Iowa State Basketball: Is Jamie Vanderbeken The Most Valuable Player On The Cyclones?

I was taking a look at basketball-reference.com, and looking at the win share distribution of the Cyclones, and saw that Jamie Vanderbeken is leading the Cyclones in Win Shares with 3.9 through 24 games, followed by Ejim with 2.8, Anderon with 2.6, Scotty with 2.6, DG with 2.5, Godfrey with 1.7, Bubu with 0.9, and Railey with 0.8. These numbers will change as the season continues along, so they are not final.

What are win shares, you ask? They are a statistical attempt to quantify how many wins an individual contributes to their team. To keep the article brief, I won't bore you with all of the technical details on how it is calculated, but if you are interested, you can read here.

Are win shares accurate? The way to check to see if it is close, is to sum the win shares for each player and see if it sums to the total wins for the team. For the Cyclones thus far, the sum of the players win shares is 18, while the Cyclones have won only 14 games this year. Ouch. If we go back to the previous season, the sum of the individual win shares was about 17, and the Cyclones won 15 games.  If we go back to the 2008-09 season, the sum of the individuals was 15 wins, and the team won 15 games. 

Going back to the question on whether they are accurate, I would say it generally is pretty close, however, there are variances with specific teams from year to year.

What is a good total? I was unable to find guidance or distributions anywhere, so I contacted the basketball reference guy. He told me that for players in 2009-10 who played 28 games or more the top quartile of players had a win share of 2.8 and above (8.8 was the highest), 2 is average, 1.5 he called subpar, while less than 1 he said was bad.

Anyhow, is it possible that Jamie Vanderbeken has contributed about 4 wins for the Cyclones? Let's take a look.  Well, if he doesn't make that shot against Creighton, Iowa State may not have won that game, so that's one game. Against Virginia, he was the lead scorer on the team, and tied for the most rebounds. Scotty played well in that one too, but Jamie was the star of that game. With Baylor, he made half of the team's 3s (the difference in the game), while Perry Jones was limited to just 10 points. In the Oklahoma State and Kansas State games, he played well, and those were games we should have won.

On the flip side, when we look at games that Jamie did not play so well in (UNI, Cal, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado), the team did not play well either. Had he played better in those games, the outcome would have likely been different in the UNI, Cal, and Oklahoma games without a doubt.

It's hard to say with confidence that Jamie is indeed the most valuable player on the team. I think most would argue it is Diante Garrett followed by Scotty. Jamie just does not pass the eye test for most, because of the way he plays. That said, he is a guy who is shooting 43% from beyond the arc with 133 three point attempts, along with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks/game.

This is what I love about statistics. It can make you look at things that you may not realize due to your own bias on preconceived notions. Do I put Jamie as the MVP on the team this year? Probably not. But I do think what the statistics show is he contributes a lot more to the team's successes than what the typical fan may think, and that somebody could make the argument that he is.

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