Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who Should Win & Who Will Win Ivy League Awards

With 70 percent of the Ivy season behind us, there is enough of a sample size with which to project out the contenders for and likely winners of the league's various coveted awards.

As with most awards and polls, the results tend to be more fitting of a beauty contest, rather than having a backing in the actual numbers (or usage of correct numbers - I'm looking at you Points Per Game!). So, in order to serve the two facets of the public - those who like advanced statistics and those that like predictions - I will provide, for each award, an argument for the player that should win and then the name of the player (often different) that will win.

For all analysis, I will be using the conference-only numbers. While it is my personal belief that "year" means entire season, the voting coaches seem to apply the term universally to the calendar sort, giving league play undue and almost blanket influence over the results. In order to keep the playing field level for the "should" and "will" win projections, this piece will stick with the Ivy-only stats.

Let's get to it and project out some hardware!


Should Win: Greg Mangano, YALE, or Keith Wright, HAR

If it's almost comical that these are the "should" choices, it's going to get even more ridiculous when you see the "will" group. With Jeff Foote, Michael Sands and Matt Mullery all not returning this season, the league was once again supposed to be a guard-dominated league with a dearth of big men - even for the Ivies.

The primary reason why the league made such a jump this season was that its big men came through all season. If the Ivies held a draft of all league players right now, it's possible that five big men would go in the first eight picks.

Mangano and Wright have been the cream of the crop, especially in Ivy play. They are 1-2 in points produced per game with eFG percents just below 60 (Mangano) and just above 60 (Wright). Wright's OReb% of 16.9 in Ivy play leads the league and would be top 10 nationally (he's 19th on the season). Mangano's 27.0 percent DReb rate is second in the league and fourth nationally.

Just as importantly, the two big men don't turn the ball over on offense. Mangano's 12.9% TORate is anemic, while Wright's 17.8% rate is good as well (Wright compensates for his greater TO Rate with an Assist Rate of 10 percent).

Both players bring the full package to the table - very strong offensive games coupled with an imposing defensive presence. Barring a complete collapse by both, one of those two should take home Ivy POY. But who will?

Will Win: Kareem Maddox, PRIN, or Keith Wright, HAR


Should Win: Zack Rosen, G, PENN; Chris Wroblewski, G, COR; Kareem Maddox, F, PRIN; Keith Wright, F, HAR; Greg Mangano, C, YALE

The cases for Mangano and Wright have been made above.

Rosen leads the Ivies in assist rate during league play by almost five percentage points (38.0% to Brandyn Curry's 33.2%). At the same time, his turnover rate is just 18.2%, amazing for a guard who constantly has the ball in his hands. The eFG% of 50.6 is well off his rate from the non-conference season and last year, but it's still above average, especially for a player taking over 20 percent of his team's shots.

Wroblewski has seen his assist rate dip a bit during league play (down to fourth from first during the non-conference slate) as he attempted to take on more of a scoring role. His shooting percentage (49.0% eFG) has been roughly average as well, but that's to be expected for a player taking over 23 percent of his team's shots. In a normal year, these are second-team numbers, but the Ivy League is very deep at the "above-average" guard level but has few star guards playing like star guards in conference season.

Finally, and to be clear about the POY discussion, Maddox has the credentials to be considered the top player in the Ivy League. He is almost unguardable when he gets moving toward the basket and picks up fouls like a slashing wing. Defensively, he's athletic enough to guard your point guard or your center - a moveable part usually targeted for the opposing team's most crucial weapon. He would be a POY frontrunner if it weren't for his spellbinding ability to become invisible on one or both sides of the ball during games or over stretches of games.

Will Win: Zack Rosen, G, PENN; Chris Wroblewski, G, COR; Kareem Maddox, F, PRIN; Keith Wright, F, HAR; Jack Eggleston, F, PENN


Should Win: James Jones, YALE

This might strike one as an odd choice, but it all depends on what Coach of the Year means. In my opinion, the title is essentially a barometer, which measures the amount received from players versus the amount you would expect to get.

Jones entered the season having lost a guard who took just over a third of the team's shots when he was on the floor and a strong defensive big man to graduation as well as a potential First Team All-Ivy big man right before the season began.

Yet with only one freshman contributing bulk minutes, Jones has taken the same team that went 12-19 (6-8 Ivy, No. 255 Pomeroy) into the top 200 at No. 181 and is on pace to beat both last season's win total (needs one more) and last season's Ivy win mark (needs two more). Throw in a three-point loss at Providence and a win at potentially tourney-bound Boston College and it's hard to say that any coach in the league has done more with less.

Will Win: Sydney Johnson, PRIN, or Tommy Amaker, HAR


Should Win: Greg Mangano, YALE

The merits of this one have already tangentially been discussed. The debate really comes down to what one values. With Mangano in the paint, Yale has allowed opponents to shoot just 44 percent from two in Ivy play and has blocked 13 percent of opposing shots (mostly Mangano).

In other words, it's incredibly difficult to own the paint against the Bulldogs, relegating opponents to the more high-variance strategy of bombing threes from the outside. But those teams have to convert, because Mangano will corral over a quarter of those misses.

The number one contender in this category (and likely winner if he doesn't win POY) is Kareem Maddox. Maddox doesn't have Mangano's presence, but his ability to shut down opposing star guards with his length and athleticism is unmatched in the Ivies. It's a question of style, however. Maddox is far more valuable than Mangano if an opponent has one star wing player, but if the opposition is balanced inside and out, sticking Maddox on the best perimeter player or power forward might not be as valuable as having Mangano anchoring the paint.

Will Win: Kareem Maddox, PRIN (if not POY) or Greg Mangano, YALE

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