Now that we’re nine or 10 games in for every Ivy League basketball team, it’s time to start thinking about postseason awards. With two full Ivy weekends remaining a group of players have separated themselves from the pack. Like I did in the MAAC and NEC I ran the numbers to see how teams performed with and without their star players on the court. The results were somewhat surprising.
My first caveat before showing these numbers is that the Ivy League basketball seems to have more players that play a ton of possessions. Also, due to the slow down nature of five of the league’s teams there’s not a ton of running up and down the court. Thus, there is definitely some small sample size theatre going on here. Of the 13 players presented in the chart below five players have fewer than 100 possessions off the court. Princeton’s T.J. Bray takes the cake with just 51 possessions off. So while the numbers are impressive, just remember the context we’re viewing them in.
Still, these numbers present a pretty credible look at some of the most important players in the Ivy League. You’ll notice that the first Harvard player is Siyani Chambers, who isn’t even in the Ivy League all-kenpom.com team right now. Tommy Amaker is blessed with an enormous amount of depth. Here it’s reflected by the fact that even taking some key players off the court doesn’t do that much damage. But without further ado, here are some key Ivy League players sorted by the difference in pythagorean expectation when they’re on and off the court.
|Last||First||Team||Poss. In||Poss. Out||Pythag In||Pythag Out||Pythag Diff|
Justin Sears obviously jumps off the chart. Yale’s sophomore big man is obviously an incredible talent, but the drop-off is super steep when he’s off the court. Part of that is because he often comes off along with Brandon Sherrod, leaving the Bulldogs painfully thin up front. Part of it is that it’s just really hard to replace a guy that uses 29.4% of the team’s possessions, plus a 110.5 offensive rating, and excellent block and steal rates. But come on. This is suggesting that if you removed Sears from the Bulldogs they would not win a game. That seems insane. The drop off is dramatic on both sides of the ball too (obviously). The offense plummets, but it’s on defense – where James Jones’ team allows 33 points more per 100 possessions with Sears off the court – that the results are truly incredible.
In fact, all of the top three do a great job on both sides of the ball. (It’s the only way to create such a huge discrepancy.) For Bray though his split on offense is an impressive piece of small sample size theatre. In the 51 possessions he hasn’t been on the court during Ivy League play the Tigers have scored 65 points per 100 possessions. That’s more than 39 points worse than when he’s on the court.
Another fun fact is that for every player on this list besides the Penn players their team’s offense averages more than a point per possession when they’re on the court. That’s just not possible for the Quakers apparently. Even when Tony Hicks is in the game they’re scoring just 99 points per 100 possessions. I was surprised though that it’s only been 92 points per 100 possessions when Nelson-Henry has been in the game. His impact feels bigger.
Do I think these numbers mean that just one Harvard player should be on the Ivy League First Team in a few weeks? Not necessarily. But it is interesting to see how heavily teams rely on certain players. Then again, you could also do worse than a first team of Sears, Lo, Bray, McGonagill and Chambers (though you might need another forward). Ultimately I’d expect one of the three Harvard forwards to make the First Team. But all these players deserve some recognition.