Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tonight Can Be Coming-Out Party For Underrated Andre Roberson

For those who have watched the University of Colorado's men's basketball program closely, the inevitable emergence of Andre Roberson as a national name won't be a surprise. In fact, it might happen tonight, should the eyes of the college basketball world see Roberson emerge as CU knocks off an ESPN- and mid-major-darling Wichita State Shocker ballclub in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Note: Shockers a 9.5 favorite, according to Vegas. UniOf course, as luck would have it (can't CU beg for a schedule change in PR here?), the Buffs are up against a resurgent Bronco ballclub, playing the Thursday night national TV game at home against the Jets.

But for those who are NOT intimately familiar with CU basketball - and that's most everybody - the emergence of Andre Roberson will not be seen as quite so inevitable.

I've recently finished reading "Moneyball" - I know, I'm late, there's a Brad Pitt movie about it that I haven't seen - but Moneyball describes the late-90's/early 2000's baseball trend by Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane to identify talent using new methods of looking at tradition-bound statistical analysis.

The college basketball equivalent of Billy Beane, although not a general manager or even an affiliate of a single program, is Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy's brilliant blog - - uses, in a nutshell, efficiency statistics to identify college basketball teams, and players, that are undervalued or who may be underappreciated and poised for breakout. When the pace of a game, and resultant statistics, is removed from statistical analysis, Pomeroy and his acolytes (of which I'm one) believe, TRUE value of teams and players can more closely be analyzed.

One of those people who won't be caught of guard by an Andre Roberson coming-out party is, you guessed it, Ken Pomeroy. In an analysis of Andre Roberson posted here in August - yes, in August - Pomeroy makes the brilliant arguement that, eventually, the college basketball world WILL know who Andre Roberson is.

In his analysis, Pomeroy first details Roberson's "absurd rebounding rates", showing Roberson's rebounding efficiency statistics (must be seen to be believed how many of all rebounding opportunities are claimed by Roberson) and THEN discussing comparable players. Further, Pomeroy then points out Roberson's pace-adjusted steal and blocked shot rates, which also are beyond impressive, if not "absurd."

However, the most interesting point discussed in Pomeroy's piece is WHY Roberson is so unknown, despite these remarkable efficiency statistics. Pomeroy posits Roberson's lack of blue-chip status, the fact that he was overshadowed by Burks and Higgins during CU's 2010-2011 season, and the fact that CU's offense last season didn't emphasize Roberson (nor should it have, with Burks and Higgins doing the heavy lifting on the scoring end.

But what Pomeroy does NOT speculate may be even greater. And there are two ways to look at this.

1. Efficiency statistics are not yet analyzed or even discussed by the mainstream media - read ESPN - and thus no matter HOW eye-popping Roberson's efficiency statistics are, the segment of the sports world who listens only, or even primarily, to the "worldwide leader" will never know the value of efficiency statistics in college basketball. Further, just as Billy Beane's unorthodox use of statistics were poo-poohed by the mainstream baseball world when he started using them and are now a part of (nearly) every team's scouting, it can be expected that Ken Pomeroy's brilliant analysis will similarly be embraced. Simply put, ESPN moves the college basketball needle more than anyone else, and as always, they are behind the curve. Talk to me in 2021 when efficiency statistics are so mainstream that the college basketball world laughs at the thought of ANYONE placing importance on a player leading the nation in scoring while playing for the rabbit-paced tempo of a novelty team such as US International or whoever the hell they were.

2. There is also the possibility that Roberson goes so unnoticed and underappreciated because the University of Colorado basketball program is irrelevant in the college basketball world... and makes little or no effort to become relevant. The appearances in the Maui tournament last year and the Puerto Rico tournament this year notwithstanding, CU's non-conference schedule - the part of the year when striving teams serve notice of their aspirations - is a joke. Its sports information department is regarded as inept within the industry, and its relationship with that entity that moves the needle - ESPN - never improves because the aforementioned inept sports information department continues to be insular and never finds a way to promote the great players that CU DOES have. Additionally, it's a 2010 world, and there are many opinion leaders on blogs, message boards, Twitter, etc., just like Ken Pomeroy. Does CU's sports information department embrace these buzz-makers? Nope - it sits idly by in a 1980's mentality, passing out paper statistics at halftime of games and failing to embrace those people (other than the worldwide leader) who really COULD build buzz for Andre Roberson... and for CU's program.

So when Andre Roberson inevitably becomes the star he is, he can blame two things that prevented that inevitability from presenting itself earlier. First, the underappreciation of efficiency statistics, such as those proffered by the brilliant Ken Pomeroy. And the backwards insular nature of CU's sports information department, which refuses to get onboard with modern methods of player and program promotion offered by the 2010's digital world.

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