It’s time to release the first leaderboard of the nation’s premier statistical individual award. For those new to these parts, the kenpom.com Player of the Year is based solely on statistical data. It’s safe to say that “player of the year” means different things to different people. But I’ve tried to define in the way it’s assumed to be defined for other more famous awards (Wooden, Naismith, etc.).
I hope we can agree that “player of the year” is not exactly “the best player in the country”. If you put Thomas Robinson on Houston Baptist, he’d be the same player but would have no shot at winning any player of the year awards. So much like other POY awards, the kPOY combines personal achievement and team strength. “Player of the year” for these purposes is essentially “the player that means the most to a very good team”. (If it was defined as the player that means the most to any team, Quincy Roberts would be the runaway winner, and we wouldn’t that.)
The kPOY formula is top secret, but it isn’t arbitrary. At least not totally. The calculations are based on the research done to produce pre-season team ratings, where player minutes are weighted according to the player’s value to his team. The more arbitrary part of the formula is the team influence. An off-season meeting of the kPOY selection committee determined that the quality of a player’s team should have slightly less influence in the formula and the calculations have been tweaked accordingly for this season. More details on the kPOY are in last season’s introductory post.
Note that this award is not designed to predict or otherwise mimic the Wooden or Naismith awards, other than to maintain a similar definition for identifying the winner. While voters in other awards generally look to per-game stats and ignore turnovers, this award looks at aggregate production based on advanced metrics. This award also includes defensive contributions, although we all know that box score data limits us somewhat in identifying those. However, by including team strength, the quality of a team’s defense is also a part of the kPOY mix, thus the influence of a player’s defense in this award is more robust than the human-derived awards. I think the inclusion of these additional factors make the kPOY better at identifying college basketball’s player of the year.
Eventually, I’ll get the kPOY standings hard-wired into the site so that we can see the list change on a daily basis. In the meantime, here are the top ten players in the kPOY standings through Wednesday’s action:
1. Thomas Robinson, Kansas (kPOY rating: .558): Robinson has been the most dominant player in the country on a team that has Final Four potential. Hard to argue he doesn’t deserve to be the frontrunner.
2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio St. (.476): Any criticism of Sullinger having a disappointing sophomore season is unfounded. He’s been as productive as freshman Sully, and in an offense that’s not as efficient as last season.
3. Draymond Green, Michigan St. (.453): Green’s numbers haven’t changed much from last season – he still does a variety of things very well, even if he does nothing great – but the Spartans appear to be a much better team than last year’s edition, which makes Green’s candidacy more relevant.
4. Mike Scott, Virginia (.446): You need no more evidence of the ongoing scourge of pace discrimination than the ESPN.com POY straw poll in which Scott received the same amount of votes as Julian Mavunga. #EndPacism
5. Anthony Davis, Kentucky (.422): The only freshman on the list, Davis is here mostly due to his defense, but he’s not one dimensional. He’s making 69% of his two-point attempts while rarely turning the ball over.
6. Kevin Jones, West Virginia (.420): Jones has always produced stunningly low turnover numbers, but this season he’s combining that skill with a 63% conversion rate on his twos. Oddly, he’s never been able to get to the free throw line very often during his career.
7. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin (.411): It’s in the kPOY bylaws that there must be a representative from Wisconsin in the top ten. Taylor’s doing an under-appreciated job propping up what would otherwise be an ineffective offense.
8. Will Barton, Memphis (.376): Barton the Elder is flying under the POY radar, but he’s made massive improvements in his game as a sophomore and is the hands-down go-to-guy for the Tigers.
9. Doug McDermott, Creighton (.364): McDermott is basically the Valley’s Derrick Williams. His shooting percentages are off the charts despite a heavy workload and he’s a solid rebounder. Williams got essentially no POY consideration last season, but McDermott is high on most people’s lists right now.
10. Marcus Denmon, Missouri (.351): Denmon’s game is not quite that of a spot-up shooter, but his stats work out that way. You have to be damn good at shooting to make this list when that’s your main skill.