The Most Mind-Boggling Stats in College Basketball This Season
No one is going to catch "Pistol" Pete Maravich's mark of 44.5 points per game from the 1969-70 season. UCLA's winning streak of 88 games will probably never have a legitimate challenger. But records are broken every year in college basketball, and this season is no exception.
There are mind-boggling stats all over the country, from Texas Tech's defense to California's complete lack of defense. There are both individuals and entire teams hitting three-pointers at absurdly high rates, and there's also Duke, which is probably blocking more threes than any other team.
For my money, though, the most ridiculous stat this season is that there's a guy from a little-known school in South Carolina who has been worth more win shares than any of the Wooden Award candidates.
The following statistics are presented in no particular order, but we did make sure to hit on the projected top two picks in the 2019 NBA draft right away.
Duke's Block Percentage
Prior to this season, Duke had not ranked in the top 25 nationally in block percentage since 2004-05—back when Sheldon Williams and Shavlik Randolph were protecting the paint. For most of the near-decade of Plumlee brothers, the Blue Devils were average to below average at protecting the rim.
This year, though, they are second in the nation with a block percentage of 17.3.
Duke is also No. 1 in blocked shots per game by a wide margin. The Blue Devils are swatting 7.2 shots per night, while no other team is doing better than 5.8.
Having Zion Williamson in the fold obviously makes a huge difference. The uber-athlete is averaging just under 2.0 blocks per game. His closing speed and leaping ability are keeping anyone from feeling safe about getting a shot up against Duke.
But Williamson is only responsible for about a quarter of Duke's rejections. There's also Marques Bolden finally living up to the recruiting hype from three years ago with 2.0 blocks per game. Bolden's fellow juniors Jack White and Javin DeLaurier have combined to average better than two blocks a night, too. Even Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett occasionally pitch in a block to help the numbers.
Ja Morant's Assists
There are a lot of mind-boggling things about Ja Morant—like how such a talented player from South Carolina ended up at Murray State or how a 6'3" point guard can be this gifted as a dunker—but it's the assists that most jump off the page.
Morant can get to the rim whenever he so chooses, and he averages 16 shot attempts per game. And that doesn't even include the many shots he misses while drawing shooting fouls. If he went an entire game without passing the ball, who would blame him?
And yet—on a team without much three-point shooting and at an adjusted tempo barely above the national average—Morant is dropping 10.2 dimes per game.
He is one of five players in the past 27 years to average at least 9.5 assists per game, and he is far and away the most gifted scorer from that quintet. In fact, he has scored 20 points in 20 of 25 games this season, and he has 15 points/assists double-doubles (including one triple-double).
Trae Young (27.4 points and 8.7 assists last year) somewhat desensitized us to this ridiculous combination of buckets and shared buckets. That doesn't change the fact that Morant is putting up numbers we've never seen before. Now that he is improving as a perimeter shooter (36.0 percent on 25 attempts in February), it's starting to feel like he should be a lock as the No. 2 pick in the draft behind Zion Williamson.
Texas Tech's Defensive Efficiency
Texas Tech has the most efficient defense in the country, and it's not that close. Its adjusted defensive efficiency score of 84.2 is more than a full point better than the closest challenger (Michigan at 85.9).
As a matter of fact, the Red Raiders have the most efficient defense in KenPom history, tied with 2008-09 Memphis (84.2) and narrowly edging out 2014-15 Kentucky (84.4) and 2012-13 Louisville (84.8) for that title.
For a couple of weeks there, it looked like Texas Tech was slipping. In six games between Jan. 16 and Feb. 2, the Red Raiders allowed at least 64 points five times, suffered four losses and gave up 407 points on 400 possessions. That's good defense for most teams, but it was an awful stretch for TTU.
The Red Raiders have gotten back on track in the past four games, though. They shut down West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor, winning each game by a double-digit margin and allowing just 215 points on 268 possessions.
They had a top-five defense last year, too, but it's hard to believe they were able to get better in spite of losing Keenan Evans, Zhaire Smith, Justin Gray, Zach Smith, Tommy Hamilton and Niem Stevenson. Transfers Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney have been fantastic additions to the defense, and Norense Odiase has taken a huge step forward as a rim protector in his final season.
Daishon Smith's Offensive Box Plus/Minus
In 2016-17, Daishon Smith was an afterthought in Wichita State's deep rotation. He ranked ninth in scoring for the Shockers, but he did most of his damage in the first half of the season. By the time the Missouri Valley and NCAA tournaments rolled around, he barely touched the floor, scoring eight points in his final five games.
Thus, when he transferred to Louisiana Monroe, hardly anyone noticed. He was just one of the hundreds switching teams who wasn't expected to amount to much at his new school.
But Smith has been a godsend for the Warhawks, averaging 22.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
The rebounds and steals don't much matter for the stat where he most stands out: offensive box plus/minus. Per Sports Reference, OBPM is "a box score estimate of the offensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team." In other words, how many additional points the team scores in 100 possessions because that player is on the floor.
Duke's Zion Williamson leads the nation with an OBPM of 13.2, but Smith is No. 2 at 10.9—and nobody is particularly close to catching him.
Because of Smith's value added, Louisiana Monroe's offense is way better than usual.
In KenPom history, this program had never ranked higher than 149th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and it was outside the top 250 in 13 of the past 18 seasons. With Smith running the show, though, the Warhawks are 43rd in AdjOE and have the best offense in the Sun Belt by a mile.
Houston's Winning Percentage
Raise your hand if you thought Houston would have the best winning percentage in the nation in mid-February.
If your hand is up, congratulations, you're a great big liar.
The Cougars had a great 2017-18 season and might have made a deep run in the NCAA tournament if not for Michigan's Jordan Poole knocking them out with a buzzer-beater in the second round. But after losing do-it-all leader Rob Gray Jr., primary frontcourt player Devin Davis and two key reserves in Wes VanBeck and Nura Zanna, I expected Houston to take a big step backward. The Cougars weren't even in my preseason projection of the 2019 NCAA tournament.
Every returning player has improved—especially big man Breaon Brady—and Nate Hinton, Cedrick Alley Jr. and Dejon Jarreau have all been great additions to the rotation.
The strength of Houston's schedule (or lack thereof) hasn't hurt matters. Prior to recent close wins over Cincinnati and UCF, the Cougars had a home win over LSU—in which they had to erase a 15-point second-half deficit, no less—and not much else. It's why they are projected as a No. 3 seed for the tournament despite all their wins.
That isn't to say Houston is a fraud at 25-1, but there's no question this team has benefited from what is a down year for the AAC. If they can keep winning and finish 33-1, it will be interesting to see if the Cougars can sneak into the No. 1 seed conversation, though.
David Jenkins Jr.'s 3-Point Shooting
In Saturday's comeback win over North Dakota State, it was David Jenkins Jr. who delivered the final blow, hitting a runner from just inside the mid-court line as time expired.
Given the way this dude has been shooting all season, it wasn't much of a surprise.
Jenkins is now 98-of-205 from downtown. That's a 47.8 percent clip at a rate of 3.6 makes per game.
Plenty of players have been more accurate than that, and plenty of others have made more triples per game than that. But that combination of efficiency and volume is quite rare.
If he maintains his current marks, Jenkins will be the first player in more than a decade to shoot at least 47 percent while averaging at least 3.5 makes. Six other players have done it since 1992-93, but Jenkins (a sophomore) would be the first non-senior to accomplish that feat.
The funny thing is no one seems to notice because teammate Mike Daum is closing in on 3,000 career points and is the one Jackrabbit everyone knows about. Just remember that South Dakota State is no one-man team.
Lehigh's 3-Point Shooting
David Jenkins has been a great individual three-point story for South Dakota State, but what Lehigh is doing from downtown as an entire team is just plain silly.
The Mountain Hawks are shooting 44.2 percent from three-point range. They have four starters—Lance Tejada, Pat Andree, Kyle Leufroy and Jordan Cohen—who are each averaging better than 13 points per game and shooting at least 44 percent from the perimeter.
The bizarre thing is that for as lethal as Lehigh is, it doesn't shoot three-pointers any more than the average team does. Per KenPom, 38.4 percent of the Mountain Hawks' field-goal attempts are threes, which is slightly below the national average of 38.7 percent.
With four shooters this accurate, you would think they would want to jack up threes and nothing else. Rather, it's partially because they don't force the issue that they are able to get so many clean looks.
Only one other team in the past six years has finished a season shooting at least 44 percent from three-point range. That was UC Davis in 2014-15, which won 25 games and would have been a dangerous Cinderella candidate if it had been able to win the Big West tournament. Similar story for Lehigh, which would be a terrifying No. 15 or No. 16 seed if it wins the Patriot League tourney.
Matt Rafferty's Win Shares
According to Sports Reference, win shares are "an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense." It's conceptually similar to wins above replacement in baseball, and if you really want to get into the weeds of how it's calculated, here you go.
Also according to Sports Reference, Furman's Matt Rafferty has more win shares than any other player.
The leaderboard is full of names you should expect. Duke's Zion Williamson is No. 2 with 6.7 win shares. Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke (6.3) appears in the top 10. So does Tennessee's Grant Williams (5.9). And there are a bunch of minor-conference phenoms like Mike Daum, Ja Morant and Chris Clemons filling out the rest of the list.
But Rafferty (7.3) is alone up top with more win shares than Marvin Bagley III had in the entire 2017-18 season (6.9).
Take one look at his year-to-date stats, though, and it's no surprise. Rafferty is clearly affecting the game in a big way on both ends of the floor, averaging 17.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. And he is doing so for a 22-5 team that might surprise a lot of people by earning an at-large bid next month.
Furman has five players with at least 30 made three-pointers, but Rafferty isn't one of them. He does his damage on the inside in what is a symbiotic relationship for the offense. His presence down low enables the Paladins to play a four-out, one-in offense, and that approach (and Rafferty's ability to pass out of the post) allows him to operate in one-on-one situations that he is going to win more often than not.
Add in the active hands on defense and Rafferty is one of the most valuable players in the country—regardless of the fact that only the diehard college basketball fans have ever heard of him.
California's Field-Goal Defense
In nine consecutive seasons under Mike Montgomery and Cuonzo Martin, California ranked in the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Golden Bears never ranked in the top 10, but they were always well above average on that end of the floor. Three times from 2013 to 2017, they were top-20 nationally in effective field-goal percentage and two-point field-goal percentage allowed.
To put it lightly, that is no longer the case.
Opponents are shooting 50.3 percent from the field against California, which is the worst percentage in the entire country. Even lowly San Jose State shot 55.8 percent against Cal, and the Spartans haven't shot better than 45.5 percent in a game since that December contest.
It's even worse in Pac-12 play, where Cal is 0-13 and allowing made buckets at a 51.7 percent clip. And the Pac-12 only has one team ranked in the top 50 in adjusted offensive efficiency, so it's certainly not a result of facing elite offenses on a regular basis.
It's no surprise that California is struggling. The Golden Bears only had three returning players who averaged at least 2.0 points per game last season, and aside from landing Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb in the same class in 2015, their recruiting has been dreadful for a while. Everyone had this team pegged to finish in the bottom tier of the Pac-12.
The good news is there's only one junior and no seniors in the primary nine-man rotation, so (barring transfers) Cal won't need to hit the reset button on its roster situation again for a couple of years.
But no one expected things to get this bad.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.