Wooden Watch: Turning to advanced metrics


There are all kinds of basketball metrics embedded in decision-making, from scouting reports to individual instruction, so why wouldn't they be used in the Wooden Watch, too?

Numbers aren't the only criteria, but they are certainly part of the formula for weighing what kind of season a player has had.

This week we examine what the stats say about the top five players in the Watch this week. Depending on which metric you look at, you might see a different player on top.

For instance, Duke's Luke Kennard is atop Synergy Sports' offensive-efficiency leaderboard.

For the purposes of the Watch, we'll stick to the player efficiency rating (PER), created by former ESPN.com analytics guru John Hollinger, who is now the Memphis Grizzlies' vice president of basketball operations.

Hollinger's formula essentially combines the good and the bad from a player's performance to produce a per-minute rating.

Villanova's Josh Hart has the highest PER of our top five at 29.1, and it's not even that close. Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan is second at 26.8.

Gonzaga's? Nigel Williams-Goss?ranked third among this group with a 25.9 PER, which is up more than eight points from his two-year average at Washington.

UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball doesn't have any previous seasons to compare his progress, but his 25.2 PER compares favorably with the five other freshmen to make the Wooden Award's top 20 list.

Only Washington's Markelle Fultz rates higher, at 28.2. Ball is followed by Kentucky's duo of Malik Monk (24.7) and De'Aaron Fox (23.8), Kansas' Josh Jackson (23.7) and Arizona's Lauri Markkanen (23.3).

Kansas senior guard Frank Mason III remains second on the Watch overall, but his PER ranks last among players in the top five this week. Mason's 22.7 does, however, give an indication of how much he has improved this season. His career PER average is just 15.4.

This week's top five:

1.? Josh Hart, Villanova Wildcats

Hart has been on cruise control as Villanova has been untested this month. The Wildcats' average margin of victory in five games this month is 12 points. He combined to score 27 points with 11 rebounds and six assists in wins over DePaul and Xavier.

2.? Frank Mason III, Kansas Jayhawks

Mason compensated for a horrific night shooting from the field (3-of-13) in the overtime win over West Virginia with 16 made free throws. It was the second-most free throws a Kansas player has made in a game in the past 20 seasons. During the Jayhawks' frenetic rally, Mason scored 11 of Kansas' 21 points to end regulation and force overtime.

3.? Caleb Swanigan, Purdue Boilermakers

Swanigan has fouled out of three of his past four games, but when he's in the game, he's still producing at a high clip. He scored 16 points and added 14 rebounds in Purdue's 69-64 win over Indiana and posted 12 points to go with 17 rebounds in a 74-55 win over Rutgers.

4.? Lonzo Ball, UCLA Bruins

Ball led the Bruins' comeback in their 82-79 win over Oregon with 15 points, including a dagger 3-pointer in the final minute, and 11 rebounds. Ball and his teammates haven't been known for their defense this season. But when he was assigned to defend Oregon's? Dillon Brooks?late in the game, he shut him down.

5.? Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Williams-Goss recorded his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds in a 90-60 win over Loyola Marymount. In the Zags' showdown at Saint Mary's, he shook off early foul trouble and finished with 14 points, including going 8-for-8 from the free throw line, in their 74-64 win.

Honorable mentions