Traditional stats would support a case for Landry Shamet (14.9 points, 5.2 assists) or Shaquille Morris (14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds) as the most valuable player in 2017-18 for Wichita State.
But WSU's most valuable player, at least according to on-court/off-court splits compiled by statistician Will Schreefer, show that Austin Reaves actually had the best net rating on the Shockers this past season. WSU was 0.18 points per possession better than their opponent when Reaves was on the court, which was for 53 percent of the team's possessions.
It's important to note that while on-off splits can demonstrate the impact a player makes on the team, it's not a perfect measuring stick. After all, Reaves had four other players on the floor with him.
After mining through Schreefer's data and pouring over data from Synergy Sports Technology, KenPom.com and Hoop-Math, here are 15 tidbits that Shocker fans should find interesting from this past season.
- 1. Wonder why Gregg Marshall felt like he could never sub out Landry Shamet? Because WSU's offense was at its worst (1.12 PPP) when he wasn't on the floor, which was 25 percent of offensive possessions, compared to the blistering 1.21 PPP that WSU posted when Shamet was on the floor. That 0.09 difference was the largest impact for any player. It's also interesting to note WSU's assist rate fell from 28 percent to below 22 percent when Shamet was on the bench.
- 2. Landry Shamet was the second-most efficient shooter in the country on catch-and-shoot attempts. He took 82 no-dribble threes and made 54 percent of them, which equated to an absurd 1.66 PPP, which ranked second in the country for players with at least 80 catch-and-shoot attempts. For reference, Austin Reaves wasn't far behind in this category. Reaves took 54 no-dribble threes and also made 54 percent of them to score at 1.63 PPP.
- 3. WSU outscored opponents when Austin Reaves (0.18 PPP), Rashard Kelly (0.13), Zach Brown (0.11), Landry Shamet (0.09) and Shaquille Morris (0.07) were on the court. Reaves, Kelly and Brown were all buoyed on the defensive end, where WSU was 0.12 PPP better when they were on the floor (a three-way tie for team best). WSU achieved its highest offensive efficiency (1.21 PPP) when Shamet, Morris and Reaves were on the floor. The Shockers were outscored by opponents this season with Darral Willis (-0.07), Conner Frankamp (-0.07), Rauno Nurger (-0.09) and Markis McDuffie (-0.17) on the floor.
- 4. Crazy shooting stat on Landry Shamet: When he made multiple threes in a game, which happened in 23 of 32 games, Shamet made on average 3.4 threes and connected on 54 percent of his threes on more than six attempts per game. In the nine games where Shamet went cold (made either zero or one three), he made just 11 percent of his threes on nearly five attempts per game.
- 5. After being the fourth-best defense in the halfcourt last season, WSU plummeted to 166th in the country this season, per Hoop-Math. The Synergy logs back this up, as they show WSU's halfcourt man defense went from giving up 0.76 PPP last season to 0.88 PPP this season. And things worsened when the Shockers went zone, as opponents shredded them for 1.03 PPP on the 5 percent of possessions WSU zoned up. As a result, WSU's defense fell from 13th last season to 111th this year in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency, the worst finish for a WSU defense since the 2008-09 team ranked 120th.
- 6. Wonder why teams started playing so far off Rashard Kelly on offense? He made a very respectable 61.5 percent of his shots when he was able to get to the rim, which made up 65 percent of his offense, but he struggled mightily with his jump shot all season. Per Hoop-Math data, Kelly made just 8 of 32 two-point jumpers (25 percent) and 2 of 18 threes (11 percent). In total, Kelly shot 20 percent on shots outside of the restricted area.
- 7. I saw a lot of fans criticize Zach Brown for his alleged slip on defense, as he battled through leg injuries throughout his senior season. While the advanced stats show this is true (and true for everyone on WSU), WSU's defense peaked at 0.96 PPP when Brown was on the court for 49 percent of the possessions and rose to a staggering 1.08 PPP when he sat. WSU's steal rate also increased a team-best 5.5 percent when Brown was on the floor. That tells me Brown still was vital to WSU's defense this season.
- 8. It was a little alarming to find out Markis McDuffie had by far the worst net rating in WSU's rotation at -0.17. While the Shockers struggled with McDuffie on the court, that doesn't mean he should bear all of the blame. But what caught my eye was how significant WSU's defense improved without McDuffie (0.98 PPP) compared to when he was playing (1.11). McDuffie was clearly not the same after returning from a foot injury midseason, but it was hard to quantify the drop-off on the defensive end. Per Synergy, McDuffie allowed his man to score 48 percent of the time, and he ranked in the 10th percentile nationally for his individual defense. For reference, McDuffie ranked in the 82nd percentile last season, with his man scoring only 32 percent of the time.
- 9. Conner Frankamp made 35 of 35 free throws this season and led the nation in most free throws without a miss, but his free throw rate of 12 percent ranked last on the team. Frankamp also finished with the second-lowest turnover rate in the nation, as only 5.1 percent of his possessions ended in a turnover. The next closest on the team was Shaquille Morris at 14 percent.
- 10. Wondering how big a difference the American was from the Missouri Valley? Look no further than WSU's defense in isolation, which nearly went from the best in the country last season to the worst this season. Per Synergy, WSU held opponents to 0.57 PPP on iso attempts last season, which ranked in the 99th percentile. This year, opponents scored at a comfortable 0.97 PPP, which put the Shockers in the 3rd percentile. The Shockers also struggled to stop teams at the end of the shot clock as their defense went from the 90th percentile to the 15th percentile this season in defending those attempts.
- 11. The move up to the American had the biggest effect on Conner Frankamp and his advanced defensive metrics. Last season, Frankamp actually posted very strong advanced numbers as he ranked in the 95th percentile on Synergy, with his man scoring less than 29 percent of the time. But playing this season in the AAC, Frankamp's ranking dropped to the 35th percentile, with his man scoring nearly 39 percent of the time. The on-off splits show the decline as well, as WSU's defense was actually at its best (0.97 PPP) on the 46 percent of defensive possessions Frankamp didn't play. WSU's defensive PPP ballooned to 1.07 with Frankamp on the court.
- 12. According to the on-off splits, opponents shot 6.8 percent worse on short two-pointers with Darral Willis on the floor and 4.2 percent worse with Shaquille Morris on the floor. That makes sense with Morris, as he was a premier shot blocker. But Synergy backs up Willis as a strong interior defender, as opponents shot just 37 percent near the basket when Willis was the primary defender. Willis was also an elite rebounder this season, as he grabbed a team-best 26 percent of available defensive rebounds (ranked 33rd nationally) and was top 125 in offensive rebounding percentage (11.4) as well.
- 13. The shot selection of Zach Brown was interesting this season. He was well above average at finishing at the rim, where he made 70 percent of his shots, but those made up less than a quarter of his shots. Brown actually had the highest three-point rate on the team (69 percent of his shots were beyond the arc), as he made just 32 percent of them. He did connect on 36 percent of open looks, but the problem was that more than half of his three-point attempts (42 of 78) were guarded catch-and-shoots, as Brown made just 28.6 percent of them.
- 14. WSU ranked in the 87th percentile on making shots at the rim (65.5 percent), but that advantage wasn't fully capitalized on because the team was a tick under the national average in generating those kind of attempts. WSU was bolstered by Shaquille Morris (74.3), Landry Shamet (71.0), Austin Reaves (70.4) and Zach Brown (70.4) at the rim.
- 15. The Shockers became one of the most effective teams in the country scoring off the roll man in pick-and-roll situations, thanks to a drastic improvement from Shaquille Morris. He went from a below-average option last season (scoring at just 0.96 PPP) to a nightmare for opponents this season, as Morris scored at 1.44 PPP and ranked in Synergy's 95th percentile nationally. The transformation was thanks to Morris adding a three-point stroke, as he was able to torch opponents in pick-and-pop situations (1.50 PPP) and remain effective as a roller to the basket (1.42 PPP).