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College to NBA:
Which Conferences deliver?

by Roland Beech, 82games.com

[Thanks to an assist from the wonderful Basketball-Reference.com web site, I gathered together the last twenty NBA Drafts (1989-2008) with an array of intended analysis in mind.]

Recently I looked at performance of drafted players by College, which generated a fair amount of response, much of it negative! Yes the sample sizes were trivial, yes Dwyane Wade singlehandedly propelled Marquette to #3 status...yes I said up front it was more for entertainment than anything else. The next step on the college front is to group the schools by conferences, where at least we start getting some healthy samples.

Note: Colleges are grouped by their current conference regardless of which conference(s) they may have been associated with in the past.

To recap a few principles, since B-R provides career games, and then per game points, rebounds, assists and minutes, I have gone with an admittedly highly simplistic look on things with:
Rating = points/game + rebounds/game + assists/game

Why use this definition? It's the data I have easily on hand, which while not a good player rating system is a decent wag for these purposes. Then I group players as follows (including a new category for this):

  • Superstar -- 30+ rating
  • Star -- 20+ rating
  • Solid -- 15 to 19.9
  • Role Player -- 10 to14.9
  • Deep Bench -- 5 to 9.9
  • Complete Bust -- less than 5
  • DNP -- (never played in the NBA)
Keep in mind the stats are career per game averages so lower than the peak performance years of a player. Moreover, there is also strong bias against the recent years as some newly drafted players may well spike up their career 'standing' with more years under the belt.

To calculate value I compare the Player's career stats to the average stats for his draft pick number. For example, Kobe Bryant averages 25.0 pts per game for his career, but the average for a #13 pick (including Kobe) is just 9.8 pts per game so his year gets credit for +15.2 points per game for his pick and so on.

Pick Performance vs. Expected (+/-)
College
Picks
Gms
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Gms
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Super
Star
Solid
RoleP
DeepB
Bust
DNP
 America East 1 791 15.0 7.4 1.9 24.3 394 5.7 3.5 0.0 9.1 1
 Northeast 2 66 5.9 2.3 2.3 10.4 -11 3.5 0.9 1.7 6.1 1 1
 Big Sky 2 52 6.7 2.8 2.0 11.4 -150 2.6 0.9 1.1 4.7 1 1
 Mid-Eastern 1 357 4.3 3.1 0.3 7.7 217 0.9 1.6 -0.4 2.2 1
 Atlantic Sun 2 304 5.6 1.3 1.9 8.7 121 1.3 -0.6 1.1 1.8 1 1
 Atlantic 10 41 305 6.2 3.1 1.4 10.6 56 0.6 0.5 0.2 1.3 7 5 8 8 6 7
 Southern 4 269 6.5 2.1 1.4 10.0 47 1.2 -0.2 0.2 1.1 1 1 2
 Pac 10 114 259 6.5 2.7 1.6 10.7 -7 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.6 1 17 11 25 34 16 10
 WAC 22 195 4.7 2.4 1.1 8.2 -12 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.5 4 3 9 2 4
 Big East 137 294 6.8 3.1 1.3 11.2 17 0.3 0.3 -0.1 0.5 3 17 19 30 36 18 14
 Big West 7 406 6.2 3.1 0.7 9.9 199 0.4 0.4 -0.5 0.4 1 1 2 1 1 1
 Community C's 9 220 4.9 2.5 0.7 8.1 -6 0.3 0.3 -0.2 0.4 2 3 2 2
 SEC 100 270 6.1 2.9 1.2 10.2 12 0.1 0.2 -0.1 0.3 1 11 12 26 20 15 15
 ACC 138 348 7.1 3.0 1.6 11.8 45 0.1 -0.1 0.1 0.2 7 16 22 22 40 18 13
 West Coast 9 275 5.5 1.7 2.0 9.2 26 -0.1 -0.6 0.7 0.0 1 1 2 1 2 2
 Summit 5 137 3.7 1.0 1.4 6.0 -18 0.2 -0.8 0.6 -0.1 1 2 1 1
 Missouri Valley 9 154 5.0 1.6 0.9 7.5 -31 0.4 -0.5 -0.1 -0.1 1 1 3 3 1
 Big Ten 100 282 6.4 2.6 1.3 10.2 10 0.0 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 1 15 10 14 33 15 12
 no college 191 177 5.3 2.5 0.9 8.7 -55 -0.1 0.1 -0.2 -0.3 8 16 20 26 36 27 58
 Conf. USA 32 267 5.4 2.3 1.3 9.0 37 -0.2 -0.2 0.1 -0.3 4 3 4 9 7 5
 Colonial 8 252 4.0 2.0 0.8 6.9 50 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 -0.3 2 1 2 3
 Independent 1 15 2.7 2.1 0.1 4.9 -95 -0.1 0.4 -0.6 -0.4 1
 Ohio Valley 11 148 3.2 1.8 0.6 5.7 -13 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 -0.7 1 2 3 1 4
 Big 12 95 221 5.5 2.3 1.3 9.1 -35 -0.4 -0.4 0.0 -0.7 1 9 9 18 30 12 16
 Metro 5 36 3.7 1.7 0.5 5.9 -136 -0.2 -0.2 -0.3 -0.7 1 1 2 1
 Horizon 7 205 4.4 1.6 1.1 7.1 -10 -0.2 -0.6 0.1 -0.7 2 3 1 1
 Mountain West 33 358 7.1 3.6 1.3 12.0 18 -0.7 0.1 -0.2 -0.8 1 6 4 6 10 2 4
 Ivy 2 83 2.5 1.3 1.0 4.7 -48 -0.6 -0.6 0.2 -0.9 1 1
 Other 28 114 3.4 1.3 0.9 5.5 -52 -0.6 -0.6 0.0 -1.2 1 3 11 5 8
 Mid American 7 351 6.5 3.3 1.3 11.1 7 -1.1 -0.1 -0.3 -1.5 2 2 2 1
 Sun Belt 9 212 2.9 1.5 0.8 5.2 45 -1.2 -0.4 -0.2 -1.8 2 2 2 3
 Southland 2 325 2.6 3.5 0.5 6.6 75 -2.9 1.1 -0.9 -2.7 1 1
 Southwestern 6 156 2.8 1.2 0.7 4.7 -39 -2.2 -0.9 -0.5 -3.6 1 2 3
 Patriot 1 728 4.1 4.7 0.5 9.3 331 -5.2 0.8 -1.4 -5.9 1

It's no suprise that conferences providing one or two players in the last twenty years would stand as both the best and worst, but when we start moving into conferences with many players drafted in the NBA, we find the top 'value picks' overall come from the Atlantic 10 group. Odom, David West, Camby, Mobley, Eddie Jones, Jameer Nelson, along with solid role players like McKie, Posey, Delonte West, Tyrone Hill. On the downside, no superstars.

The PAC 10 doesn't always get the most respect 17 stars and 1 superstar (Arenas, with Kidd at 29.9 a hair off career superstar status by this simplistic rating scheme...). Roy, Baron Davis, Payton, Bibby, Mayo...hmmm, lots of point guards and 1/2 types!

The Big East has three superstars to its credit (Iverson, Wade, Carmelo) and loads of other notables, including some fine big men in Mourning, Okafor, and Mutombo.

No conference though has thrown more superstars to the NBA than the ACC with Duncan, Vince Carter, Paul, Brand, Bosh, Marbury and Grant Hill coming in at 30+ ratings. While Danny Ferry and Shelden Williams are the only two top five picks from the ACC (among 22 total) that have been huge disappointments, you do see a lot of busts in the picks taken nine and higher: Montross, Hammonds, Langdon, Redick, Fuller, Parks, Avery, Edwards, Simmons, Troy Bell to name a few. Which is why the conference doesn't come in higher in the value standings.

Now an obvious complaint with the table above could be that by including higher picks you water down the results, so I've rerun it looking only at Top 20 Picks and limiting it to conferences with 5+ high selections:

Top 20 Picks Only! Pick Performance vs. Expected (+/-)
College
Picks
Gms
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Gms
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Super
Star
Solid
RoleP
DeepB
Bust
DNP
 Atlantic 10 16 525 9.7 4.9 2.1 16.7 121 0.7 1.1 0.3 2.1 6 4 3 1 2
 Pac 10 43 411 10.4 3.7 2.8 16.9 -23 0.6 -0.3 0.8 1.0 17 8 8 8 2
 Conf. USA 8 463 11.2 3.9 3.1 18.2 24 0.3 -0.7 1.0 0.6 4 1 1 2
 SEC 32 482 10.4 4.5 1.8 16.7 51 0.4 0.3 -0.2 0.5 1 9 6 12 4
 Big East 54 419 10.2 4.5 1.6 16.3 -6 0.2 0.3 -0.4 0.1 3 15 9 15 9 3
 no college 53 339 9.8 4.6 1.5 15.9 -87 0.0 0.3 -0.3 0.0 8 6 11 11 11 4 2
 Mountain West 19 538 9.9 4.9 1.9 16.7 87 -0.4 0.4 -0.1 -0.1 1 6 3 4 5
 ACC 66 461 10.1 4.1 2.1 16.3 23 -0.1 -0.2 0.0 -0.3 7 13 16 10 15 5
 Big Ten 36 492 10.4 3.9 2.1 16.4 55 -0.1 -0.4 0.1 -0.4 1 12 7 7 7 2
 Big 12 35 376 9.4 3.8 2.0 15.2 -51 -0.2 -0.3 0.0 -0.4 1 8 7 9 9 1
 Mid American 5 476 8.5 4.0 1.7 14.2 53 -0.6 0.0 -0.1 -0.7 2 2 1
 WAC 6 214 7.0 3.3 0.8 11.0 -168 -0.9 -0.2 -0.7 -1.8 3 3

Things don't change much, with the Atlantic 10 once again landing top billing.


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