Posted on: February 18, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: February 18, 2011 10:07 am

Is Pitt's Ashton Gibbs underrated?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Sports fans love to engage in debate, and we're no different here at CBS blog central. Player of the Year arguments, along with bracket discussions, are always the best barroom (or national podcast) fodder for college hoops fans. I touched on one yesterday when I considered Ben Hansbrough vs. Kemba Walker in the Big East. That post touched off a bit of a Twitter debate (which can be hard to follow as the posts whiz by) about a couple of other candidates, most notably Pitt's Ashton Gibbs (right).

We learned last night that Gibbs will be back from a short injury time out in time for Saturday's trip to Madison Square Garden, where the Panthers will face a St. John's team that is on the rise. It seems as good a time as any to see how he stacks up against his fellow Big East stars.

Here are a couple of tweets, from @bracks7, that encapsulate the frustration some fans feel when Gibbs is overlooked in the media.

@stfhoops Is it the fact #Pitt has more options that #Gibbs is really left of BE POY? #Hansbrough really better than him?

@stfhoops I mean I saw a guy on SNY leave him off 1st team All BE. I almost threw something @ the TV!!
Then, New Jersey-based hoops writer Mike Vorkunov, without having seen my post, threw out his own list of BE POY candidates. He listed Hansbrough, Walker, Georgetown's Austin Freeman and Marshon Brooks of Providence as his top four. It got me wondering if bracks7 was right: is Gibbs criminally underrated by us Typing Heads because his team as a whole is so good?

Is Ashton Gibbs overlooked in the Big East?Let's go to the numbers. I'll use Vorkunov's list, plus Gibbs, to get a feel for where each player stands.

Hansbrough 34.7 17.3 3.8 4.1 1.8/1 1.2 46.7 41.4 81.1
Walker 36.9 23.2 5.3 4.7 2.5/1 1.9 43.1 35.6 77.4
Freeman 33.3 18.2 3.4 2.6 1.5/1 0.7 51.7 41.8 85.1
Brooks 35.7 24.3 7.5 2.0 2.0/3 1.7 48.5 32.7 78.1
Gibbs 31.7 16.3 2.3 3.1 1.7/1 0.4 43.6 46.3 89.7

Based on traditional metrics alone, I have to disqualify Brooks. He's an amazing scorer, but he's doing it with volume because he has to. He's his team's runaway MVP, and an exciting player to watch, but he's no league POY. Freeman's fantastic shooting percentages across the board prove his worth to the Hoyas beyond a shadow of a doubt, and make him a solid candidate.

So, Gibbs. I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias here, but I think bracks7 has basically answered his own question. Yes, Gibbs is an extremely valuable part of an elite team. He has scored 18.93 percent of the Panthers' points when he's on the floor, but his teammates Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Nasir Robinson are all above ten percent in the team impact metric as well. This is a good thing.

Unfortunately for Gibbs' case, Pitt chugged right along without him while he was out. Sophomore Travon Woodall certainly didn't replace Gibbs' production, but he kept the machine humming just fine. Again, this is a good thing.

Leaving Gibbs off the All-Big East first team seems like a mistake, but I don't know who the unnamed SNY pundit chose in his place, so I can't really judge that. As a potential Big East POY, however, I don't think Gibbs has enough of a case. He's a great player on a great team, and yes, he may be underrated by the media and even fans. But when it comes to what really counts, bracks7 sounds the right note of conciliation in his final tweet on the matter:

I guess the last laugh will be Gibbs will be the only 1 playing in the Final 4
If he's right about that, I'm pretty sure Gibbs will enjoy a trip to Houston a great deal more than any old league trophy.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 10:10 am

Hansbrough vs. Walker for Big East POY

Ben Hansbrough a POY candidate? It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Posted by Eric Angevine

When I heard one basketball analyst tout Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough for Big East Player of the Year this week, I was able to dismiss it as one man’s opinion.

Last night, during Cincinnati’s takedown of Louisville, I heard it again, this time from Fran Fraschilla. The former coach knows his business very well, and I always give extra weight to his opinions, because I think he considers his words carefully and backs them with a lifetime’s experience in the game.

So, it’s officially a trend. Let’s look at Ben Hansbrough’s bona fides, because they will have to be pretty good to overcome Kemba Walker’s push to be national POY, let alone lord of the Big East. Here are the traditional metrics by which such things are measured.

Hansbrough 34.7 17.3 3.8 4.1 1.8/1 1.2 46.7 41.4 81.1
Walker 36.9 23.2 5.3 4.7 2.5/1 1.9 43.1 35.6 77.4

Looking at these numbers, Walker pretty clearly comes out ahead, which should come as a surprise to nobody who's watched him dominate games. Where some possible cracks start to show is in those last three percentage-based numbers, which belong to Hansbrough. They point to a possible lack of efficiency (in everything but passing) that could come from Walker's sheer volume of minutes played with a less experienced supporting cast than what Hansbrough has to draw on.

So, let's go tempo-free, courtesy of Basketball State, and see how these two warriors match up in efficiency-based metrics. We're looking at points per 40 minutes (P/40), points per weighted shot (PPWS), effective field goal percentage (eFG), usage rate (URt), efficiency per possession (Eff/Pos), and what percentage of his team's points each player scores (Impact). Explanations of these stats can be found in BBState's stats primer

Player P/40 PPWS eFG URt RebRt AstRt StlRt Eff/Pos Impact
Hansbrough 20.0 1.24 56.8 43.3 7.0 55.4 2.1 0.292 22.90
Walker 25.1 1.08 48.9 57.6 8.5 69.3 3.0 0.334 31.18

For me, this is kind of like the use of instant replay in the NFL. I came in here with Kemba Walker ahead by virtue of the eyeball test, and I see nothing here to overturn the verdict of my peepers. I will, however, have to admit that it's not a runaway performance by Walker, and that Hansbrough's numbers hold up pretty well. It's not ridiculous to include him in the discussion at all, especially since Notre Dame (10-3) is winning league games more consistently than UConn (8-5). When the two played head-to-head in South Bend on January 4, Walker scored 19 and Hansbrough had 21 in a close win for the Irish. It's worth mentioning that Walker shot 23 times and only made 8 with Hansbrough hounding him on defense in that early conference matchup.

For now, my vote's still with Kemba in the Big East. Ben Hansbrough still has a couple of weeks left -- including a huge season-ending trip to Connecticut on March 5 -- to change my mind.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com