November 03, 2009
Such is the conclusion from Big Ten Geeks (hat tip: Beyond The Arc), who set out to test Al McGuire's famous hypothesis that "the best thing about freshman is that they become sophomores." The Geeks decided to test the differences in statistical output (using tempo-free stats, naturally) between freshman and sophomore year, sophomores and juniors, and juniors and seniors. The result? Al McGuire was "absolutely right":
The big, overarching conclusion is this: a player shows the most improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons than he does any other offseason. In fact, the freshman offseason improvement is, on average, greater than the improvement between a player's sophomore season and his senior season. That's not to say every player follows this pattern. There are lots and lots of exceptions, and this is no hard-and-fast rule. It's just a remark about the averages.
This isn't all that helpful when trying to predict a specific player's development, because each player is a unique snowflake, and the results aren't some PECOTA-like projection system whittled down to account for the smallest player attributes. But as a general rule, this works well, and it means you can take a look at teams that relied heavily on freshmen for success in a prior year and posit that at least a few of those teams can expect a jump in wins in the new season. Those teams include obvious powers Kansas, Michigan State, but also sneakily interesting squads like West Virginia, Louisville, Minnesota and Washington.
Again, not a hard and fast rule, but certainly something to watch in 2009-10. Don't let us down, sophs.