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What’s the story on Edmond Sumner?

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Xavier’s mercurial guard has caught some Twitter heat recently. Is it warranted or will the numbers tell a different story?

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“I feel like Ed has taken a step back this year, but I guess the numbers don't bear that out.” Joel said this in this week’s Sunday Conversation, and it led to a bit of lively discussion on Xavier’s lively point guard. Sumner undoubtedly started the season slowly, but it seems as if he still hasn’t quite gotten back to being the live wire that he was last year. Is that perception reality or is the stuttering start still just clouding the air? As always, a dive into the numbers behind the criticisms is the only way to know

Ed is shooting the ball worse:

There is no doubt that, from behind the arc, Sumner is shooting worse now than he did last season. In 15-16, X’s point guard was 30.1% from deep, this year he’s 22.7%. The free throw line tells a similar tale. Last season: 72%, this season: 70%. Those two numbers lead to a very reasonable assertion that Ed isn’t shooting the ball as well as he did last season.

But that isn’t exactly the truth. Sumner is shooting the mid range jumper more this season and he’s shooting it a lot better. Last year, Ed took only 43 mid range jumpers and he made 27% of them. This season he’s already taken 28 and he making 39% of them. Even excepting that his field goal percentage at the rim is up almost nine percent, that big jump in effectiveness in the area between the arc and the rim is covering over a some other shooting ills.

Sumner isn’t taking care of the ball as well:

Here’s another one that is true on its face. Sumner’s turnover rate last year was 19%, this year it is 20%. There is no doubt he is turning the ball over more than he was last year. There’s also a down tick in his assist rate that essentially mirrors that rise in turnovers. Once again, though, the top layer of numbers doesn’t tell the whole story.

This season so far Xavier has played four games against Tier A+B competition. (According to KenPom “Tier A and B represent top 50 and top 100 opponents, respectively, adjusted for game location.”) In those games, Ed’s TO rate is higher and his assist rate is lower. This repeats the same pattern from last season, when Sumner’s numbers didn’t begin to improve until he carved a swath through the Big East. While the numbers represent a warning, they don’t represent a departure from form unless they don’t stabilize in the Big East.

He’s out there to play offense:

If you don’t think there is a large group of college basketball fans out there who believe that Edmond Sumner is essentially a one way player, feel free to check our mentions. (Don’t @ the players, though, obviously). This completely ignores what Ed has done on the defensive end of the floor. Good players find a way to impact the game, even when their shot doesn’t appear to be falling.

Right now Ed’s defensive rebounding rate is as high as Malcolm Bernard, Xavier’s starting power forward. That is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the fact that Ed is third on the team in block rate and 339th in the nation. I can’t scroll down that far, but I have to believe he’s the only point guard ranked that high. Sumner’s 1.5 steals per game are coming off a 2.5% steal rate, also top 500 in the nation. All that defense still only comes with three fouls per 40 minutes, despite the fact Ed is frequently playing almost 35 minutes per game. Clearly, fatigue isn’t leading to lazy hands.

So what does all of that mean? Is Edmond Sumner regressing? Well, yes and no. The most concerning part is the ball protection. Even with Xavier playing high level competition, you would like to see the numbers stay at least even with last year rather than dipping. Even that concern is somewhat mitigated by the fact that games against EWU, St. John’s, and DePaul remain on the slate. A bounce back in those contests isn’t a stretch of the imagination at all.

As for the shooting, concerns there are simply a result of Twitterati who lack the time and inclination to access KenPom or HoopMath. Ed may be shooting the ball differently, but he’s not shooting it worse. Sumner’s three point shooting is suffering from the same small sample that Tre’s did early in the year, his finishing at the rim is markedly up, as is his ability to convert in the midrange. Simply put, 45% from the floor isn’t cause for a great deal of concern.

If the assist rate and three point shooting for the entire team is what is concerning you, well, that’s a different story for a different day.