A Deep-Dive Into Roster Experience
With the addition of the COVID year and the transfer portal, college basketball rosters are much different than they were before. For example, the 1991 Michigan basketball team, better known as the “Fab Five”, ushered in freshmen who are starting to become extremely common.
More recently, John Calipari and Kentucky have used the one-and-done rule to their advantage, as Kansas fans have known all too well since 2012. Duke’s 2019 team received plenty of praise with the Freshmen quartet by Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett and Tre Jones.
Since then, however, the way college basketball rosters are completely different. In fact, the youngest team in the Big 12 this season is Texas Tech, despite the fact that more than 55% of their minutes have gone to players who are at least in their third year of College Basketball.
Before I start filing charts and numbers, here’s how I got them. The minutes for this are from the Big 12 game only, and each player was given a number for years spent in college programs, playing or not. There were a few interesting instances, as Texas Tech Fardaws Aimaq are in their fifth year of college basketball, despite redshirting after their freshman year, as most of the year will correlate with their class coming out of high school.
An exception to this was Conrad Hawley of Iowa State, who is enrolled as a sophomore, but only because he was a Kansas football player, so I kept him as a freshman. Another case would be Kevin McCullar, who is listed as a super senior, but only because he was injured in high school and reclassified to help with his rehabilitation, 247 for example is still listed in the class of 2019.
One thing that is noteworthy is that all of the information was taken from MPG by Sports Reference and then multiplied by the matches the player appeared in. averages, so for the most part it’s not too important. All games and stats were pulled the morning of January 24, after Baylor and Kansas met.
Tag TeamBaylorIowa StateKansasKansas State OklahomaOklahoma StateTCUTexasTexas Tech
(This one looks different, because I started before Game 7)
West VirginiaAverage experience
For this stat, I just weighed all the minutes by experience level and divided them by five. So if a team plays exclusively with all third-year players, their average experience would be 3. Here’s what that looks like for all Big 12 teams.
Then I compared the teams in terms of how many minutes the freshmen, guys with 3+ and 4+ years of experience got.
Take away food
There are a few interesting takeaways here, first the fact that every Big 12 team is giving over 55% of their minutes to guys in at least their third year is a huge shift in the college landscape. Just like 80% of the league giving that same number to players in their fourth year or older. Now, experience doesn’t guarantee success, as you can see with West Virginia ranking third in experience but 9th in the conference. On the other hand, Texas Tech’s list is very similar to Kansas and Baylor, with all three either in the top four or bottom four together in all four metrics. A key distinction is that Kansas and Baylor are fielding a freshman who is expected to enter the NBA Draft.
Kansas State is by far the most experienced team in the conference, with 0 minutes for freshmen, over 86% for guys in their fourth year and up, and a whopping 63.48% for guys from their fifth or sixth year. The moral of the story is that they will definitely be busy in the Portal this offseason. The other team with no freshman minutes is TCU, they also don’t have any sophomore guys getting minutes. A huge difference though is that over 42% of their minutes went to third-year players, and a similar number to fourth-year guys, all of whom can return next season.
Iowa State has one of the weirdest gaps in its roster, with freshmen making up more than 20% of their minutes, no sophomore or third-year guys, 26% for fourth, and more than 50% for fifth-year players. West Virginia has a gap that fans should be concerned about, with only 20% going to players in their first two years and nearly 80% coming in the fourth and fifth years. What makes this more troubling is that they have yet to secure a single commitment in their class of 2023.
Why has college basketball aged so much
With the G-League route now a major option, many former one-and-done players are bypassing the college route altogether. That’s not to say we won’t see Grady Dick or Keyonte George again, we definitely will, but I’d be surprised to see teams made up of them as much as they used to be. The Covid year has also made fifth and sixth year players much more important, as you can see in the Kansas State team. NIL has also taken this into account, some experienced players are now more hesitant to turn pro in Europe when they could still earn big salaries here. The transfer portal has also diminished the importance of high school recruiting or working on freshman “projects”, an easier path is to get an older guy and then pick that freshman a few years later. when developed by a mid-major.
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