No numeric ranking system that I am aware of includes the impact of injuries or transfers. As I discussed last year, Ken Pomeroy’s does weight recent games more heavily, and after studying his methodology last year, I’m convinced that in the vast majority of cases this is adequate. But let’s face it. We are all curious. We want to see the injury or suspension splits. Are teams better or worse without their stars?
Today I am going to talk about almost every major injury, suspension, and transfer this season. My list includes over 100 events that caused players to miss games, but even my list is not exhaustive. First, I am limiting myself to the top 7 RPI conferences (plus the top of the A10, Butler, and Gonzaga).
I am also going to limit myself to players who play at least 50% of their team’s minutes when active. The NCAA tournament committee does take a look at a player’s on-court contribution when evaluating injuries, and almost no player can be deemed irreplaceable when he plays less than half the team’s minutes when healthy. In the end, you’ll see of the approximately 100 events, only a handful really make a difference in our evaluation of NCAA tournament teams.
A few quick notes:
-Data are through Monday January 24th.
- I am NOT presenting raw offensive and defensive splits. I am replicating the Pomeroy method that adjusts for the quality of opponent. I calculate the adjusted offense and adjusted defense. To the extent my splits do not add up to his totals, keep in mind that he weights recent games more heavily.
-Also keep in mind that the sample sizes are small in almost every analysis you see here. Quite a few of these results seem believable, but with small sample sizes unusual outcomes can always skew the results.
-Finally, notice that my list does not include players that have missed the entire season. When a player misses the whole season, the ranking is no longer misleading. If we want to know how Purdue will perform without Robbie Hummel, the full season ranking is adequate.
25 Splits You Need to Know
I present a table with the numeric splits below. (Scroll down if you are impatient.)
1) I’m mostly going to focus on players who missed games, but John Shurna is the lone exception. He injured his ankle against Mt. St. Mary’s and he has been trying to play through it. I think it is interesting to note that Northwestern’s offense has continued to play well even after his injury. But Northwestern’s defense has taken another step back since he was hurt. Obviously having one of your defenders lose lateral quickness is not going to help you win games. The difference is pretty minimal however.
2) Next, I present Minnesota with and without Al Nolen. Nolen re-injured his foot on Saturday, and may miss the rest of the season. Minnesota has been a substantially worse team defensively and offensively without its starting point guard. And the future outcome may be even worse when you remember that Minnesota had Devoe Joseph to fill in for Nolen during his previous injury. Joseph has recently transferred and now the Gophers must turn to three freshman guards to fill the void. I’m a little skeptical that Nolen is as big a difference maker as these splits show. But Nolen has historically been one of the Gopher’s best defenders. And as someone who has watched almost all their games this year, let me confirm that Nolen does matter to the Gopher offense. When he can drive into the lane and create, this is a different team. If you don’t think Nolen matters, go back and watch the Gopher's wins in Puerto Rico. Nolen almost single-handedly won the game against West Virginia by driving into the paint and creating for his teammates.
3) Louisville has been a bit of an injury nightmare, and I’m not even counting Jared Swopshire who is out for the year. First and foremost, Rakeem Buckles injured his finger and has been out for a month, and Mike Marra injured his ankle and missed four games. And Terrence Jennings and Kyle Kuric have also missed games this season. I’m going to slice it three ways. Louisville without Buckles (which is the current state of the world), Louisville without various other players, and Louisville at near full-strength (but minus Swopshire of course.)
Louisville has been struggling substantially on defense without Buckles in the lineup. At first his impact on the defense may seem too big. But remember he has a 25% defensive rebounding rate and he is one of the only Louisville players who is an elite defensive rebounder. They clearly miss his defensive post presence.
More surprising is the fact that Louisville’s offense has been much worse when the team has been at full strength. That might be a bit of a fluke. Louisville blew out St. John’s in a game Marra and Jennings sat out, and blew out some non-conference opponents when Marra sat out. If you really want to believe Marra is a drag on the Louisville offense, consider that he is only shooting 27% on 95 three point attempts this year. In other words, Louisville without Buckles is worse defensively, Louisville without Marra might be a better offensive team.
4) Carleton Scott missed four Notre Dame games with a hamstring injury and the team played substantially worse when he was out. Scott is currently Notre Dame’s most efficient offensive player, so I think we need to seriously discount their performance in losses at Marquette and St. John’s. This team is almost certainly better than the 26th best team in the nation (the current Pomeroy rank.) With Scott healthy, I have Notre Dame as the 14th best team in the nation.
5) Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell injured his wrist and then was shot. Seton Hall’s offense suffered tremendously when he was out, but since he is not 100% yet, the offense has not rebounded to form either.
6) South Florida’s Augustus Gilchrist had philosophical differences with his coach that caused him to miss 3 games in December. (Jarrid Famous was also out for one of these 3 games, a five point loss to Kent. St.) And I can’t even remember why Anthony Crater was out for 3 games in December. But the offense is clearly better with everyone available. The splits are even more surprising when you consider Crater missed USF’s best performance of the year, a near win against BYU. In non-BYU games without Gilchrist or Crater the team has really struggled.
7) Josh Selby was declared eligible part of the way through the season and the Kansas offense and defense have played worse since he joined the team. The Pomeroy rankings currently have Kansas 3rd nationally, but with Selby they have looked more like the 7th best team in the country. Now, you can argue that Kansas was never really tested before Selby showed up, but I don’t think that is fair. Selby currently has a terrible assist to turnover ratio and has struggled with his two point field goal shooting. I fully expect Selby to get better, but so far Kansas has not played better with him on the floor.
8) I think Nebraska’s loss of Christian Standhardinger is a little over-rated. He only played six games and the team has performed at a high level without him. (But the story about him being cited for indecency was still crazy.)
9) Kansas St. rebounded with a nice win Monday night. One is tempted to ask whether the team’s poor Pomeroy ranking is simply because Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen have missed time this year. Curtis Kelly was suspended early in the year because he was not practicing hard enough. Then he missed six games for receiving improper benefits. Jacob Pullen was also suspended for three games for improper benefits. Sadly for Kansas St. fans, these suspensions are not the explanation for Kansas St.’s poor play. Clearly Kansas St.’s defense has been better with both Pullen and Kelly on the floor, but they have struggled offensively even with Pullen and Kelly on the floor.
10) How has Duke performed without Kyrie Irving? Very well, thank you very much. The team has not missed a beat without its star freshman point guard.
11) How has Virginia fared without forward Mike Scott who is out-for-the-year with an ankle injury? Shockingly well. I thought his loss was devastating, but you cannot overlook the emergence of Assane Sene in the post for Virginia this year.
12) How has Virginia Tech fared without Dorenzo Hudson who is out-for-the-year with a foot injury? Surprisingly, they have played better. You might think that is unrealistic, but consider that Hudson had by far the worst ORtg on Virginia Tech. His high turnover rate and low eFG% was a terrible combination. This may legitimately be a case of addition by subtraction.
13) Tracy Smith missed most of November and December and NC State is glad to have him back. The offense has jumped back up with his return.
14) Washington’s splits are the most puzzling of all. Why would the loss of a great scorer and distributor in Abdul Gaddy hurt the defense? Perhaps it is a fluke or perhaps Gaddy’s injury is forcing Washington to play 5’8” Isaiah Thomas and 5’11” Venoy Overton more minutes. Given their lack of size, you can understand the perimeter defense sagging. Then again, this was always going to be a problem once conference play started and Washington started playing taller guards on a regular basis. So maybe it is just a coincidence that Washington’s defense has sagged in Pac-10 play.
15) Jio Fontan joined USC as a mid-season transfer. He’s been playing 33 minutes a game and from the moment he joined the team, USC’s offense and defense have improved. (Note: when joined the team, Bryce Jones playing time shrunk dramatically, which ultimately led to his transferring from the team. I could come up with a new “split” of data after Jones left, but the reality is that Jones ceased being a key member of the rotation the day Fontan showed up.)
16) Gary Franklin decided to transfer from Cal mid-season. He had a 75.7 ORtg prior to the transfer, so it is no surprise that California’s offense has improved with him absent. The defense has slipped however since he left the team.
17) Besides Kansas St., one of the puzzles this year has been the extremely poor play of Arizona St. Say what you will about Herb Sendek, his teams are usually competitive. Clearly injuries have hurt in Pac-10 play. Jamelle McMillan was injured for three games which may have cost Arizona St. in home games against Stanford and California. And the team was missing leading scorer Trent Lockett during the previous trip to Oregon and Oregon St. Arizona St. is playing poorly right now, but when healthy, they are not the worst team in the Pac-10.
18) UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis missed the start of the season after being arrested, then missed two conference games with a knee injury. But the team did not play substantially worse with him out.
19) Drew Gordon transferred to New Mexico mid-season and New Mexico’s defense has slipped since he joined the team. This strikes me as a bit of a surprise because Gordon has been a rebounding machine. Of course, around the time Gordon joined the team, Emmanuel Negadu left the lineup with an injury and he was posting similar rebounding numbers. Perhaps Gordon just needs time to fit into the New Mexico offense and defense.
20) Utah’s Jay Watkins has missed games because of abdominal and back problems this year, and he may be done for the season at this point. But JJ O’Brien missed the start of the season with a foot fracture and has stepped into the lineup. With O’Brien’s additional size, the defense has improved, but the offensive improvement is a puzzle because O’Brien is not an efficient offensive player.
21) Alabama’s best player, JaMychal Green, was suspended for three games in the middle of the season. The offense was substantially worse without him.
22) Georgia’s Trey Thompkins missed the first three games of the season with an ankle injury, and Georgia barely snuck by teams like Mississippi Valley St. without him. Thompkins was missed more on the defensive end. With Thompkins, I have Georgia as the 43rd best team in the country, but Pomeroy lists Georgia as 51st nationally.
23) Mississippi St. finally got Dee Bost back for the start of SEC play, after getting Renardo Sidney on the court a few games earlier. But the team has not played substantially better with both players on the floor. Pomeroy currently predicts a 5-11 finish for Mississippi St. and my splits do not disagree with that assessment. Mississippi St. might finally start to click at some point, but they just do not look like a dominant team right now.
24) LSU’s Ralston Turner has been out for four games with a foot injury and the offense has fallen apart without him. (I know you are laughing and saying LSU’s offense was not great before Turner’s injury, but it has reached a new low.)
25) Auburn’s Andre Malone has decided to transfer, and Frankie Sullivan is out for the year with a knee injury. This might seem irrelevant, but remember Sullivan’s last game for Auburn was the win over Florida St. At the time he was injured Auburn had just started to find a rhythm, winning four in a row. OK, who am I kidding? This was a bad team before; this is still a bad team now. But without Sullivan and Malone the offense is worse, while the defense is trying a little harder.
Less interesting, but here are the splits:
Iowa point guard Cully Payne played the first five games of the season before suffering a season ending back injury. Matt Gaten’s was also struggling to return from an injury and missed a couple games early in the year, so throwing those first five Iowa games out seems to make some sense when evaluating the team. Clearly Iowa has been a better team after the first five games, but part of that may be the fact that Iowa was learning a new system too.
Pittsburgh’s Nasir Robinson had knee surgery and missed the first three games of the season, and played sparingly in the fourth game. Pittsburgh has looked similar before and after he returned.
Texas Tech starting forward D’walyn Roberts has been injury plagued throughout his career and missed much of the non-conference schedule. Texas Tech has looked similar whether he plays or not.
LaceDarius Dunn missed the first three games of the season after an arrest. (AJ Walton also sat out the season-opener.) The offense did not really take off until he returned.
Washington St.’s Reggie Moore missed 5 games with a wrist injury, and one game due to a marijuana charge. (DeAngelo Castro missed two of the same games early in the year.) Washington St. was playing an unsustainable level of defense while he was out.
Vanderbilt’s Andre Walker has missed a ton of games due to injury. But despite hitting the game winner against Marquette, Vanderbilt has not really missed him.
Trevor Gaskins sprained his hamstring and missed three games for Ole Miss. No one really noticed.
Kevin Smith missed the first three games of the season for Richmond. They played great defense early in the year, but with only a three game sample, it was pretty unsustainable.
Sammy Yeager was kicked off the TCU team five games ago with little impact on the team. I know no one cares about TCU, but they will be in the Big East soon.
Indiana’s Maurice Creek is out for the season, and Verdell Jones missed the last game with an injury as well. It is still too early to know how the team will respond, but the blowout loss to Iowa was not a good start.
Clemson’s Tanner Smith missed Saturday’s two-point loss at Maryland thanks to a knee sprain. It is not clear how soon he will return.
Washington St.’s Faisal Aden sat out the Arizona St. win with a knee injury and played only limited minutes in the Arizona game.
West Virginia's Casey Mitchell was just suspended indefinitely.
It might have mattered, but it was only one or two games, so I’m not listing a split:
Jereme Richmond missed Illinois’ loss at Wisconsin due to a personal issue.
David Jackson missed Penn St.’s narrow win over Mt. St. Mary’s. That would seem significant except Mt. St. Mary’s was missing five players in that game too. You can also argue that Jackson’s neck injury played a role in the team’s next two games, losses to Virginia Tech and Maine. But that probably wouldn’t be fair. Jackson played very well in those two games. Right now the loss to Maine is Penn St.’s only loss to a team outside the Pomeroy top 75. Penn St. has actually played the second toughest schedule in the country according to Monday Night’s Pomeroy rankings.
Dominic Cheek missed Villanova’s two-point loss to Connecticut. That’s exactly the type of fact that will be passed along to the NCAA committee by the Big East regional scout. (Cheek also played against Syracuse, but I’m not convinced he is fully healthy yet.)
Kris Joseph missed Syracuse’s loss to Pittsburgh after banging his head on the court. And he may not have been full strength in the team’s subsequent loss to Villanova, but based on his 8 of 15 shooting night, I think you would have a hard time making that argument.
Cade Davis missed Oklahoma’s 13 point loss to Baylor. By the way, in case you have not seen an Oklahoma game this year, Cade Davis is a starting guard averaging 36 minutes and 13 points per game, so his absence is nothing to sneeze at.
Texas Tech’s John Roberson missed the team’s one point loss to New Mexico. The starting guard almost never scores, but he is a decent distributor, so perhaps his ball-handling was missed in that game.
Corey Raji was missing for two Boston College wins, but both games were close, and he could have made the margin more comfortable. More importantly, when Biko Paris had the stomach flu on Saturday and missed the game against Florida St., Boston College was blown out. And Danny Rubin did not play in Boston College’s loss to Yale. These guys may not be household names, but all log major minutes for BC and with a team learning a new system, it does not help when players are missing in action.
Erick Green missed Virginia Tech’s loss to UNLV in the 76 Classic thanks to a calf injury. He also missed the team’s win against Oklahoma St. and most of the game against CS Northridge in the same tournament.
Tyler Honeycutt missed UCLA’s one point win over UC Irvine. If he was healthy, it might not have been so close.
Joevan Catron sprained his calf and missed a pair of games against USC and UCLA. Oregon went 1-1 and probably was not going to beat UCLA anyway, but you never know. Malcolm Armstead also missed the loss to Washington St.
Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley missed San Diego St.’s win against Cal Poly. I bet San Diego St. wins that game by more than 6 points if they play.
Ronnie Moss missed TCU’s loss to Rice.
Taylor Broekhuis sat out Air Force’s blowout loss to UTEP.
JayDee Luster missed Wyomings’s losses to Missouri and TCU. Djibril Thiam was also out in the loss to TCU.
Melvin Goins missed Tennessee’s four point win over Missouri St. He could have helped make the final margin a little more comfortable.
Lance Goulbourne missed Vanderbilt’s one point win over Marquette. He might have made the final margin more comfortable.
Storm Warren missed LSU’s loss at Virginia. He might have made the final margin more respectable.
Juan Fernandez missed a pair of Temple wins, but the Saint Louis game probably would not have been nearly as close if he played.
Jamel McClean somehow only missed 1 game after fracturing a bone in his eye socket, but Xavier clearly missed him in a close win over Western Michigan.
Ronald Nored missed Butler’s loss to Evansville. They probably win that game if he plays, right?
Steven Gray sat out Gonzaga’s win over Xavier. Would that win have really been better with him on the floor?
Korie Lucious missed the season opener after an off-season drunk driving incident, but Michigan St. won easily. William Buford missed Ohio St.’s blowout win over Morehead St. Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb missed a pair of blowout wins in the non-conference schedule, and Iowa’s Eric May missed the team’s close home loss to Ohio St. Darryl Bryant missed West Virginia’s blowout win over VMI. Dwight Buycks missed Marquette’s blowout win over TAMU-CC. Julian Vaughn missed Georgetown’s blowout win over Tulane. Scott Martin missed Notre Dame’s blowout win over Chicago St. And Herb Pope missed Seton Hall’s blowout win over NJ Tech.
Nate Tomlinson missed a pair of mindless blowouts for Colorado. Michael Dixon was suspended for Missouri’s blowout wins against Oral Roberts and Central Arkansas, but returned for his team’s key victory against Illinois. Carl Blair missed two blowout wins at the start of the season for Oklahoma. Jamar Samuels missed a meaningless non-conference blow-out by Kansas St. And Scott Christopherson missed Iowa St.’s win against Northern Illinois. Bonus question: Does anyone remember Scott Christopherson playing at Marquette three years ago before transferring? Yeah, me neither.
Deividas Dulkys missed Florida St.’s blowout win over Hartford. Demontez Stitt missed a pair of blowout wins for Clemson. Malcolm Lee missed UCLA’s blowout win over Pacific. Venoy Overton must have known Washington would blow out Nevada even if he did not step on the court. Markhuri Sanders-Frison missed California’s win over Hartford. His name is somewhat hard to spell.
Alex Tyus missed a game that Florida won by 50 points. John Jenkins missed Vanderbilt’s big win over Davidson. Ravern Johnson missed Mississippi St.’s big win over Alabama St. Reginald Buckner missed Ole Miss’s blowout win over Alcorn St. Hank Thorns sat out TCU’s blowout win over Chicago St., and TCU’s Nikola Gacesa missed the two opening games of the season. Michael Lyon’s sat out Air Force’s win over Sam Houston. Desmar Jackson missed Wyoming’s win over North Florida. Damian Saunders sat out the season opener for Duquesne. Gonzaga’s Elias Harris sat out the blowout win over Eastern Washington.