Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2010-2011 Season in Review: Melsahn Basabe

Make no mistake. Melsahn Basabe looks to be a star. I still find it hard to believe that if Fran McCaffery hadn't been hired at Iowa, Basabe could have been dominating the MAAC last year. Instead, he was dominating the paint in one of the toughest basketball conferences in Division I. Iowa fans knew Basabe had some talent when he showed up in Iowa City and dominated the Prime Time League. Not that the Prime Time League is necessarily something you want to evaluate a player off of, as defense is not of much importance in the "pick up" style games that are played. So, expectations were still pretty tempered for Basabe coming into his freshman campaign. This is where his season became pretty much the opposite of Eric May's.

November was a pretty good month for Basabe, as he averaged 0.35 points per minute on a 54.29% eFG%. He also had a 10.19% offensive rebound rate and 21.43% defensive rebounding rate. If he kept those numbers up all season, nobody could have complained. Those are solid numbers, especially for a true freshman. However, Basabe wasn't fine with those numbers. Instead, he decided to up his scoring, shooting, and offensive rebounding. He finished the season averaging 0.45 points per minute (best on the team) on a 57.21% eFG% (also best on the team), pulling down 13.29% of all offensive and 19.83% of all defensive rebounds available while he was on the court. Those were his numbers as a freshman. Let me say that one more time. Basabe was only a freshman this year. If he keeps this up, he is going to be one of the best players to ever put on an Iowa jersey.

  • Scoring- Basabe was the best on the team at putting the ball in the basket this year. His 0.45 points per minute, was tied with Trevor Mbakwe for number 12 in the Big 10 this year. However, if you cut that list down to freshmen, Basabe came in fourth, behind only Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, and Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. Need I say more? Well, one more thing. A graph!
  •  Shooting- Not only did Basabe put the ball in the hoop at a fantastic rate. He also did it very efficiently. As I mentioned in the intro, his 57.21% eFG% was the best on the team. Not to mention, his 1.21 points per scoring attempt was also number one on the team this year. Whenever Basabe put's a shot up, especially in the paint, it's going to drop more often than not.
  • Rebounding- Basabe was the best rebounder on the team, who actually played a majority of the games (Archie was a rebounding machine when on the court). His 19.83% defensive rebounding rate finished sixth in the Big 10. His 13.29% offensive rebounding rate finished third in the Big 10. However, during conference play, Basabe stepped it up and came away with a 15.27% offensive rebounding rate, which was the best in the Big 10. Yeah. He was only a freshman.
  • Blocks- When you look at Basabe, one of the things you notice about him is his long arms. The man has a pretty good wingspan. So, it should not come as any surprise that he was one of the best in the conference at swatting away opponents shots this season. Basabe blocked 6.08% of all opponents shots, while he was on the court last year. That was good enough for fifth in the conference, behind only Dallas Lauderdale, Ralph Sampson III, Mike Tisdale, and JaJuan Johnson. Pretty good company, eh? 
  • Turnovers- Basabe had a bit of a problem giving the ball to the other team this year. His 22.1% was sixteenth worst in the conference. While it wasn't as bad as some of his teammates, it's still too high. A lot of times his turnover problems came from reacting way too late to double teams. The game at Illinois springs to mind. He needs to realize that other teams know that he is Iowa's best player. That means that he is going to see double teams when he catches the ball. He needs to get rid of the ball before that second man comes over and tries to trap him. Whether, that means him making a quick post move and putting up a shot, or kicking the ball out to an open teammate on the perimeter. The good news is, he has plenty of time to fix this.
  • Fouling- I could have labeled this inconsistency, as usually when he had his worst game, it was because he got in early foul trouble and took himself out of the game. When you get two fouls in the first half, you know Fran is going to yank you. Basabe is one of the the last players, that Iowa can afford to see come out of the game early. When he can string the big games together, without having one or two where he takes himself out of the equation, that will be when he takes the next step. Once again, he's young. He'll learn with experience. 

A good majority of Basabe's stats this year, all got better as he played tougher competition in conference play. Looking at scoring, Basabe went from averaging 0.38 points per minute in non-conference play, to 0.49 points per minute in conference play. He also shot much better (not that he wasn't already an efficient shooter in non-conference play), going from 1.13 points per scoring attempt to 1.25 points per scoring attempt. His points per scoring attempt jumped by 0.12, because in Big 10 play, he increased his eFG% by almost 4% up to 58.23%, compared to his 54.93% in non-conference play. Another thing that made his points per scoring attempt go up, was his free throw shooting. When you look at Basabe's free throw shooting by month, it's really quite odd. Take a look:

Basabe had an okay November (for a post player, that is), where he hit about 64% of his free throws. He then went on to have a terrible December (Iowa, as a whole, did too. Only making 60.31%), making about 53% of his free throws. Then, in January, something appeared to click with Basabe. He went on to sink about 81% of his free throws that month. It continued into February/March, where Basabe made almost 76% of his free throws. I hope he continues to put up over 70%, because he was one of the best at getting to the line for Iowa this year. If he can knock his free throws down too, opponents are going  to have a hard time stopping him.

Basabe is not the kind of post player that is going to take a shot from behind the three point arc. Instead, 65% of his shot attempts came in the paint last year. As a result, he got most of his value from points in the paint. However, he also got a pretty big chunk of his offensive value from the free throw line. 23.39% of his offensive value, to be exact.

His shooting stats all look pretty good. He was third best on the team in FG% in the paint, behind only Jarryd Cole and Devyn Marble. His FG% on two point shots outside the paint is also pretty damn good. Looking at post players, Jarryd Cole outshot Basabe from there by about 4%, but Basabe finished about 9% above Brommer and about 17% above Archie. Basabe's FG% on two point shots outside the paint, was also slightly higher than Cartwright, and much better than Eric May.

Moving on to rebounding. Basabe took a huge step in offensive rebounding from non-conference play to conference play. His 13.29% offensive rebounding rate finished number two in the Big 10, while his 15.27% conference play offensive rebounding rate, was number one, overall. His defensive rebounds stayed pretty consistent, as the competition got tougher. He finished the season sixth in defensive rebounding rate, overall, and seventh in conference play.

Looking at his blocks, Basabe was the best on the team. His season average block rate of 6.08% was number five in the Big 10 this year. His 5.48% block rate in Big 10 play, was good enough for sixth in the conference. Basabe went from having a pretty good season for a true freshman during non-conference play, to looking like a future star during conference play. I mean, when you start drawing double teams every game, you know you've arrived.

Expectations for Next Season:

What can we expect from Basabe next season, after what he did this season? Well, there is still room to grow when it comes to scoring. When I look at players based on points per minute, I've come up with a scale, to tell me how good of a scorer that player is (it may be a bit arbitrary, but it works for me). Anything over 0.50 points per minute, is one of the elite scorers in the Big 10. This year, that list included players like JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, John Leur, Talor Battle, Jared Sullinger, Christian Watford, etc. 0.40-0.50 points per minute, is a great scorer, but not quite part of the elite list. That list included Basabe, and players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Verdell Jones III, Trevor Mbakwe, Draymond Green, Demetri McCamey, etc. Then you have the third tier of scorers, who average 0.30-0.40 points per minute. They will go off for a bunch of points every once in a while, but they aren't going to do it as much as the players listed above. This list includes players like Iowa's own Bryce Cartwright, Jordan Hulls, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Blake Hoffarber, etc. All of that, was a long-winded way of saying that Basabe was in the second tier of Big 10 scorers this year. Next year, he could take a big step forward, and top 0.50 points per minute. He came very close in Big 10 play, finishing with 0.49 points per minute.

Rebounding-wise, it will probably be hard to top this year. He was the best offensive rebounder in the conference. He wasn't quite the best in defensive rebounding, but he was right around the top five. If he can top the 20% mark in defensive rebounding rate, he will be right inside the top five. Even if he doesn't improve, I just hope he can put up similar numbers next year.

One thing that Basabe could stand to improve on, turnovers. Turnovers tend to trend downward as a player gets more experience. So, look for Basabe to hopefully cut his turnovers down next year. 

Finally, consistency. Basabe was very dominating this season, but he still had games where he just disappeared. The final game of the season being a good example. He got himself in foul trouble early, and it took him out of the game. There's no telling how that game could have turned out, if Basabe hadn't made himself obsolete. A big part in becoming one of the elite players in the Big 10, is bringing it night in and night out. If he does that next year, he will join that elite rank of Big 10 players. He certainly has the talent, let's find out if he has the work ethic. Judging by his improvement throughout the 2010-2011 season, my guess is yes. So, get excited Iowa fans. He's only a sophomore next year.

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