Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Search for Greg Brunner

Luke Harangody earned a foul on Saturday while getting cracked in the nose by Roy Hibbert’s elbow. The officials felt that Harangody initiated contacted by getting unnecessarily close to Hibbert who had collected a rebound and was looking for the outlet pass. It may not have been the right call at that moment, but it basically symbolized the tone of the game. While Hibbert almost always looks to avoid contact, using spin moves and hook shots, Harangody did not have the same option. Facing a 6 inch height disadvantage, Harangody essentially began each of his shots by jumping into the defender. He hoped to either force the defender to back away or to draw a foul. Unfortunately for Harangody, the officials weren’t biting. While Harandogy did earn a few foul shots, by the end of the game, he was the one who fouled out.

I last saw this exceptionally irritating habit used by Greg Brunner of Iowa. Brunner was the master of putting his head down and jumping into the defender to draw the foul. When I got home, I decided to check the numbers and see if Harangody was in fact playing at a Greg Brunner like level, i.e. missing a ton of shots, but making up for it with a ridiculous Free Throw Rate.

53.0 32.6 Harangody Notre Dame 2008
45.9 39.3 Harangody Notre Dame 2007
47.1 56.2 Brunner Iowa 2006

The numbers are courtesy Pomeroy’s site, as always. eFG% is FG% with more weight for made threes. FTR is FTA/FGA.

First off, this chart ignores the fact that Harangody turns the ball over at a ridiculously low rate, something Brunner could never say. And in 2008, Harangody has been a much more dynamic offensive player. But, I still see a lot of similarity here.

On the other hand, if you crunch the numbers and look at high Free Throw Rate players, you may have a hard time finding many Brunner like players. Most of the Free Throw Rate leaders are dynamic offensive players or talented big men.

55.9 83.2 Hansbrough UNC 2008
62.9 80.1 Love UCLA 2008
59.8 70.9 Gordon Indiana 2008
63.0 62.3 White Indiana 2008
63.9 70.0 Ogilvy Vandy 2008
59.0 96.4 Thabeet UConn 2008
61.0 70.9 Maric Nebraska 2008
65.0 58.6 Leunen Oregon 2008
59.1 62.0 Morgan Mich. St 2008
65.4 80.0 Hickson NC State 2008
61.2 54.3 Hibbert Georgetown 2008

Hibbert actually picks up relatively few fouls given his proficiency. But it really speaks to what Brunner was able to do in 2006. Why in the world were people fouling him as much as Roy Hibbert when he wasn’t even making half his shots?

As a side note, what is Herb Sendek teaching his players? Both his former team NC State, and his current team Arizona State are in the Top 20 in Free Throw Rate.

60.2 61.1 Harden ASU 2008
67.0 73.6 Pendergraph ASU 2008
48.3 55.9 Glasser ASU 2008

Sendek might not be able to take responsibility for Hickson, but he can take responsibility for Gavin Grant who’s spent 4 years becoming a 6-8 foul drawing machine.

48.9 61.9 Grant NC State 2008
51.0 48.6 Grant NC State 2007
47.6 62.8 Grant NC State 2006
44.7 42.6 Grant NC State 2005

Still, I’m not buying Grant or the above mentioned Glasser as true Greg Brunner type players because they both play point guard. They both have great assist rates and when I describe the Brunner “Jump-In” move, I’m not talking about a point guard using his quickness to get fouled. There are a number of point guards who get fouled frequently and have bad shooting percentages. Exhibit A is Byron Eaton of Oklahoma St.

40.2 68.6 Eaton Okl. St. 2008

Eaton is actually shooting around 36% on his two point shots, making it a complete mystery why anyone is fouling this guy.

49.7 76.2 Adrien UConn 2008
49.7 51.6 Adrien UConn 2007

I’m also going to disqualify Jeff Adrien on quickness grounds. You may disagree, but I don’t see him as a Greg Brunner type player.

40.0 80.0 Blair Boston Col. 2008
48.1 96.2 Blair Boston Col. 2007

Finally, I’m going to ignore players who almost never shoot but get hacked by accident. After all, Brunner’s jump in move was a primary offensive weapon for Iowa. Tyrelle Blair almost never shoots, which is really inflating his free throw rate. Still, given his 40% proficiency this year, why foul him?

Which brings me to the punchline of my search. I’ve watched a decent number of Maryland games in my years in DC and no player seems to love contact and play with reckless abandon, despite a limited offensive game, more than Maryland’s Bambale Osby.

47.5 75.0 Osby Maryland 2008
47.1 56.2 Brunner Iowa 2006

I had Osby written down, locked down, and written in as the next Greg Brunner.

And then I watched the Maryland vs North Carolina game. Not only did Osby not draw a shooting foul all game, he seemed to be avoiding contact. And there he was making a dynamic game winning basket.

So much for my Greg Brunner theory.

Oh well, at least I feel better than the Sports Illustrated guy who was sent to profile Rick Majerus on the week his team scored 20 points.

And if you are looking for Greg Brunner, why not go watch the real thing. It looks like he’s playing in Belgium.