John Beilein, Creighton collect in third annual Data-Based Awards
SI.com's third-annual Data-Based Awards come with no hardware -- the golden calculators will remain a dream until a corporate sponsor steps up -- but at least they have parameters. None of my 13 decisions was based on nebulous criteria. And if anything was learned from this season's data, it's that if you want to revive a program, you're best off hiring someone named Larry.
EFFICIENCY KING: Sean Miller, Arizona
His team finished in what was essentially a tie atop kenpom.com's adjusted efficiency rankings with last year's winner, Louisville's Rick Pitino -- and Miller had the country's No. 1-ranked defense in both adjusted points per possession allowed (0.885) and effective field goal percentage (42.3). Once Dayton coach Archie Miller feels comfortable enough to put the kenpom app back on his phone, he can send his brother a framed screengrab of those rankings.
BIGGEST TURNAROUND (one-year variety): Larry Brown, SMU
Brown has delivered in his return to college coaching. His Mustangs improved by 11.9 points per 100 possessions on offense and -5.6 points per 100 possessions on defense from last season to this season. Their Pythagorean winning percentage on kenpom.com jumped a nation-high 40.9 percentage points, from 44.2 in '12-13 to 85.1 in '13-14. The arrivals of transfers Nic Moore (from Illinois State) and Markus Kennedy (Villanova) were a huge help, but Brown deserves credit for transforming SMU into an elite defensive team with a respectable scoring attack in a short timeframe.
BIGGEST TURNAROUND (two-year variety*): Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
The former Montana star, NBA power forward and Milwaukee Bucks coach bottomed out in his first season at Utah, going 3-15 in the Pac-12 and 6-25 overall in 2011-12. Since then, he has improved the Utes' adjusted efficiency by 24.5 points per 100 possessions and their Pythagorean winning percentage from 18.8 to 79.6. Krystkowiak had them on the NCAA tournament bubble this season (with a 21-12 record) and appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough in 2014-15.
(*The next-biggest turnaround, by Pythagorean win%, belongs to Towson's Pat Skerry, who turned a 1-31 team into a 25-11 team in two seasons. This was too impressive to go unmentioned.)
ADJUSTED A.T.O. KING: John Beilein, Michigan
I applied my own strength-of-schedule adjustments to Synergy Sports Technology's after-timeout efficiency data, and Beilein's Wolverines came out on top at 1.193 points per possession. This should only bolster his deserved reputation as an offensive wizard. In second place, shockingly, was Boston College, at 1.164 PPP -- despite the fact that the Eagles finished with a 4-14 record. Since-fired coach Steve Donahue was at least doing something right.
BEST NCAA TOURNEY VS. EXPECTATIONS: Kevin Ollie, Connecticut
Kenpom's pre-tournament log5 chart gave Ollie's seventh-seeded Huskies a 0.7 percent chance of winning the national championship, and eighth-seeded Kentucky a 1.8 percent chance of reaching the title game. That should make you feel better about failing to forecast their appearances in Arlington -- and make you appreciate Ollie's brilliant run of coaching even more. UConn defended Villanova, Michigan State, Florida and Kentucky as well as anyone did all season, holding all four teams to less than one point per possession.
BEST OFFENSIVE NCAA TOURNEY (min. Elite Eight): John Beilein, Michigan
Crashing the Dance's Andy Cox was kind enough to run full-tournament Net Efficiency Margins, which measure how much teams over/underperform what the average D-I team would be expected do against each opponent. Beilein's Wolverines were the clear champ, scoring 24.6 points per 100 possessions better than an average D-I team's expectations. Michigan's final three tourney opponents -- Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky -- all had their worst defensive performances of the season while trying to stop Beilein's attack.
BEST DEFENSIVE NCAA TOURNEY (min. Elite Eight): tie between Billy Donovan, Florida and Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
UConn had the best defensive Final Four, but Cox's NEM stat says that the Gators (-17.1 PP100P better than D-I average) and Badgers (-17.0) were the top two teams, on average, over the whole tournament. Donovan did his best defensive game-planning in the third round and Elite Eight, when Florida suffocated Pitt and Dayton, respectively, and Bo Ryan did his best in the second round and Sweet 16, when Wisconsin blew out American and Baylor.
BEST HIGH-USAGE SCORER (major-conference category): Doug McDermott, Creighton
What McDermott did as a senior -- posting an offensive rating of 124.4 while using 32.9 percent of Creighton's possessions -- was the best high-usage stat line of this decade. Since 2004-05, only nine players have had an offensive rating of 120-plus while using 30-plus percent of their team's possessions -- and the only one who comes close to matching McDermott is Damian Lillard, who had a 124.4/32.0 percent season in 2011-12. But he did that at Weber State, in the Big Sky Conference. McBuckets did his work in the Big East.
BEST HIGH-USAGE SCORER (mid-major category): Billy Baron, Canisius
South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, who's now on the Bucks, won this title last season. Baron was in many ways the next Nate Wolters: a high-efficiency (124.8 ORating), high-usage (29.0 percent of possessions) point guard who dominated his level of competition. Wolters is taller (6-4 to Baron's 6-2) and had better pacing in the pick-and-roll, but Baron is the superior long-range shooter, making 104 treys as a senior.
TRANSITION KING: Joseph Young, Oregon
Young's 7.8 transition points per 40 minutes were the highest of any major-conference player*, according to Synergy Sports Technology's logs. The 6-2 junior took this crown from Louisville's Russ Smith, who averaged 8.4 transition points/40 last season but saw that drop to 6.7 as a senior, when he took over point guard duties and began hunting for more assists.
(*Justin Black of Morgan State actually led the nation in transition points per 40, at 8.3, but his team went 15-16 and ranked 262nd in offensive efficiency, so I was reluctant to anoint him as any kind of king.)
TOP ALL-AROUND DEFENDER: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
The top guy at creating chaos is the frontman of VCU's press, Briante Weber, who led the nation in steal percentage (6.8) for his third straight year. But Gordon's arrival had an incredible impact on Arizona's overall defense, helping it jump from 47th in adjusted efficiency in 2012-13 to No. 1 overall this season. He was the Wildcats' best rebounder and shot-challenger, helping them rank 13th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage and second in two-point field goal percentage allowed. At 6-9, he was also athletic enough to guard interior and perimeter players. With Gordon moving on to the NBA, his freshman teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson -- an elite defender in his own right -- will have a shot at this award next season.
RUTHLESS RIM PROTECTOR: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan
The Jaspers reached the NCAA tournament on the strength of their defense, which ranked No. 1 in the MAAC and No. 32 in the nation in adjusted efficiency. They excelled at rim protection because of Brown, who at just 6-7 was second in the nation in block percentage, swatting 15.7 percent of opponents' attempts. Of his 120 blocks as a senior, 105 were on dunk or layup attempts, according to hoop-math.com. Brown only fouled out four times all season, and three of them were Manhattan losses -- including its near-upset of Louisville in the second round of the NCAAs.
BEST ONE-NOTE SCORER (FOR TWO SEASONS IN A ROW): Ethan Wragge, Creighton
Wragge was absurdly one-dimensional as a junior in 2012-13, taking 93.6 of his shot attempts from beyond the arc. He somehow became even more of a specialist as a senior, taking 96.7 percent (234-of-242) of his shots as threes -- with teammates speculating/joking that Wragge had more long-range attempts than dribbles. While the Lumberjack does not appear on any NBA mock drafts, he's pretty much perfect for the NBDL's Rio Grande Valley Vipers.