus Smart as a freshman. Oklahoma State and Travis Ford LOVED Marcus Smart as a freshman.
Pomeroy's numbers said Smart was an excellent defender, which he was, but offensively he needed to improve to be in consideration for the kPOY. Mainly, Smart's shooting numbers need to go up and his turnovers down. He shot only 29 percent from three and had a turnover rate of 21.1 as a freshman.
Smart still ranked 63rd in offensive rating for players who played at least 40 percent of their teams minutes and used at least 28 percent of the possessions, so his efficiency numbers were not terrible.
The gradual improvement most players make from freshman to sophomore year combined with the fact that the Cowboys have the talent to be a top-10 team should put Smart in the mix for the kPOY.
3. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Pomeroy does not care about the hype. That's the beauty of his scoring system.
But he does care about actual production, and it's tough to bet against Andrew Wiggins not putting up numbers that he'll like. The closest thing we have to go off of in regards to what kind of numbers Wiggins will put up in college is 26 games in the EYBL League last summer. EYBL is the best 40 Nike teams in the country and features a lot of the top high school prospects.
In those 26 games, Wiggins averaged 19 points and seven rebounds. He used 28 percent of his team's possessions, and he had an offensive rating of 129. The best offensive rating this past season in college basketball for players who used at least 28 percent of possessions was Note Wolters' 123.5.
With his quickness, size and leaping ability, Wiggins' defensive numbers should be good, too. He's the total package, and the kPOY ratings appreciate that.
2. Doug McDermott, Creighton
Pomeroy loves efficiency with a high-usage rate. You'll have a hard time going back through college basketball history and finding a better combination of the two in a player other than Doug McDermott.
Last season, McDermott shot 57.3 percent inside the arc, 49 percent from three and 87.5 percent at the free-throw line using 34.8 percent of Creighton's possessions. This was a guy that had defenses geared toward stopping him specifically, and he shot the ball like there wasn't any defense in sight.
The closest comparison in recent years is BYU's Jimmer Fredette's senior year. The Jimmer shooting splits were 49.1/39.6/89.4.
McDermott is as close to a lock to finish in the kPOY top 10 as anyone—he finished seventh last year. His defense and team strength hold him back a bit, but McDermott and the Bluejays could benefit from a better strength of schedule now that they're in the Big East.
1. Russ Smith, Louisville
It's a good bet that Pomeroy's algorithm is going to like the guy it crowned player of the year last season.
Russ Smith is close to the perfect mix for what Pomeroy is looking for—a high-usage productive guy on offense, and a game-changer on defense. Smith's shooting numbers could be more efficient—he shot 32.8 percent from three in 2012-13—but he makes up for that by getting to the line often. He shot 276 free throws last season.
Defensively, Smith is so valuable because of how many turnovers he creates. Assuming Louisville has another great season—a pretty safe assumption to make with what Rick Pitino has back—Smith is going to be right in the kPOY race and could become the first player to repeat.