Meet the KenPom All-Stars, the most efficient players returning to college basketball

Jamie Squire

Frank Kaminsky and Briante Weber lead the pack of the most statistically-impressive players returning to college hoops.

The proliferation of advanced statistics is revolutionizing basketball. Outside of only a few sources, however, it hasn’t filtered down to the college level the same way it has in the NBA.

One of those few sources is Ken Pomeroy, who does excellent work on his website kenpom.com. Most notably, Pomeroy has standardized offensive and defensive ratings for each team, as well as calculated tempo. The importance of this cannot be understated. It has then allowed us to adjust statistics for the wide variety of paces throughout college basketball, as well as created a barometer for offensive and defensive efficiency that simply isn’t widespread.

Pomeroy also calculates individual player advanced statistics. It has become nearly a necessity for all of those serious about college basketball analysis to look here – as well as sports-reference.com – in order to develop opinions about players. Having gotten a quick introduction into Pomeroy out of the way, let’s talk about some of those players that perform particularly well by his standards of computation.

Let’s talk about the Ken-Pom All-Stars.

These players aren’t necessarily going to be the five best players at their positions returning to college basketball next season. Some of these guys just have their interesting quirks that make them unique players. It’s also worth mentioning that the entire top-ten of Pomeroy’s kPOY race have moved onto the NBA, so there will be some new faces lighting up the NCAA this season. There is a good chance that a few of these guys will be among them.

So without further ado, here they are:

F: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Kaminsky was among the most efficient players in all of college basketball last season, with nary a weakness to his game. His 61.% true-shooting percentage sticks out here, undoubtedly the effect of shooting nearly 60% on two-pointers and 38% from the three-point line. His turnover percentage is also unusually low for a big man at 9.5%, which goes to show the care he takes with the ball (and also the effectiveness of Bo Ryan’s swing offense). Kaminsky also performed well in the rebounding categories -- posting a 10% offensive rebounding rate and an 18% defensive rebounding rate -- as well as in the block rate category, swatting 6.1% of the shots he faced.

Kaminsky will return to attempt to lead what will be a preseason top-five Badger team back to the Final Four.

F: Alan Williams: UC-Santa Barbara

Williams is one of those guys who flew under the radar, but there probably was not a more purely productive player in the entire NCAA last season. Williams was the third most-used player in the NCAA, with a 35 percent usage rate, and he took 37 percent of UCSB’s shots. Despite this high usage, Williams still managed to put a 56% true-shooting percentage to go with his top 20 NCAA rebounding rates of 14.6 percent offensively and 26.9 percent defensively. Williams also boasted a 9% block rate, which was top 50 in the entire country (incredible, given his undersized frame at 6’7). His sheer size down low caused teams to foul him incessantly as well, as his 7.1 fouls drawn per-40 minutes are a top-30 in the NCAA mark.

No other player in the country could claim the well-rounded dominance that Williams asserted over the Big West Conference. If there was a captain of this team, Williams would undoubtedly be it, and he’ll return this season looking to lead the Gauchos to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

G: Joseph Young, Oregon

Among players who were used in at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions, Young has the highest returning individual offensive rating in Pomeroy’s database. So how did an undersized two-guard put up such an impressive number? Well, first off his 63 percent true-shooting percentage was nearly top 50 in the entire country among all players last year. This is not a fluke number either; in Young’s final season at Houston, he had a 60 percent true-shooting percentage with similar three-point and free-throw numbers. Then, despite handling the ball quite a bit, his turnover rate was a paltry 8.8 percent. Finally, while he only drew five fouls per-40 minutes, he took advantage of them by knocking down 88 percent of his free throws.

While Oregon is in a slight state of disarray right now due to the Dominic Artis, Brandon Austin, and Damyean Dotson allegations, Young should be the steadying force for the Ducks that leads them back to the NCAA tournament.

G: Keifer Sykes, Green Bay

Can Green Bay players potentially get drafted into the NBA in back-to-back years? It’s certainly not impossible, now that Alec Brown was drafted last Thursday. Sykes was clearly the driving force for the Phoenix this season, putting up a 57 percent true-shooting percentage to go along with a 30.7 percent assist rate. He was surprisingly able to put up that shooting percentage despite a massive regression in three-point efficiency this season. Sykes went from taking two a game in his sophomore season and making 42 percent of them to attempting three per game and only making 32 percent. If he’s able to see a regression back towards the middle of that outside efficiency range, look for Sykes to lead Green Bay towards another gaudy win total in the Horizon.

G: Briante Weber, VCU

The VCU point guard is on this list for one reason his only; his incredible steal rate. Weber has been known as a lockdown perimeter defender since entering college in 2012, but the extent to which he is able to force turnovers has quite literally not been matched since 2002. He has in fact led the NCAA in steal rate all three seasons that he’s been in college among players who have played at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes.

For instance, Weber had a "down" year this past season, only posting a 6.82 percent steal rate. That rate is good for fourth all-time in Pomeroy’s database. His 7.61% rate the season before that is tops all time in KPom’s database, 11% higher than any other rate ever recorded by someone not named "Briante Weber." During his three collegiate seasons, he’s led the NCAA in steal rate by 13, 31, and 7 percentile margins over the next closest player. He’s a veritable outlier when it comes to forcing steals, and I can’t think of anyone better to anchor the Ken-Pom All-Stars on defense.

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