I can't remember how long it has been since Ken Pomeroy started charging $20 a year for his site, but I think it has been either two or three seasons. I have faithfully ponied up the cash every year, because deep down I knew I had been taking advantage of a free service that was worth money that whole time. I thought I was paying to continue my access to his good work. Instead, it seems that my dollars have been fueling innovation like this is some sort of commercial for small businesses. Ken Pomeroy: the engine for a smarter planet.
Anyway, KenPom.com's latest innovation is a tool that combs play-by-play data and spits out what lineups a team has been using for the most recent five games. The lineups are broken down into the five traditional basketball positions based on a player's size and certain statistical markers (more info on Pomeroy's blog here). There are limitations - if you run three guards, one of them is going to be listed at SF; if your point guard is 6'9", the system might not recognize him in the correct position - but Pomeroy estimates it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% accurate, and that's good enough for me.
With that said, here's what he has for Xavier...
...and here are some of my observations:
- Because substitution information is not always complete, sometimes the lineup is unknown. We haven't been running one or more mystery players out there 5.9% of the time.
- Other than the starters, Mack's favorite lineups have been a rotation of bigs around Dee/Semaj/Myles on the perimeter. I assumed I hadn't been seeing JMart because he turns invisible at times out there; this made me realize just how much his minutes are down.
- It's interesting that Brandon Randolph profiles as the SG when he and Semaj comprise the backcourt. I'm guessing this is because Randolph's shots% is high compared to his usage rate, his assist rate is lower than Semaj's, and his turnover rate is higher.
- We're only seeing Dee, Semaj, and Brandon together for about 2 minutes per game. That's a scary running/press-breaking lineup, but it features approximately zero guys who force you to move your defense more than 15 feet from the rim.
- The second and third most favored lineups feature two sophomores and a freshman, which is a big departure from Mack's history of favoring veterans and speaks to the talent level and work ethic of all three of those guys.
- I know I'm a sucker for gimmick lineups, but I'd love to see a Dee/Brandon/Semaj/JMart/Jalen group get just a few minutes of run. There's so much speed and quickness there that I think JMart and Jalen's length would be okay, and lineup that could cause some chaos, maybe get a few cheap turnovers and baskets, and force the opposing coach to burn a timeout. Can you imagine Cintas going nuts and those five running all over? Clearly I can.
- Semaj features in all ten of these lineups; Dee, Stainbrook, and Philmore each feature in seven; JMart features in six.
- James Farr only shows up three times. He has sometimes looked a little more like a guy who only played 42 minutes last year lately, but he still definitely has a part to play in this season.
It should also be noted that these are the team's most frequent lineups, not all of their lineups. The remaining lineups are largely made up of combinations of players who don't often play together. Lineups like that generally reflect changes forced upon a coach by things like in-game injuries (cramping, et c.) and foul trouble rather than strategic decisions made by coaches. That information would probably be interesting for a conversation about a coach's ability to adjust, but that's a different post.
It's axiomatic in basketball that who starts a game is not as important as who the coach trusts for the big minutes, but it's clear that - at least over the last five games - Coach Mack has trusted the core of Dee, Semaj, and Stainbrook for the bulk of the minutes. He's filled in the remaining time with Myles, Brandon, and JMart on the perimeter and Philmore and Farr with just a dash of Jalen Reynolds inside. If you've followed along at all this season, none of this surprises you. If you're the kind of person who likes to have numbers to back up your observations, now you do.