Drawing upon extensive applications of baseball's Sabermetrics to basketball, plus my 44 years of accumulated basketball acumen originating when I first shot the rock at the age of six, and leaning a smidge on the all-important eye test, I have arrived at the answer to America's most nagging conundrum: Who is the National Player of the Year in NCAA Division I men's basketball?
The answer is Doug McDermott of Creighton University.
Comparing his season statistics with three other viable candidates, Michigan's Trey Burke, Indiana's Cody Zeller, and Georgetown's Otto Porter, the decision turns on these facts: For the season, he averaged more points per game, had the three highest scoring totals for one game (41, 39 and 34), posted the highest free throw percentage (86 percent, respectively) and shot better from three point range (49 percent).
None of the other players posted the best statistics among the four in more than two categories versus McDermott's four. Burke led the group with 6.8 assists per game, but that's to be expected because he is the only point guard among the nominees. Although Burke had a fabulous all-around year and was especially inspiring given he wasn't highly touted coming out of high school, he fell short in particular with his three point shooting percentage at only 39 percent-10 percentage points below McDermott. Converting a high percentage of three point shots is one of the best litmus tests for determining who is the most skilled basketball player in the nation. A few knocks against McDermott are his paltry shot-blocking stats, only .2 per game, well below all three other nominees; and 1.6 assists, again not among this group's leaders. But McDermott's uncanny shooting stats and overall dominance in several statistical categories far outweigh these few shortcomings.
Zeller led the group with 8.1 rebounds per game and shot an impressive 57 percent from the floor, one point above McDermott. He also outpaced the other four with 1.3 blocks per game. But his 75 percent free throw percentage, while solid, didn't compare favorably with McDermott's 86 percent. You can argue that McDermott didn't play in as tough a conference and Zeller and Burke did in the ferocious Big Ten and Porter in the Big East. But making free throws has nothing to do with what conference you play in; it's conference agnostic and proves he has sharper shooting skills than the other two. At its epicenter basketball is about scoring and McDermott did it the best.
Otto Porter led the group in blocked shots and had the second highest point total in one game with 33. Although he didn't lead in nearly as many categories as McDermott, his stats ranked second highest in several categories including rebounds per game (7.5), assists (2.7), 3-point field goal shooting (44 percent), and blocked shots (1.0). All around, Porter's consistently high stats in so many categories make him my second choice to win the award. Burke's overall leadership of Michigan's great season would make him third. This is not to disparage Zeller, a player I love to watch and admire for unique athletic talent for a guy his size (6 foot 11 inches). It's a close call though I'd slot in fourth.
If you compare the teams for which these guys play, their records thus far are virtually identical and prove they're the leaders of above average teams: Creighton (27-7), Michigan (25-6), Indiana (26-5) and Georgetown (24-5).
Watch these guys strut their superior skills in the upcoming March Madness.