The best players in the Final Four are almost exactly who you thought
Although the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s Final Four is missing out on elite NBA prospects, it’s filled with a slew of talented college players. So, why not see which ones are the best or at least the most productive?
To do that, I plotted each team’s rotation players by Box Plus/Minus (BPM). BPM is an all-in-one statistic designed to measure a player’s quality and contributions to his team, based on box score numbers and team performance. The score estimates how many points per 100 possessions a player contributes above average. The stat is broken down into an offensive number (OBPM) and defensive number (DBPM).
Here’s how the Final Four shakes out. You can filter by teams if it fits your fancy.
What can we learn from the above?
For starters, Villanova’s really good. It’s no surprise to see AP National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson near the top of the list. As one of the most efficient scorers in the country, the 6-foot-3 point guard has a +9.0 OBPM. Still, by this metric, he’s not the Wildcats’ best player. That honor goes to junior Mikal Bridges. The 6-foot-7 wing comes close go Brunson’s offensive output with a +8.6 BPM, but his +4.3 DBPM is a game-changer. Bridges is arguably college basketball’s best two-way player. The 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks he averages per 40 minutes are a big reason why.
Like Bridges over Brunson, it might be surprising to learn that Udoka Azubuike rates out better than Devonte’ Graham for Kansas. At +10.6, the 7-footer boasts the second-highest BPM number here. As the point guard, Graham’s the engine for the Jayhawks, but Azubuike makes everything hum. Kansas is a full 18 points per 100 possessions worse with him off the floor this season, per Hoop Lens.
Michigan’s rotation features a slew of players who score similarly, but the contributions of bench big man Jon Teske are likely underrated by many. The 7-foot-1 sophomore actually leads the team with a +8.6 BPM and it’s almost entirely due to his defensive contributions. Teske only averages 2.1 blocks per 40 minutes, but his presence alters the way opposing offense play inside the arc. The Wolverines’ defense is 13 points per 100 possessions better with Teske on the floor, per Hoop Lens. The reason why? Opponents shoot just 40.9 percent on 2s when he’s on the court versus 47.7 percent when he sits.
Finally, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Loyola-Chicago lagging behind the power conference programs. The Ramblers have had a magnificent run and have a real chance to cut down the nets on Monday night, but they also rate out as the worst team in the Final Four by nearly every metric. Their most productive player is freshman big man Cameron Krutwig. His blend of efficient scoring, defensive rebounding and a touch of shot blocking clocks him in at a +7.2 overall.