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Username Post: Why the stupid 2016 class argument needs to stop...        (Topic#21116)
mrjames 
Professor
Posts: 5236

Loc: Montclair, NJ
Reg: 11-21-04
02-06-18 06:09 PM - Post#246440    

Been seeing more and more recently iterations of the same dumb comment: "Harvard had a Top 10 recruiting class in 2016, why is it not dominating the league?" Others will take it a step further and use it as ammunition that recruiting rankings are worthless.

That's absolutely ridiculous. Looking at win shares (merely efficiency ratings plus minutes/poss played to measure contribution to overall wins), Harvard's historic 2016 class has performed, well, historically.

I've got 500 team-class-year combos in my database all the way back to 2002-03. The most productive single team-class-year combo is (unsurprisingly) Cornell's 2009-10 senior class, which posted 21.9 win shares. Their junior season is second at 18.7 win shares and soph one was fourth at 14.5.

18th on that list and top frosh class was 2016-17 Harvard at 11.1 win shares. Next two highest frosh classes were that Cornell group again (9.3 - 30th) and Harvard in 2009-10 (9.2 - 32nd).

This year, even without Bryce Aiken hitting a full win share, the Harvard soph class is leading the league with 7.4 win shares (pacing toward roughly the same number as last year, another Top 20 season and either the second or third most productive soph class campaign of the past 16 seasons).

The problem is that at 1.8 win shares Harvard is getting less productivity out of its junior class than any team except Brown and Dartmouth. With 0.6 win shares, Harvard is getting less out of its freshman class than any team but Cornell, and at 0.1 win shares it is getting less out of its senior class than any other Ivy (to be fair though, the senior class has been pretty bad - none in the top 7 win share team-classes and five of the worst 11 team-classes are senior classes).

The narratives out there are just so lazy. Harvard's 2016 entry class probably won't catch Cornell's 2010 grad class, but at current pacing should easily finish somewhere in the currently wide zone between 1 and 2. Here's the Top 10 best graduating classes in terms of win shares accumulated over the four years:

V1 V2 WSTotal Rank
COR 2010 64.4 1
PENN 2007 45.3 2
HAR 2015 44.0 3
PRIN 2017 38.8 4
PRIN 2013 37.2 5
HAR 2013 36.1 6
YALE 2015 35.2 7
COM 2016 34.0 8
BU 2017 27.8 9
COM 2008 27.5 10
HAR 2020 18.5 30 (2 1/3 years left to go)

 
SomeGuy 
Postdoc
Posts: 4583

Reg: 11-22-04
Re: Why the stupid 2016 class argument needs to stop...
02-06-18 10:39 PM - Post#246679    
    In response to mrjames

I guess i’m struggling with why win shares answers this question. Harvard’s soph class has super high win shares because there are 7 of them who play regularly when healthy, including 4 starters. As you point out, the classes around them are void. To me, that means they eat up a higher percentage of their team’s win shares, and therefore get a higher total. Why does that prove them to be good, and/or show they shouldn’t be dominating?

There is still time this year, so I don’t want to say that they’re a kenpom 190 team that finishes 3rd in the league. But right now, that’s where they are in pomeroy, so let’s go with it. If they finish as a 3rd place team, why do win shares prove anything about the class? The Cornell team you mention won the league as sophs. So did Allen/Maloney/Trice/Moore /Kegler. So did a couple cycles of Princeton guys I choose not to remember by name. In a weak league, with top 100 recruits playing a lot of the minutes, I don’t see why total win shares proves any point about the class. To me, they really should be good enough almost by definition to easily win a league with nobody above 140 in pomeroy as sophs.

 
mrjames 
Professor
Posts: 5236

Loc: Montclair, NJ
Reg: 11-21-04
Re: Why the stupid 2016 class argument needs to stop...
02-07-18 09:15 AM - Post#246696    
    In response to SomeGuy

Win shares are a pretty solid metric here. It's reasonable that without the sophomores that Harvard would be stuck on about three wins.

Remember that you can play a lot and really not generate any wins or win shares at all. Playing time is obviously important for metrics that sum, not average, but to get any credit at all, you actually have to do something with the time. (Rio Haskett has negative win shares, Christian Juzang has negative offensive win shares, so does Henry Welsh).

Speaking to 2008 Cornell, it won an awful edition of our league (that and the next one it won were the two worst of the Pomeroy era). If it didn't have Lou Dale (akin to Harvard not having Bryce Aiken) it'd probably be pretty close to where Harvard is right now. It also happened to get a stronger contribution from the upper classes (7 win shares from juniors and seniors). But 2008 Cornell would have only been a slight favorite to win this year's league even at full strength.

Part of this also seems to me that we've forgotten HOW weak this league used to be. Even in an off year, we're better than every year in the aughts except for 2002-03 (and we're neck and neck there). The 2008 and 2009 years were an absolute joke.

If Harvard had a seven man class in 2016 that had a few Top 25 kids and a couple more Top 100 kids, we'd be having a different conversation. Expected output grows exponentially to the top of the rankings, so a class like that should dominate this league. The point is that there was a gaudy win share number projected for this class to hit - one which people generally dismissed as the product of a flawed model - and this class is progressing solidly toward that projected number.

 
PennFan10 
PhD Student
Posts: 1727

Reg: 02-15-15
02-07-18 03:05 PM - Post#246758    
    In response to mrjames

It seems to me there are two parts to the statement. Part 1 is about having a top 10 recruiting class nationally, part 2 is about dominating the league.

Your explanation focuses on part 2. Seth Towns, Aiken and Lewis are stars. Bassey is very good. Robert Baker is a no show in that class and Henry Welsh is a footnote at this point. The strategy to aim high in recruiting has it's drawbacks and this year is an example. If you miss on 2 seasons sandwiched around a great class, it seems to me this is what might happen (caution: story still not finished).

North Carolina, whose recruiting class was rated below Harvard's for 2016, gets top 10/15 classes every year. If we, as a league, are going to be taking the next step, we need Harvard (and then Penn/Princeton/Yale...etc) to continue this trend and get more of these types of recruits consistently. You have to start somewhere and Amaker and company have blazed a new trail in Ivy League recruiting. I am on record as saying I strongly believe this will benefit the entire league over time and get us into the top 10 among conferences.

 
mrjames 
Professor
Posts: 5236

Loc: Montclair, NJ
Reg: 11-21-04
02-07-18 04:14 PM - Post#246775    
    In response to PennFan10

Yeah, for all the buzz about the 2016 class, Jaelin and Noah are currently performing at a level that is a step above where any of those 2016ers were coming in.

The 2016 Ivy class is still much, much better than the 2018 class, but my goodness are Jaelin and Noah scary good.

 
SomeGuy 
Postdoc
Posts: 4583

Reg: 11-22-04
Re: Why the stupid 2016 class argument needs to stop...
02-07-18 04:14 PM - Post#246776    
    In response to mrjames

But what exactly is win shares a good metric of? Harvard might have only 3 wins without the sophs, but so what? How does that answer the question of whether they “should” have more? I think your later responses go more to that.

Even with players being able to generate negative win shares, if by senior year the rotation is the 7 2016 recruits, they are going to have a high win share total even if they are finishing 3rd in the league. In other words, the argument of the lack of quality classes around them cuts both ways — it can inflate their win shares without necessarily meaning anything other than they got to play the most minutes. To me, that means it just doesn’t answer the question of where a group of 4 top 100 recruits ought to be.

Edited by SomeGuy on 02-07-18 04:16 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
mrjames 
Professor
Posts: 5236

Loc: Montclair, NJ
Reg: 11-21-04
Re: Why the stupid 2016 class argument needs to stop...
02-07-18 04:42 PM - Post#246791    
    In response to SomeGuy

If the rotation is the 7 seniors, the assumption is that they are the best players to play all of those minutes and thus deserve the win shares they earn. I think what you might be missing is that if Harvard had a really strong senior and/or junior class right now, it would probably lose minutes from Welsh, Juzang and Baker and the one combined win share they've produced. At the same time, there'd be more total wins to divide up, so the contribution that Towns, Lewis, Bassey and Aiken would make to the total wins would decrease, but since there are more wins to divide up, win shares would be unlikely to suffer.

The idea that an entire lineup can manufacture win shares because they got to play the most minutes isn't accurate though. Maybe at an individual level (this one player stupidly gets PT and racks up win shares due to defense even though he contributes nothing). But if the 7 seniors comprised the entire rotation, you could argue that the real allocation of wins amongst those players is misapplied, but you couldn't really argue that class didn't manufacture those wins as a whole.

The question of how many wins they "should" earn is a good one, and I believe that the context of the top Ivy classes in history is helpful in that respect. Cornell's 2010 grad class was the most productive in the 16 years of win share data I have and it made it to 64. The next best of any class was 45 (Penn 2007). A highly ranked Harvard class (though not Top 10) was the 2015 grad class and it finished at 44. Finishing somewhere between those and the top class of Cornell seems like a solid estimation of where "should" should be.

 
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