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Buffalo Bulls Men's Basketball: Hurley's Short Bench, Eight-Man Rotation

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Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Men's Basketball's 9-3 start hasn't exactly given us a ton to say: After a while you can't just keep highlighting positives without sounding too homerish, and I sit on that edge as it is.

One potential red flag that a number of folks have raised is the apparent insistence on a strict eight-man rotation, which has been effectively kept at seven for the last three games with Jarryn Skeete sitting out with a mildly rolled ankle.

Working backwards, we've been told since the injury that Skeete would play in a more critical situation, and now, from his own mouth (and a reliable Twitter friend), we know we can expect him back for MAC play,

Secondly, for as much as anything we say here matters, or as much as we accept things as final here, the rotation has been a settled thing since the Drexel win:

We got our firmest answer yet on the state of the UB rotation: Hurley is "settled in" with the eight-man rotation that he's been using and anticipates it being the norm through the season.

In a comment earlier this week, I took a quick look at other ranked teams and how deeply they had used their benches that night. I also anecdotally remember from my time as an undergrad Boston College under Al Skinner running a regular seven-man rotation with maybe 8-10 minutes from two more fellows. This post will look to expand that, while I also try to keep my opinion out of it.

First, let's just compare the UB minutes distribution this year to last year. I'm going to limit the table to the top ten in playing time. For 2013-14, that narrows us down just to the Bulls who played in 20 or more games, and for 2014-15, it only forces us to eliminate one Bull from the 11 who have seen the floor. I'm going to go with Mory Diane, who saw half his minutes and scored all his points in the St. Bonaventure game, and will also not see the floor again this year after being ruled academically ineligible.

* denotes players who have not appeared in every game, and whose usage numbers will look a bit inflated as a result. In 2013-14, Deyshonee Much and Auraum Nuiriankh actually got less than half the floor time of Justin Moss despite the above numbers, as they appeared in only 21 and 22 games, respectively. Likewise, in 2014-15 Bobby Frasco and Christian Pino have only played 17 combined minutes appearing in 11 of 24 possible games.

** denotes starters. I marked both Skeete and Ford in 2013-14 as it was a clear one-or-the-other situation: together they accounted for all 28 non-senior day starts, and whichever did not start was the 7th man. I did not do this with Rodell Wigginton in 2014-15 despite a similar set up with Skeete, as so far his starts have only come due to Jarryn's injury.

2013-14
Minutes/Game Minutes/Game
2014-15
McCrea**
32.3 34.8
Evans**
Oldham**
31.2 31.7
Skeete**
Freelove**
29.8 29.6
Moss**
Regan**
29.4 28.8
Regan**
Evans
26.4 28.4
Bearden**
Skeete**
22.3 23.1
Wigginton
Ford**
13.5 20.0
Ford
Moss
9.2 12.8
Johnson
Much*
6.6 1.7
Frasco*
Nuiriankh*
5.5 1.4
Pino*


Observations:

  • It's not as big a disparity from year-to-year as I was thinking. A little more from #9 and #10 last year, but remember that Much and Nuiriankh did not play at all in 1/3 of the games.
  • On the other hand, limiting our scope to just the top 8, 2014-15 actually has a more even distribution of minutes, with #7 and #8 getting a combined 10 more minutes. And I won't spoil too much of a post focusing on rate stats later today, but 2014-15 Xavier Ford is basically 2013-14 Justin Moss, while 2014-15 Raheem Johnson is a tick below 2013-14 Xavier Ford. 

    That's a hell of a sentence, but I mean to tell you that UB is getting 10 more and more-productive minutes from #7 and #8 last year
  • A final note on this section: Last season, UB's four most frequent foul-ers among the top-eight were Moss, Ford, McCrea, and Oldham. This season? Johnson, Ford, Bearden, and Moss. It's not a hugely substantial difference, but UB's cleaner players are seeing the floor more.

I also want to make one more comparison, of UB's minutes distribution to other teams' distributions. Below is a table that breaks down UB along with ten other teams by players seeing 25+, 20-25, 10-20, 5-10, and 0-5 minutes per game. I thought about pulling a variety of teams, but I've decided to go with ten nearest to Buffalo's 71.9 possessions per game, as UB's pace has quickly become a hallmark under Hurley.

Team Players 25+ mins/game 20-25 10-20 5-10 0-5
Buffalo 5 2 1 0 2
ETSU 3 1 6 1 1
S Alabama 6 0 2 2 2
Wake Forest 3 2 5 3 4
Oklahoma 5 0 4 1 4
W Illinois 3 3 3 1 3
Lehigh 4 1 3 3 5
Maine 3 4 4 1 2
South Dakota 3 1 6 2 0
Hofstra 4 1 4 1 1
Louisville 4 0 5 5 2


I won't add any further observation here, because I'd like to hear what you think. About what you expected and a total waste of my time? Or is there something new in here?