Value Add: 15 Biggest Surprise Teams

If you are mulling over Warren Buffet’s offer to pay you $1 billion if you can fill out a perfect bracket, you may want to look at the 15 biggest surprises of the year and decide if you believe they are sleepers for the tournament or just over-performers. Two of the four D1 teams in Wisconsin have been dominant, and San Diego State, Utah, Cincinnati and Florida State are also among 15 teams that have been at least eight points better in Value Add than their projections.

(photo of Alec Brown courtesy of Green Bay Athletics)  

We run through these teams and then list of all 54 teams that are at least four points better than their projections. For the first 15 teams, we list the players who have been the big overachievers. For example, Wisconsin Green Bay’s Alec Brown has a 902/147, meaning the 7-foot-1 NBA prospect projected to be the 902nd best player out of 4000 but has actually been 147th so far. A more detailed explanation of the math is included at the bottom for my fellow stat nerds.

Here are the 15 big overachievers so far (at least eight points better than projected) followed by a table of all 54 teams who are at least four points better than expected.

1, Wisconsin Green Bay, Alec Brown 902/147, Keifer Sykes 168/9, Vincent Garrett 1324/408. The Wisconsin Badgers are not the only team in the state playing great basketball, as Green Bay only lost to them by three and beat Virginia behind the play of 7-foot-1 NBA prospect Alec Brown. Green Bay is 15-3 and the fifth best shot-blocking team in the country. However, the team's beat player has been 5-foot-11 Sykes who is averaging 20 points and six assists during the current 10-game winning streak.

2, Eastern Michigan, Glen Bryant 1522/53, Karrington Ward 2459/74, DaShonte Riley 536/197.  Arkansas transfer Bryant has been unbelievable, and even though he was limited to nine minutes in his last game he had enough to throw down a crucial dunk to wrap up the win.

3, San Diego St., Xavier Thames 758/13, Winston Shepard 914/346. Thames is finally playing like an All-American in his senior year, and during the current 15-game winning streak he averaged 23 points and hit 20 of 23 free throws away from home against Kansas, Marquette and Creighton.

4, Utah, Delon White 1771/1, Renan Lenz 2015/563. Junior College transfer White's stunning rise to No. 1 in the Value Add ratings may not hold up - but he had 11 assists, 4 blocked shots and 9 steals in wins against USC and UCLA last week.

5, Cincinnati, Sean Kilpatrick 57/10, Justin Jackson 753/33, Troy Caupain 1383/295. Kilpatrick and Jackson have been awesome to make Cincinnati the only team besides Syracuse and Wisconsin with two of the top 33 players in the country.

6, Nebraska Omaha, John Karhoff NR/254, CJ Carter NR/850, Matt Hagerbaumer 1681/340.  Karhoff and Carter have propelled Nebraska Omaha from being one of the worst 50 teams in the country to potentially one of the top 100.

7, UC Santa Barbara, Kyle Boswell 706/220, Taran Brown NR/788. Brown has hit 65% of his 2-pointers and Boswell has hit 47% of his 3-pointers for a team that upset Cal.

8, Stephen F. Austin, Nikola Gajic 2304/205, Jacob Parker 1394/26. Parker is a leader in almost every stat at www.kenpom.com to lead Stephen F. Austin on a 13-game winning streak.

9, Cleveland St., Jon Harris 1376/211, Marlin 1464/470. Most great Cleveland State players have been guards (Norris Cole ranked No. 3 in 2011) but the 6-foot-7 Harris is doing it by hitting 76% of his 2-pointers while being one of the top shot blockers and defensive rebounders in the game.

10, North Carolina Central, Emanuel Chapman 924/120, Jay Copeland 1871/577. Balanced play led to respectable showings at Cincinnati and Wichita State and an upset at NC State.

11, Florida St., Aaron Thomas 2790/72, Ian Miller 910/69, Boris Bojanovsky 970/318. Thomas and Miller make Florida State one of only 20 teams with two top 100 players, and this team is playing even better than the great teams from 2009-2012 with a 4-2 ACC mark. Both losses came to UVa.

12, Wisconsin, Frank Kaminsky 415/15, Ben Brust 42/24. We knew Sam Dekker would be awesome, but Kaminski and Brust make the Badgers the only team with three top 100 players. The Badgers finally lost to Indiana and Michigan to fall to 16-2.

13, Charleston Southern, Sheldon Strickland NR/696, Matt Kennedy NR/643.  Still not a very good team, but guards Strickland and Kennedy have come out of nowhere to give the Buccaneers a big upset at Delaware and single digit losses at Baylor and Florida State.

14, Clemson, KJ McDaniels 333/27, Rod Hall 1950/322.  McDaniels finally started playing like a future NBA forward, and Hood gave plenty of help in the 4-1 start - though these numbers do not include Tuesday night's 76-43 blowout loss at Pitt.

15, Louisiana Lafayette, Shawn Long 817/44, Elfrid Payton 113/31, Payton (27 points against Arkansas and 20 against Baylor) has played every bit like a future NBA point guard, and Long has been almost as good. Long scored 25 against Louisville.

Here are all 54 teams that have been at least four points better than expected:

Rnk Team Conf Projected Proj/STDEV Actual Overperform
1 Wisconsin Green Bay Horz 10.11 10.05 21.80 11.75
2 Eastern Michigan MAC 7.72 8.47 19.97 11.50
3 San Diego St. MWC 13.76 12.47 23.90 11.43
4 Utah P12 9.63 9.73 20.88 11.15
5 Cincinnati Amer 19.39 16.19 26.63 10.44
6 Nebraska Omaha Sum 1.47 4.33 14.73 10.40
7 UC Santa Barbara BW 7.97 8.63 18.42 9.79
8 Stephen F. Austin Slnd 6.19 7.45 17.16 9.71
9 Cleveland St. Horz 7.76 8.49 17.96 9.47
10 North Carolina Central MEAC 6.57 7.70 16.84 9.14
11 Florida St. ACC 19.82 16.48 25.41 8.93
12 Wisconsin B10 29.77 23.07 31.79 8.72
13 Charleston Southern BSth 11.58 11.02 19.51 8.49
14 Clemson ACC 11.86 11.21 19.46 8.25
15 Louisiana Lafayette SB 9.26 9.49 17.50 8.01
16 Tennessee SEC 18.23 15.43 23.33 7.90
17 Youngstown St. Horz 8.25 8.82 16.31 7.49
18 Northern Colorado BSky 5.08 6.72 14.13 7.41
19 Canisius MAAC 7.83 8.54 15.79 7.25
20 IUPU Fort Wayne Sum 1.11 4.09 11.08 6.99
21 Toledo MAC 5.90 7.26 14.17 6.91
22 George Washington A10 11.49 10.96 17.73 6.77
23 Wichita St. MVC 18.86 15.84 22.48 6.64
24 Iowa St. B12 22.54 18.28 24.70 6.42
25 American Pat 1.50 4.35 10.70 6.35
26 Massachusetts A10 15.51 13.63 19.84 6.21
27 Creighton BE 21.35 17.49 23.57 6.08
28 Villanova BE 24.09 19.31 25.27 5.96
29 Manhattan MAAC 11.53 10.99 16.95 5.96
30 East Carolina CUSA 5.63 7.08 12.66 5.58
31 Columbia Ivy 3.53 5.69 11.13 5.44
32 Drake MVC 4.59 6.39 11.79 5.40
33 Northern Illinois MAC 0.19 3.48 8.86 5.38
34 Ohio MAC 6.34 7.55 12.79 5.24
35 Penn St. B10 3.00 5.34 10.54 5.20
36 Fairleigh Dickinson NEC 0.01 3.36 8.52 5.16
37 Pepperdine WCC 4.64 6.43 11.50 5.07
38 Arizona St. P12 14.26 12.80 17.80 5.00
39 Radford BSth 4.32 6.21 11.14 4.93
40 Valparaiso Horz 1.76 4.52 9.39 4.87
41 Virginia Military Inst BSth 5.11 6.74 11.56 4.82
42 Mercer ASun 10.49 10.30 15.11 4.81
43 Sam Houston St. Slnd 3.14 5.43 10.23 4.80
44 Oregon P12 18.18 15.39 20.09 4.70
45 Iowa B10 26.80 21.10 25.76 4.66
46 Pittsburgh ACC 26.41 20.84 25.41 4.57
47 Temple Amer 5.76 7.17 11.67 4.50
48 New Mexico St. WAC 14.67 13.07 17.54 4.47
49 Indiana St. MVC 10.94 10.60 15.03 4.43
50 Southern SWAC 6.84 7.88 12.29 4.41
51 Wyoming MWC 10.09 10.04 14.37 4.33
52 Belmont OVC 11.89 11.23 15.49 4.26
53 Bowling Green MAC 7.26 8.16 12.32 4.16
54 Miami FL ACC 6.19 7.45 11.46 4.01

For my fellow stat nerds, here is the math behind the adjusted Projected Value Add based on a much lower Standard Deviation this season.

The average preseason Projected Value Add and the Actual Value Add through last week were both within a point of 9.9 per team. However, the next rules seem to have lessened the gap between “good” and “great” teams and players. Therefore the standard deviation per team is actually 6.41 on the actual ratings compared to 9.67 in the projected. Therefore we took each team’s Projected Value Add’s deviation from 9.93 and divided it by 1.51 to get the adjusted Projected Value Add.


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