This post begins a series inspired by halfspaces.com’s +/- soccer ratings. Ben from halfspaces.com has come up with the +/- rating system to increase the objectivity of how he views players: he meticulously re-watches soccer matches, giving players a rating for standout events, good, bad, and ugly. Scores for each play range from -5 to +5, with the vast majority in from -2 to +2. Add up the total points for each player, and it becomes clear who has had a standout game. This system can even measure up a player who does lots of little things right, accruing constant +1’s with few negatives against flashy players that garner higher positives but more negatives.
So how can we adapt this system to College Basketball? Hopefully, almost directly! I suspect these rankings won’t be as reliable as when I get more experienced, but they provide a nice, semi-objective way to discuss player performance over the course of a game and over the course of the season. Once FSU gets more games under its belt, I’ll post graphs displaying trends over time.
General Scoring Guidelines:
+3: A fantastic play, almost single-handedly leading to a basket
+2: A great play, usually the equivalent of single-handedly gaining a possession
+1: A standout play, such as a great screen freeing up a driver or a great pass, usually helps the team gain a possession
-1: A poor play, such as poor positioning on defense or taking a bad shot on offense, usually leads to loss of a possession
-2: A bad play, such as missing a rotation or a bad turnover, usually single-handedly losing a possession
-3: A terrible play, such as a terrible live-ball turnover that single-handedly leads to losing a basket
There is a lot of room for subjectivity here: Should a player automatically gain a point for a made shot? My notes will be relatively “shooting-neutral”. That is, because shooting in general is fraught with variability, players making or missing open shots won’t be awarded or penalized. On the other hand, missing open lay-ups will be penalized and making difficult shots will be rewarded (though points may be docked for taking a difficult shot in the first place).
As a general rule, good defensive plays are the hardest to quantify, particularly on-ball defenders. Trent Forrest and MJ Walker routinely harass ball-handlers 25+ feet away from the basket. There is value in this, aggregated over an entire game, but I can’t give them a +1 for each time they do this. Giving them +0.25 or +0.50 is reasonable, but makes collecting the data take an ever larger amount of time. There is a similar problem with good rotations, but with even larger extremes – the value of a good rotation [I’d imagine] is somewhere around +0.1, but there could be multiple good rotations happening simultaneously multiple times per possession. This is all a roundabout way of saying “expect Forrest’s, Walker’s, and to a lesser extent Polite’s defensive value to be slightly underrated”.
First Half Notes
The first half went about as well as could be expected, considering two of FSU’s wing starters picked up two fouls within the opening 180 seconds of the game and that FSU played a walk-on against real scholarship players. (Also, for some reason the ESPN rebroadcast cut out from about 2:00 in the first half to about 0:20, so you could consider these ratings somewhat incomplete.)
- Malik Osborne had a fantastic introduction to Seminole fans. He combined steady play on offense with several great defense plays. His picks ate Pittsburgh defenders alive, giving FSU’s guards frictionless drives to the paint. He didn’t set a foot wrong on defense for the entire half.
- Patrick Williams also had a great half of basketball. He showed wisdom above his years on the defensive end which manifested itself in great positioning – he had one beautiful stunt in particular. He did have a few shaky moments in the halfcourt sets. He also had great positioning on offense, earning most of his marks by finding open spaces on the perimeter to be an effective outlet for FSU’s drivers.
- Trent Forrest’s first half was marred by some senior moments on offense. He lost 7 +/- on offense from his four turnovers alone.
- Raiquan Gray racked up 19 events in the first half alone. He is obviously a talented player, but he frequently makes poor decisions on the court. He’s only a sophomore, so hopefully the game slows down for him some and he can make steadier decisions.
- Anthony Polite was a stand-out for the wrong reasons in the first half. He lost 4 +/- in the half-court, mostly from poor decisions on the perimeter. He had multiple “Terance Mann” moments of passing up wide open 3’s.
Forrest and Vassell were almost the entire offense for the Seminoles in the second half. It was worrying how stagnant the offense was with what should have been an offensive lineup in Forrest-Walker-Vassell-Williams-Gray/Osborne.
- Trent Forrest dominated the second half on both sides of the floor. He got into the lane at will. His rotations were pristine. Despite being the main ball-handler and point defender, I only recorded two negative events for him.
- Vassell had his moments on both sides of the court. He was the only player all game to record three separate +2’s in the offensive half-court. His defensive rebounding was the entirety of his negative defensive value, often being out of position and not boxing out.
- Williams had a much worse second half than first. Using him as the second backcourt man in our 3/4 press led to multiple run-outs for Pitt. He was also much quieter on offense, not recording a single event.
- Polite had another bad half, but in different ways from the first. He handled the ball too much, turning the ball over too easily and trying contested shots that are not in his skillset.
Full Game Storylines
Trent Forrest and Malik Osborne. Forrest dominated on the ball, and Osborne played much better than expected off the ball, cleaning up mistakes on the perimeter and mitigating an obscene amount of pick-and-rolls.
Devin Vassell will be in the Association next year if he can consistently create offense off the dribble as he displayed this game. At 6′ 7″ with a long wingspan, his release point is too high to be blocked by college wings. He’s often compared to Jeremy Lamb, which is certainly apparent, but my unnecessary NBA player comp ™ for him is Tracy McGrady without a handle.
Williams and Gray both had inconsistent games, but for different reasons. Williams had a great first half, but may have mentally tired out in the second, disappearing for large stretches. Gray, on the other hand, had sequences where he was fantastic for a few seconds, then a sixth man for Pitt the next few, then back to being fantastic. I’m optimistic that both will have sorted through these issues for the most part at the [new] beginning of conference play.
Let The Kids Play
I don’t want to harp on this, but Anthony Polite didn’t have a great game. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is his worst game of the season. But, we shouldn’t be relying on the 7th best wing on the team (depending on how you view Evans and Osborne positionally) for such heavy minutes. Coach Hamilton has been grilled for across Seminole hoop fandom, but I’ll pile on by saying Vassell and MJ should not have been glued to the bench in the first half as they were.
Entire Game +/- Sheet
Link to the doc, with sorting enabled and proper cell freezing.