Who was the Big East's best player in 2008-09?

Ohio State Buckeyes v Notre Dame Fighting IrishNCAA Second Round: Oklahoma State Cowboys v Pittsburgh Panthers
Sometimes numbers are enlightening. They reveal things that no one else was able to see, sometimes though they merely confirm what everyone already knew. In the case of the Big East Conference it's more of the latter, but some of the former, when looking at points contributed.

Points contributed is a statistic unique to Chicago College Basketball. For more about how it works and how it's calculated please check out the FAQ. There are some changes from the Big Ten calculations. I was able to easily acquire in conference statistics from the Big East's web site, so the data is only for the 18 Big East games that each team played. Also, with 16 teams instead of 11 you'd expect the numbers to have a much broader range. To that end, I have good news to report, five of the six players on the Big East First Team - as voted on by the conference's coaches at the end of the season - are in the top five players in terms of points contributed. Every player on the Big East First, Second or Third team appears in the top 34 players according to points contributed.

Still, there are some pretty interesting things to gleam from the numbers. More about that after the jump.
When it comes to the best player in the Big East, points contributed agrees with the consensus of media and coaches alike from last season. Notre Dame's Luke Harangody put up some absolutely ridiculous numbers for the Fighting Irish in 2008-09. Harangody averaged 25.2 points per game and 12.8 rebounds per game. Another big man came surprisingly close to matching him. Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair put up 16.1 points per game and 12.8 rebounds per game. In terms of total points contributed here are the Top 6 from the Big East regular season:

  1. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame - 468.4
  2. DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh - 460.2
  3. Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut - 427.6
  4. Terrence Williams, Louisville - 378.1
  5. Jerel McNeal, Marquette - 362.8
  6. Greg Monroe, Georgetown - 338.4

It might be surprising to see Georgetown's freshman center Monroe up there with some of the heavyweights in the conference, but he actually had an outstanding Big East regular season. Monroe 12.9 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game. He also contributed with steals and blocks while converting on 55.9% of his shots. But at the end of the season the only place Monroe appeared was in the Big East All-Rookie Team. Is there a rule against including freshman on the All-Conference teams? He certainly deserved more.

Then there's the name that isn't on the list. The only player not in the Top 6 and on the Big East First Team? Pittsburgh's Sam Young. Now, Young had a nice season. He contributed a lot to the Pittsburgh program and it's possible that the award was more a lifetime achievement recognition than anything else, but Young simply didn't deserve to be on the First Team. He didn't do much on the court besides score. An argument can be made that Young wasn't even the second best player on his own team. Blair and point guard Levance Fields both ranked significantly higher in the points contributed rankings.

There a few other questions the points contributed rankings raise. For instance, was Syracuse absolutely stiffed in the post-season awards? Here are the Top 5 players in points contributed who weren't on any of the four Big East teams:

  1. Mac Koshwal, DePaul - 286.3
  2. Lazar Hayward, Marquette - 282.8
  3. Paul Harris, Syracuse - 280.3
  4. Geoff McDermott, Providence - 274.2
  5. Rick Jackson, Syracuse - 270.0

Koshwal wasn't recognized on any of the Big East teams because the Blue Demons were terrible as a team. On his stats alone there's no question he should've been on the Big East Second or Third team. Hayward was overshadowed by his veteran teammates - McNeal and Wesley Matthews (11th in points contributed). McDermott suffered from a lack of team success and the fact this his teammate - Weyinmi Efejuku - had a very similar impact - and an easier name to remember.

Syracuse went 28-10 and 11-7 in conference, but Jonny Flynn - who was named to the Big East Second Team - was their only honoree? What happened to the Orange? Was it because of the zone defenses? The seemingly interchangeable nature of their front court? Whatever it was, the contributions of players like Harris and Jackson were undervalued in the mind of voters.

Finally, in case you needed any further confirmation about just how good Connecticut's Thabeet was at defense last season, look no further than defensive points contributed - a subset of the overall metric which includes blocks, steals and defensive rebounds. Here are the Top 7.

  1. Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut - 200.5
  2. Geoff McDermott, Providence - 158.6
  3. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame - 157.1
  4. Terrence Williams, Louisville - 155.3
  5. DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh - 143.8
  6. Earl Clark, Louisville - 142.9
  7. Gregory Echenique, Rutgers - 134.5

Thabeet was - literally - head and shoulders above the competition in this category. His game changing blocks and excellent defensive rebounding combined to form one of the most dominating defensive players I've ever seen in college. Echenique, the last player on the list, is an interesting case. The 6'9" freshman forward from Rutgers couldn't even make the All-Rookie Team even though he averaged 7.9 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game and blocked 44 shots - second to Thabeet - in conference. This seems to be a case of the voters once again putting too much of a premium on scoring points instead of a player's overall contribution on the court.

Overall it seems like points contributed in the Big East has the possibility to open a lot of eyes. I'll have more on specific teams and players as the week continues. With 16 teams in the conference there's just too much to cover it all at once.

Leave a comment