If you've been following me for very long, you know there are some things I am not (football recruiting guy) and some things I unequivocally am (history guy). One of the things I definitely am is a stats guy. That's not to say I worship the numbers. I dearly love certain players despite their stats telling me I probably shouldn't. However, I was the kid growing up who would read the back of baseball cards and marvel at the fact that Kenny Lofton stole 75 bases with the Indians in '96 while being caught just 17 times and then stole just 27 bases and was caught 20 times the following year in Atlanta. What's up with that?
Basketball, like baseball, is a great stats game. Unfortunately for college hoops, comprehensive statistics aren't easily available prior to 2010 or so. The good news for the 'Cats is that 2010 happens to coincide with the program's resurgence. Mick Cronin first piloted Cincinnati to the Big Dance back in the 2010-11 season, meaning we have deep stats for the entirety of the Mick Cronin Tournament Era (MCTE), as I've been calling it.
Recently I dug up a bunch of random oddities from this period. Did you know that Cheikh Mbodj once played 31 minutes without attempting a shot? Did you know that the player with the most points scored in a regulation game other than Sean Kilpatrick was JaQuon Parker? Did you know that the most dominant offensive rebounding performance came from Jermaine Sanders?
During this process I stumbled across Cheikh Mbodj's senior season. His stat line was awesome, but it made me want to pinpoint the most underrated season of the MCTE. For my methodology, I looked at the top 3-5 players from each of the past few seasons and set my parameters based on them. I wanted to find the core players from the last eight seasons and go down the list until I thought "Huh, nobody talks about how great X player was as a sophomore."
Here's my criteria. It's pretty arbitrary, but this is my blog. If you come up with different criteria and it leads you to a different player, let me know! This is all subjective.
- Win Shares >= 3. Win shares are kind of a cool stat. You can read about them here. Basically the idea is that you can kinda calculate, through raw statistics, how many "wins" a player is worth over the course of the season. For example: Gary Clark was worth 7.8 Win Shares this past season. That is an insane number. If we're going to find an "underrated" player, we gotta lower the bar. I settled on 3 because that encompasses the Top 5 (with Broome over Jenifer) from this past season.
- Box Plus/Minus >= 5. This calculates how many points per 100 possessions a player contributed compared to an average player on an average team. Like Win Shares, 5 here is nothing earth shattering. Good players will give you double digits and the defensive side of things can nearly get negative offensive players to 5 in this category. Again, I settled on 5 BPM because it encompasses the Top 5 players from 2017-18.
- Effective FG% >= 50%. This was my final bit of criteria. This just knocks out players who aren't efficient enough for my standards. Again, an eFG% of 50% is nothing incredible. However we aren't looking for incredible, and I think this is a pretty fair baseline for a sufficiently efficient player.
I crunched the numbers (pressed Enter) and waited for the results before anxiously scanning the list for something that jumped out. There was a clear answer.
And our winner is ... Farad Cobb. I think his senior season in 2015-16 was the most underrated season of the Mick Cronin Tournament Era. Look at his company on this list: Gary Clark (x4), Sean Kilpatrick (x3), Jacob Evans (x2), Octavius Ellis (x2), Justin Jackson, Yancy Gates, Troy Caupain, Jarron Cumberland, and Cane Broome. (Honestly, Broome would've been a good candidate for this award if his season hadn't ended a month ago. Hard to feel underrated when we all just watched it happen and loved his contribution to the team.)
Cobb easily feels like the most overlooked on this list. Consider this:
- He was second on the team in scoring behind Troy Caupain.
- He played just 26.8 minutes per night.
- His 39.4% from deep is #4 in the MCTE behind seasons from Jacob Evans, Troy Caupain, and JaQuon Parker.
- He produced an estimated 286 points in 2015-16, more than potential 1st round draft pick Jacob Evans did that season.
- In the MCTE, a Bearcat has made six three-pointers in a game just 15 times. Here are the ones to do it multiple times: Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright, and Farad Cobb (three times total; twice in 2015-16).
- His best game that season saw him score 21 points in just 27 minutes against Tulsa. There are just a few guys to do that in the MCTE, and only Jarron Cumberland and Kyle Washington have done it since.
Was Cobb the best player on that team? No. He had his fair share of defensive shortcomings and wasn't the most efficient scorer at the end of the day. But when looking at the core pieces over the last eight seasons, I think he's the one that gets the least credit. His contributions that season were a major reason behind Cincinnati's tournament berth that the sports gods desperately tried to prevent with a series of heartbreaking losses.
Also I'd tweet "COBBOOM" (number of Os may vary) when he made threes, and that was fun.