Kentucky Basketball: Individual Win-Loss Records

Wins. When you get down to brass tacks it is the one stat - the only stat - that ultimately matters in basketball (well, all sports really, but we're sticking with basketball). Everything that players do on the court either contributes to winning the game or detracts from it. There are a lot of different ways to measure those contributions - points, rebounds, steals, turnovers, etc - and thus a natural extension is to translate them into wins and losses in some way.

Dean Oliver spent a chapter of his book Basketball on Paper discussing various methods of achieving and interpreting this translation. His contribution was the creation of two methods utilizing his Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating system for players. This allowed him to consider the problem in the same context as team wins - just as victory is achieved by scoring more points than the opponent, a player win can be defined as having a better Offensive Rating than Defensive Rating. This leads to two ways of determining wins: going game-by-game and by using full season averages.

The first method is exactly the same as a team record. Going game-by-game, a player earns a win if their offensive rating is greater than their defensive rating, just like a team wins by scoring more points than their opponent. The second method uses the full season offensive and defensive rating for a player to establish a fundamental winning percentage that does not depend on the outcome of any one game. This is the same Pythagorean method utilized by the Pomeroy Ratings to determine team quality.

Thanks to a full season's worth of defensive ratings, it's possible to make these kinds of estimations for the 2012 Wildcats. This is something I've wanted to do since very early in doing the defensive charting and the results are rather interesting.

First, here's is the game-by-game records along with their winning percentage for the 8 top Cats.

Player Wins Losses WinPct
A. Davis 39 1 0.975
D. Lamb 34 6 0.850
D. Miller 33 7 0.825
T. Jones 30 8 0.789
MKG 29 11 0.725
M. Teague 24 16 0.600
K. Wiltjer 24 16 0.600
E. Vargas 10 21 0.323

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Anthony Davis leads the way. His lone "loss" came in the national title game, and even that was a close shave - by my estimation if Davis had just gone 2-10 from the field instead of 1-10 he would have a perfect 40-0 record.

One of the observations made by Oliver is that looking at wins and losses this way tends to reveal how well players on a team managed to fill their roles. Davis's role was to defend and score around the basket and he performed marvelously at both, as evidenced by his Win Pct. Doron Lamb was tasked with being a perimeter scoring threat and chasing opposing guards around on defense. He was largely successful, though not quite as much as Davis and his record reflects his incredible scoring efficiency as much as anything.

Another observation by Oliver was that a team record should be similar to that of its best player. The 2012 Wildcats definitely match that idea.

Now here are the win percentages based on season averages.

Player ORtg DRtg WinPct
A. Davis 133.5 87.6 1.000
D. Lamb 126.8 92.3 0.996
D. Miller 117.4 91.6 0.976
T. Jones 111.5 90.2 0.948
MKG 111.4 90.2 0.947
M. Teague 99.4 91.7 0.722
K. Wiltjer 112.8 93.9 0.926
E. Vargas 85.8 90.2 0.368

Want to go undefeated in college basketball? Just get yourself a team of Anthony Davises! The percentages here are all more complimentary to the individual players than the game-by-game records are. That has a lot to do with the overall excellence of the team and I suspect is also affected by the balance achieved on offense.

In any given game a different set of players were able to utilize match-up advantages and score efficiently. On a game-by-game basis that means that while most of the players would have better and worse days, it wouldn't affect the team too much because there were always other options capable of filling in and scoring efficiently. Taking the season as a whole, that balance is reflected in the improved winning percentage seen here.

Marquis Teague is an interesting case. He was considered by many to be the weak link of the team and the results here support that notion as he is well below the other five primary players. I offer an alternate hypothesis: this team had a large amount of versatility at most positions, with multiple players who could fill that position without a drop-off. The one exception to was PG. Lamb did his best as a back-up and was reasonably capable, but no one was going to suggest a he change positions to run a team full time.

That meant that while other Cats could take advantage of match-ups, there really was nothing Teague could do if he had to go against a good defender. If Terrence Jones was being guarded by a really good forward, the Cats could look elsewhere for points without sacrificing efficiency and thus Jones could afford to be more selective about when to score. Teague never had that luxury. His role as the man tasked with making the offense go was one that could not be rerouted through other players to avoid a poor match-up. Because of his unique role, Teague could rarely afford to be choosy with the ball the way Jones could. He always was going to have the ball in his hands a lot and that could have a detrimental affect on his efficiencies.

That is the most important thing to remember when looking at these tables: individual winning percentages have as much to do with a player's role as it does with their skill and ability. Looked at correctly, they can tell you a lot about the composition of the team and how well the parts fit together. In this case, they confirm a lot of what we already knew - the 2012 Wildcats had a lot of talented players who fit together well.

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