Armchair Analyst: Quantifying Off-Season Development

Armchair Analyst: Quantifying Off-Season Development


rafael-maia-a.j.-hammons-ncaa-basketball-purdue-pittsburgh-850x560 Purdue's recent success on the court has been a timely blessing for many of us in the corporate world. In my industry, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of deferred decision making, stripped down budgets, and the spending of unused vacation days. Consequently, any hopes for tangible productivity is just a pipe dream. Thankfully, the Boilermakers have provided us with a new distraction to help cope with the slow period at work. Suddenly eating lunch at my computer alone has become a much more attractive option than forced interactions with co-workers in break room. I’m kicking off my first official post for BS by doing a simple thoughtless analysis. I want to quantify and visualize how the seven returning scholarship players have progressed (statistically) from the previous season.

Disclaimer: I’m aware the sample size is less than ideal and competition has been average,at best. I believe it’s a reasonable enough sample that we can still make some directional observations with a fair amount of confidence.

The very unscientific table below is simply this season's stats and the difference from the previous season's averages. (I am intentionally not using percent change to avoid confusion).


While it's obvious Purdue has improved as a team, I was still genuinely surprised to see the scope of the improvements across all statistical categories. The uniformity of the improvement (with an obvious exception) caught me off guard.

I don’t expect Purdue to sustain this level of performance, but it still highlights a pretty impressive trend.

Unsolicited Observations: * Increased efficiency - The increased depth has resulted in a measurable reduction in minutes for all returning players not named Haas or JPT. The Boilers are doing more with less minutes and more efficiently.

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* Team-wide improvements- Out of 49 opportunities for improvement (7 players, 7 categories), 41 improved from the previous season (84%). Omit the outlier and it changes to 40 out of 42 opportunities (95%).

* Doing it all - 4 players (Haas, Hammons, Thompson, and Mathias) have improved in every statistical category. Davis and Edwards have improved in all but 1 (slackers).

* Obvious outlier… -The most obvious and eye-catching element in the table is Kendall Stephens line. While minor in significance, he has seen regression in every statistical category except turnovers. This should be no surprise to anyone who has watched the last handful of games. I suspect (or hope) he will either find his rhythm or adapt find out other ways to add value and help the team. In either case, I suspect is production to improve in most categories.

*  Rookie mode - The Improvements to FG%/3P% have been borderline unrealistic (with the exception of Stephens obviously). The team will certainly regress closer to the mean, but even splitting the difference would be an incredible improvement from the previous season. Purdue is playing like that friend that plays career mode in 2K on rookie mode.

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Rough Conclusion: Prior to each season we get detailed propaganda reports of the team’s fantastic off-season improvements. We hear about the work put in the gym and the obviously embellished progress. If the hype was accurate, Patrick Bade would have been a world beater, Lewjack and Chris Kramer would be sharp shooters, and Tacos would have developed into a poor man's Blake Griffin. The smart move: Don't believe the hype.

The truth is, no D1 team has ever released a report outlining their crappy off season. It’s lip service and most Purdue fans are conditioned to take the summer gossip mill with a grain of salt.

This year... seems.... different. I try to remain skeptical and cautiously optimistic like a true disgruntled Boilermaker, but it's becoming difficult to argue that this team hasn’t made significant improvements across the board. The eye test has shown us improved athleticism, better  decision making, and improved mechanics and fundamentals.  The stats simply provides some quantifiable validation what is already pretty obvious.

What made this such an productive off-season?

I have come up with 4 reasons:

* The maturity and leadership of Ray D. I’ve been a die hard Purdue fan for over 30 years and I’m hard pressed to recall a better leaders than Ray Davis. We must clone him. We have the technology.

* Team buy-in. This team gets it. The culture has been firmly established and effort and sacrifice has become a non-negotiable expectation. This is one part leadership, one part recruiting, and some blind luck.

* Internal competition. A byproduct of having such a deep bench is the fact that no one can be complacent with their position in the rotation. Improve or get passed up.

*Evan Bonhotal. Purdue has a rock star Strength and Conditioning coach. He’s been doing an amazing job tailoring off-season workouts to each players individual objectives.

Regardless of the reason(s), we can be thankful for something to distract us after a daunting football season. Enjoy the ride folks, this team hasn't even reached its final form.

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