Determining the "best" player during any given college basketball season in a conference with as much talent as the Big Ten is often considered an art more than a science. At the end of the 2008-09 season both the Media and the Big Ten coaches picked Michigan State's Kalin Lucas as the best player in the conference. But if you watched the games last season you saw players like Michigan's Manny Harris, Penn State's Taylor Battle and Ohio State's Evan Turner all dominate basketball games. They were all rightly named to the First Team by the media and coaches. Even though Lucas received the Player of the Year awards, Turner was the only unanimous first team selection in both the coaches and media polls.
After seeing this controversy, and not quite being sure who I felt was the best, I set out to create an algorithm which could determine the best player scientifically. What if we could give a value - in points - to everything a player did on the court during the 2008-09 season? Then we could rank all the players by their contributed points. That's exactly what I did. Using the data from every Big Ten game, I did an analysis to determine exactly what every block, steal, turnover, assist and rebound was worth during the season.
The results compare astoundingly well with the what the coaches and media claimed to see. But the numbers don't think that Lucas was the best player in the Big Ten last season.
The numbers say that on a per game basis last season the Buckeye's Turner was the best player in the Big Ten. Second was Harris and Battle was third. Purdue's JaJuan Johnson was fourth and, interestingly enough, Northwestern's Kevin Coble finished fifth.
If you throw out players that didn't play much, for instance Club Trillion blogger and Ohio State bench-warmer Mark Titus, the best player in the Big Ten on a per minute basis last season was Johnson. Turner finished second while Michigan State's Goran Suton was third and Minnesota's Damian Johnson fourth.
If you just go by total points contributed, while keeping in mind the fact that Battle played more games because the Nittany Lions went to the NIT final, the leaders are:
- Evan Turner - 571.5
- Taylor Battle - 535.9
- Manny Harris - 521.3
- JaJuan Johnson - 493.5
- DeShawn Sims - 452.9
You'll notice that's the Big Ten First Team with one notable change. Sims - a third-team player in coaches eyes and a second-teamer in the media's estimation - has replaced Lucas (who is sixth).
When the season starts I intend to keep these numbers updated on a weekly basis as I think they appear to accurately reflect what is happening on the court. Next week I'll reveal the Big East rankings and then I'll finish up with the Horizon League.
I've included a short FAQ about points contributed on the site. If you have any further questions feel free to leave them in the comments.