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Buffalo Bulls Men's Basketball: How good is this team? Player Comparisons

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Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

I'm on a bit of a stats kick. Right now, I feel like blind comparisons. Enjoy and scroll down. I'll do this again before the MAC tournament to see how much things have changed.

I know that each comparison uses different stats. I wanted to highlight each player's strengths, and some stats, like assist-to-turnover ratio for forwards, are less critical. I do promise that I didn't exclude any stats that would significantly swing the comparison.

pts/40 reb/40 pf/g stl/g a/g
Player A 22.2 12.7 3.2 .6 .6
Player B 22.9 12.2 3.2 1.5 2.2

These two players are pretty similar, with the significant difference coming in secondary stats. I will tell you that Player B plays roughly 3 more minutes per game than Player A.

 
pts/g a/g 3PT% stl/g FG% FT%
Player C 16.0 5.4 40.0 1.6 39.4 82.8
Player D 15.5 4.4 36.0 1.4 46.5 66.5

These two players are less similar, but still close. Player C plays a few minutes less each game, but is a more efficient scorer thanks to his advantages from distance and from the line, and is also a full assist per game better.

 
pts/g reb/g Oreb/g stl/40 blk/40 3PT% a/g
Player E 6.0 5.3 1.4 .9 .3 34.0 1.8
Player F 7.5 4.1 1.6 1.3 1.3 16.0 .5

There's a little more difference here, but each player carries the advantage in about half the listed stats.

 
min/g pts/g a/g stl/g reb/g
Player G 28.4 9.3 4.4 1.2 2.6
Player H 28.2 8.9 3.8 1.1 5.0

One player has a clear advantage in rebounds, but otherwise their strengths line up pretty close, in a similar amount of minutes.

 

pts/g reb/g 3PT% FG% Oreb/g
Player I 7.6 3.9 31.0 49.0 1.6
Player J 7.4 4.2 37.5 37.8 1.3

One player has a higher overall shooting percentage and a slight advantage in offensive rebounds, the other pulls down more on the defensive glass and hits an extra three pointer every other game or so.

 
mins/g pts/g 3/g reb/g a/g a/TO stl/g
Player K 30.9 12.1 3.1 2.7 1.2 1.0 .5
Player L 31.7 10.9 2.8 3.9 1.8 2.0 1.6

One player makes an extra three-pointer every three games, which accounts for the scoring difference, but the other is better in the possession stats.

 

mins/g pts/g pts/40 reb/g reb/40 FG%
Player M 31.2 10.7 13.7 7.7 9.8 41.0
Player N 20.0 6.8 13.6 6.3 12.6 44.3

The pts/40 and reb/40 columns say nothing new, other than to even out the difference in minutes/g. On a rate basis, this is one of the closest comparisons in this post.

 

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The last comparison is a little different, and maybe obvious if you know the stats.

pts/40 reb/40 FG% FT%
Player 1 22.2 12.7 48.7 76.4
Player 2 16.3 13.9 56.9 50.9

I'll share this much: Player 2 plays far fewer minutes than Player 1.

 
***
SPOILER ALERT
If you haven't viewed the results of the comparisons yet, I'm going to reveal them now.

Two failures of this concept are that I did not account for pace, which is closely tied to points, rebounds, and assists, but has little effect on shooting percentage, nor was I able to incorporate strength of schedule. I could manage for pace fairly easily, though it would take forever. Strength of schedule I could do, but I don't have access to the right data, and that would take much longer than adjusting for pace.

I unfortunately could only work one from the trio of McCrea-Watt-Idbihi and the Battle-Cage pair into the comparisons, since I wanted to stick with senior seasons. That said, how would you feel about UB's chances this year if the team were an all-senior team of the past players in the above comparisons? It's not an all-time UB dream team, but it's got grit, flash, and two of the three best senior years of the MAC era:

Forwards: Javon McCrea, Danny Gilbert, [and Mark Bortz if you choose him over Betts]
Swingmen: Dave Barnett [and Calvin Betts if you choose him over Bortz]
Guards: Turner Battle, Greg Gamble and Zach Filzen.

If you're feeling pretty good about that team, I'd argue that the current team is their equal, if not better. Evans, Skeete, and Ford are outperforming Battle, Filzen, and Betts/Bortz's senior years by clear margins. So sub them in. Depending on your preference, it's a near coin-flip bringing in Moss, Wigginton, and Regan for McCrea, Barnett, and Gilbert. Gamble over Bearden is the only clear comparison in which I'd favor the old guy.

The three best senior seasons in the MAC era belong in some order to McCrea, Battle and Cage. After them, Pierce, Watt, Idbihi in some order.

Right now, Justin Moss is nearly matching Javon, and Shannon Evans is putting up better numbers than Battle. Zach Filzen hold the school record for three-pointers in a season, and Skeete is easily outplaying his senior year. Xavier Ford is outplaying Mark Bortz, a former MAC Sixth Man of the Year, and Lamonte Bearden *right now* is having almost the same season that Greg Gamble put together as a senior.

What do you think?