Posted: 1:40 p.m. Monday, May 6, 2013
By Mike Rutherford
The rise in popularity of advanced statistics has been one of the more interesting developments in college basketball coverage over the past few years. It's become so vital that it's forced myself, a man who swore off math forever once they threw letters into the equation around 5th grade, to gain at least a tenuous grasp on the basic principles of things like tempo and adjusted efficiency.
No one combines the nerdy advancements with the traditional principles of sports journalism better than SI's Luke Winn, who handed out his second-annual Data-Based Awards on Monday. Unlike "official" awards, Winn's are based solely on hard, advanced statistical data.
The numbers don't lie: few people did basketball better than Rick Pitino and Russ Smith in 2012-13.
1. EFFICIENCY KING: Rick Pitino, Louisville
He took a Final Four team from 2011-12 that already ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency -- and made it 14.9 points per 100 possessions better in '12-13. The Cardinals won a national title while finishing No. 1 overall in adjusted efficiency on kenpom.com, and Pitino had the top after-timeout efficiency of any coach in the NCAA tournament (minimum three games played).
6. BEST OFFENSIVE NCAA TOURNEY (min. four games): Rick Pitino, Louisville
I enlisted Crashing the Dance's Andy Cox to calculate Net Efficiency Margins for the Elite Eight teams -- essentially, a measure of how well they played vs. what the average D-I team would be expected to against each opponent. As good as Pitino's Cardinals were defensively all season, they won the NCAA tournament because of the quality of their offense, which was a full 28.5 points per 100 possessions better than an average D-I team's expectations. (Michigan came in second).
3. TRANSITION KING: Russ Smith, Louisville
Smith, who often saw 1-on-4 breaks as prime rim-attacking opportunities, averaged a nation-high 8.4 transition points per 40 minutes. He and Peyton Siva also served as the primary ball-pressurers in the Cardinals' press, and Smith led the team in turnovers-forced percentage during the NCAAs.
This doesn't make us friends, math.