Maya Moore, Jantel Lavender, and Boxscores Values

I recently finished a spreadsheet listing the 2008-09 season stats for all 73 of the "power conference" teams in women's college basketball- the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pacific Ten and Southeastern Conferences. I limited the season stats to just those 73 teams for two reasons:

a) it was a lot easier to collect stats for 73 teams than to do 340 Division I teams, and
b) the argument can be made that these are the important teams, anyway. Of these 73 teams, 54 had winning records. Furthermore, 37 teams - the majority - had 20 win seasons. Christopher Thompson at Full Court Press makes the argument that the mid-majors and lower-majors are on the decline.

Most WNBA draft picks are going to come from either the power conferences or from overseas.

Granted, the various conferences didn't make it easy. The ACC, Big East, Big 10 and Pac 10 get a thumbs-up for making stats fairly easy to find. The SEC forces you to go to each of the member websites. The Big Twelve combines all of the stats...on a .pdf file, leaving you the choice to go to member websites or to type the stats in off the .pdf.

The argument will come up that power conference (PC) stats are skewed by the various schedules that each of the member teams play. Unfortunately, not every team complies its "conference only" stats, and I was left with the regular season stats.

A very interesting metric to look at is the "Boxscores" metric by David Sparks, which attempts to take the simple stats found in box scores and develop an estimate of team wins. (Sparks's initial blog post is here.) I adjusted his formula slightly to allow negative Boxscores values, which doesn't affect the final calculations that much - players with negative Boxscores values don't play that much, for obvious reasons.

I finally normalized every player to a 30-game season. These were the leaders in women's college basketball from 2008-09:

1. Angel McCoughtry, Louisville, 9.21
2. Ashley Walker, California, 8.01
3. Courtney Paris, Oklahoma, 7.61
4. Maya Moore, Connecticut, 7.54 (*)
5. DeWanna Bonner, Auburn, 7.17
6. Jantel Lavender, Ohio State, 7.06 (*)
7. Marissa Coleman, Maryland, 6.83
8. Jayne Appel, Stanford, 6.35 (*)
9. Danielle Gant, Texas A&M, 6.12
10. Lindsey Wisdom-Hylton, Purdue, 5.94

Three of these players - the ones marked with (*) - are underclassmen. Of the seven remaining players, all went in the first two rounds of the WNBA Draft. Three of them were top five draft choices.

Moore was only a sophomore last year, implying that Moore will be a huge player in the WNBA when she leaves Connecticut. You can think of Moore has having contributed about 7 1/2 or 8 wins out of Connecticut's 39 win season last year. Almost every linear metric - a metric that uses "plus, minus, and times" - is an additive metric, and those metrics grant greater rewards for more minutes. Seniors tend to get the most minutes; for a sophomore to be so dominant is a testament to greatness.

Another 2009-10 junior to keep an eye on is Jantel Lavender of Ohio State. We usually don't hear much out of Ohio State for the simple reason that Ohio State usually finds some reason or another to fold in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament despite having won the last five regular season Big Ten championships. In 2008, Ohio State ended up as a #6 seed and was upset in the first round by #11 seed Florida State - a team that was blossoming into an ACC power. Last year, Ohio State was a #3 season, and they made it to the Sweet Sixteen but no farther, falling to Stanford 84-66 in the Berkeley Regional semi-finals.

So who is this Jantel Lavender person? Lavender is a 6-4 center, who "led the Big Ten in scoring (20.8), rebounding (10.7), FG percentages (.541) and double-doubles (24) in all games despite constant doubled and triple teams" according to her bio.

Could the 2011 WNBA Draft (if there is one) come down to Moore vs. Lavender? It's something to think about, and a good reason to watch the random Ohio State women's basketball game when it pops up on television.