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A Note on the Freshmen

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Luke Winn recently published an article that attempts to measure the true impact of elite recruits. He looked at top-100-RSCI classes from the last four years and broke them down by ranking bracket (1-10, 11-20, etc.). His main conclusion was that, despite the excitement over highly ranked incoming classes, it's NOT really reasonable to expect the following:

  • a freshman outside the top 20 who plays in more than half the team's minutes
  • a freshman outside the top 20 with an offensive rating above 100
  • a freshman outside the top 10 with the usage rate of a "go-to" guy (+24%)
<a class='sbn-auto-link' href='http://www.sbnation.com/ncaa-basketball/players/123903/adreian-payne'>Adreian Payne</a>
AP Photo

What's true of freshmen generally he found to be especially true of freshman big men. Immediate, high impact freshman big men are extremely rare outside the top 10 of the incoming class. Adreian Payne had an RSCI ranking of 27 in the 2010 class. Bigs outside the top 10 tend to be "projects" and the fall-off in minutes and possessions outside that top group is steep. Eyeballing Winn's graphs, you would expect someone like Payne to be getting only 30%+ of the possible minutes and 22%+ of the possessions when he's in there. Payne's usage is right there already (22.1%) but his minutes (23.3%) and offensive rating (81.4) are somewhat low yet, likely due to the same causes: turnovers and foul shooting (all stats from kenpom.com). These strike me as things that are going to improve with playing time and practice and I imagine that Payne is going to meet or exceed normal expectations by the time the season is done.

<a class='sbn-auto-link' href='http://www.sbnation.com/ncaa-basketball/players/123904/keith-appling'>Keith Appling</a>
AP Photo

As an additional note, Keith Appling (RSCI #34) is also making decent progress. His offensive rating of 103.4 is ahead of the curve and while you'd expect his minutes and usage to be higher (currently 41.8% and 19.4% respectively) the recent decision to begin starting him will probably bump these up, especially when you consider that his main competition for minutes is from former walk-ons Austin Thornton and Mike Kebler, and to a lesser extent, Korie Lucious.

The main take-away from Winn's article, I think, is that, although players like Payne and Appling are very promising freshmen, they're not likely to have the same immediate impact as Jared Sullinger and Kyrie Irving and initial expectations should be appropriately scaled.