Top 10 Value Add Players Deliver Upsets for S. Carolina, Michigan; ‘Home’ Edge Tourney Key

Duane Wilson

Skeptics abounded after the March 11 announcement that South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell passed Kansas’ Frank Mason and Villanova’s Josh Hart as the Most Valuable Player in college basketball according to the rankings. However, there may not be many doubters after his third three-pointer Sunday put South Carolina ahead of Duke 42-41, and was part of a 53-point weekend that denied Marquette and Duke a trip to the Sweet 16 in New York.

Thornwell dominated inside and out on both offense and defense, denying two of the top 10 offenses (Marquette and Duke) a trip to the Sweet 16 as he scored 29 against Marquette and 24 against Duke in front of a virtual home crowd in Greenville, South Carolina.

While six of eight favorites won on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16, the other upset was another 7-seed led by a top 10 Value Add player over a 2-seed ACC team. Michigan’s Derrick Walton only scored 10 points, but dished out six of the team’s 11 assists without a single turnover, and at 6-foot-1 added a team high seven rebounds in the stunning 73-69 win over Louisville.

The top 10 players in the Sweet 16 according to Value Add are the following, with their rank among all 4,000+ players:

Season Rank Player Team Value Add v5.0 Pts/Game
1 Sindarius Thornwell #0 (+1 if all season) South Carolina 11.75
3 Frank Mason #0 Kansas 11.21
5 Nigel Williams-Goss #5 Gonzaga 10.77
8 Derrick Walton #10 Michigan 9.58
10 Lonzo Ball #2 UCLA 9.44
11 Ethan Happ #22 Wisconsin 9.38
17 Caleb Swanigan #50 Purdue 9.08
18 Johnathan Motley #5 Baylor 8.94
20 Jevon Carter #2 West Virginia 8.72
23 Lauri Markkanen #10 Arizona 8.58

The wins by South Carolina and UCLA in their home states left the “venue” bracket that accounts for teams allowed to play close to home as the most successful of the brackets posted before the tournament. Each was entered into the ESPN bracket challenge to track results:

  1. Venue 93rd percentile – adjusts the KenPom rating based on if a particular team was given a tournament site close to home where they will have an advantage. It picks Gonzaga to win, but if Arizona were to upset them in the Elite 8 then Arizona would play the Final Four in their home state.
  2. NBA 90th – indicates the team with the most NBA talent – based on how many players they have and how high they are likely to go in the next two drafts – and once again that would make Kentucky the champion.
  3. Match-up 90th – (see breakdown South, Midwest, West and East Summaries) goes picks the underdog if they get high steals against a team that gives up many steals, or hits three-pointers at a high rate against a team that allows three-pointers. It gives Gonzaga the title.
  4. Healthy 79th – adjusts the KenPom rating in No. 3 above with adjustments for any players who is now injured or has actually made the team better by returning during the season. That value is determined by the players ranking at
  5. Vegas 72nd – is based on the team given the best percentage chance of winning the title in Vegas beating each new opponent – in this case click on Villanova 5 times to have them lose to UNC in the title game.
  6. Overall 72nd – is a combination of the other bracket processes, and picked Gonzaga to win the title.
  7. Coach 72nd – adjusts the KenPom rating for coaches with history of success in the tournament.
  8. Experience 57th – adjust the KenPom rating by how experienced the team is – also determined by
  9. Top 3 Players 49th – is based on a theory by Al McGuire that it takes 3 1/2 stars to win a championship. The top players can be more important than deep benches in the tournament, so this ranks teams based on the best three players each team has according to, and if it comes to the top three players Villanova would be on six lines as the champion.
  10. Hot 41st – adjusts KenPom for how much they have improved or declined in their KenPom rating over the past month.


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