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MU’s Oriakhi Earns’s “Defensive Player Of The Year” Award

gfx - by the numbersPostseason awards are legion.  Every hour someone is handing out another award.  Most all of them are distributed based upon the “eye test.”  At some level they’re part popularity contest.

At MrSEC, we like to do things differently and we hand out our yearly postseason honors based upon actual data, actual numbers.  You may disagree with the statistics we use and how we choose to use them, but at least there’s actually a bit of math behind the accolades we dole out.

We start today with our version of the SEC’s “Defensive Player of the Year” award.  All SEC players who were on the floor for at least 800 minutes through the end of the SEC Tournament were up for the honor.  We combined the three most easily-measured defensive statistics — defensive rebounds, blocks, and steals — into a category called “positive plays.”  The rest was easy.  We took the total number of minutes played and divided it by the total number of positive defensive plays to see which players made a positive impact on the defensive end most often.

Obviously, there is no statistic for “good guarding,” so this isn’t a perfect way of doing things.  Some defensive efforts — like taking a charge or altering a shot — aren’t measured.  Still, we feel this system is fairer than most “eye test” awards.

One quick note before we get into the numbers — because our cutoff point was 800 minutes, the player with the top plays/minutes ratio wasn’t eligible for our award.  But injured Kentucky star Nerlens Noel (765 minutes) posted a number so great that we wanted to draw your attention to it.  With 162 defensive boards, 106 blocks, and 50 steals, Noel averaged a positive play on defense once every 2.40 minutes.  Had he only played 35 more minutes he’d have grabbed our honor (which comes with a laurel… and hearty handshake).

With Noel not meeting the minutes requirement, the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year Award goes to Missouri’s Alex Oriakhi.  The big man who transferred to Columbia from UConn last offseason was responsible for a positive play on the defensive end of the floor once every 3.38 minutes.

Below you’ll find a list of the 51 SEC players who racked up 800 or more minutes as well as their defensive numbers:


Player   Def. Reb.   Blocks   Steals   Pos. Plays   Min. Played   Min./Pos. Play   Honor
1. Oriakhi (MU) 179 52 19 250 845 3.38 MrSEC Def. POTY
2. Buckner (UM) 149 91 37 277 967 3.49 All-Def. Team
3. Holloway (UM) 210 23 54 287 1057 3.68 All-Def. Team
4. Caldwell-Pope (UGA) 189 17 65 271 1086 4.00 All-Def. Team
5. O’Bryant (LSU) 164 20 15 199 845 4.24 All-Def. Team
6. Young (UF) 118 55 30 203 874 4.30
7. Powell (ARK) 113 37 38 188 819 4.35
8. Chubb (AUB) 135 37 15 187 816 4.36
9. Roberson (A&M) 136 26 23 185 815 4.40
10. Ware (MSU) 137 24 15 176 824 4.68
11. Thomas (MSU) 103 27 56 186 917 4.93
12. Coleman (LSU) 104 28 43 175 870 4.97
13. Murphy (UF) 127 22 20 169 854 5.05
14. Stokes (UT) 179 37 23 239 923 5.15
15. Caruso (A&M) 82 15 61 158 815 5.15
16. Ross (MU) 113 7 41 161 832 5.16
17. Poythress (UK) 137 14 9 160 852 5.32
18. Carmouche (LSU) 89 4 57 150 800 5.33
19. Bright (VU) 147 13 20 180 966 5.36
20. Hickey (LSU) 82 5 85 172 957 5.56
21. Lacey (ALA) 125 14 49 188 1054 5.60
22. Jackson (USC) 114 22 24 160 918 5.73
23. Payne (AUB) 105 3 38 146 865 5.92
24. Sword (MSU) 68 14 55 137 854 6.23
25. Richardson (UT) 100 22 33 155 981 6.32
26. Sullivan (AUB) 109 9 33 151 998 6.60
27. Goodwin (UK) 104 15 35 154 1048 6.80
28. Johnson (VU) 102 17 34 153 1047 6.84
29. McRae (UT) 100 28 26 154 1075 6.98
30. Odom (VU) 92 26 16 134 999 7.45
31. Pressey (MU) 85 2 58 145 1113 7.67
32. Henderson (UM) 89 1 47 137 1064 7.76
33. Wallace (AUB) 62 3 37 102 810 7.94
34. Randolph (ALA) 83 5 36 124 987 7.95
35. Wilbekin (UF) 75 2 46 123 995 8.08
36. Young (ARK) 78 8 21 107 866 8.09
37. Cooper (ALA) 87 3 22 112 912 8.14
38. Releford (ALA) 59 2 61 122 1027 8.41
39. Bloodman (MSU) 71 1 37 109 931 8.54
40. Williams (UM) 69 4 21 94 818 8.70
41. Boynton (UF) 84 3 29 116 1060 9.13
42. Fuller (VU) 72 2 20 94 866 9.21
43. Turner (A&M) 82 7 31 120 1139 9.49
44. Reese (A&M) 65 2 19 86 865 10.05
45. Summers (UM) 45 7 32 84 855 10.17
46. Rosario (UF) 57 1 30 88 951 10.80
47. Mays (UK) 81 0 14 95 1090 11.47
48. Golden (UT) 70 0 8 78 905 11.60
49. Harris (A&M) 44 0 38 82 965 11.76
50. Stringer (LSU) 47 5 25 77 950 12.33
51. Smith (USC) 46 1 20 67 885 13.20



*  While Marshall Henderson gets the attention, much of Ole Miss’ success can be traced to the fact that Andy Kennedy has two of the top three defensive hustlers in the league in Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner.

*  Ole Miss was the only team to have two players both ranked in the top 10 of our minutes/positive plays chart.

*  There weren’t many positives in Starkville this season, but Fred Thomas and Gavin Ware both made our top 11.

*  LSU was the only squad to boast three players in the top 18 of our rankings: Johnny O’Bryant, Shavon Coleman, and Charles Carmouche.

*  The top-rated defensive player for South Carolina was Lakeem Jackson at #22 on our list.



Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.  --Albert Einstein


It seems that you chose the path of those things easily counted rather than things that count.  The most important *team* defensive statistic (it is a team game, after all) is opponent's scoring efficiency (points/possession), but only steals and rebounds make their way from that calculation into your individual statistics.  Even blocked shots is on its own a misleading example - a shot blocked into the stands is worth much less than a steal or rebound, as the opponent gets to continue the possession (albeit with less time on the clock, of course).  But most importantly, players like Patric Young, who holds his assignment to a low shooting percentage without the aid of double-teams, or Scotty Wilbekin, who keeps point guards from getting into the lane for assists and easy points, (to name the 2 best defensive players on the best defensive team in the SEC) get no props in your system.  Wilbekin gives this effort and lowers opponents' scoring efficiency *on every possession* - not just once every 4 minutes - so the cumulative value of "solid defense" is generally much more than defensive stats, which you have focused on for ease of counting.  You should acknowledge this huge flaw in your method rather than hiding behind pablum about "numbers" being more objective than "eye tests."


People who actually try to use numbers *well* to gauge individual defensive performance include things like assignments' shooting percentages, assignments' assists/possession, double-team percentages, etc. in addition to rebounds, steals, and blocked shots.  Yes, this is generally the province of NBA teams that have dedicated personnel tracking these "non-official" stats, but it's one thing to say "my scheme is objective" and another to say "I don't have the time or inclination to do this well - sorry."

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



I want to apologize to you for not hiring a staff of scouts to go out, watch each SEC game, and grade "hidden" stats that can't be found elsewhere.  


I want to apologize for stating how OUR system worked and for admitting that it wasn't perfect.  You're right... that's just not good enough.  And I clearly answer to you, the wronged commenter.


I also want to apologize to most of our readers for ever deciding to allow comments on this site.  The vast majority of our readers do what I do on other sties -- they read a story, agree or disagree, and then move on without ever leaving a comment.  Much less an insult-laden one from someone who -- to my knowledge -- could start his own site and provide just the type of statistical analysis he demands from me... on his own dime and time.


After all, If you're going to insult our admittedly straight-forward methodology, you could at least set out to do better.  You know, rather than saying, "I don't have the time or inclination to do this well -- sorry."


Thanks for visiting,



Oriakhi is the man, but how does a player not make the All-Def. Team, then be named Mrsec def. POTY?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Depending on what you're actually asking...


1.  If you're referring to Oriakhi's absence from the SEC's actual all-defensive team, well, that's the point.  We went by stats and numbers and the league's coaches did not.  Two different ways of looking at the same thing.


2.  If you're suggesting we didn't list him as "All-Def" above, we figured it was pretty clear that being on top, he would be #1 on our five-man all-defense list.  There's Oriakhi and then the next four players -- 4+1=5 -- who make up our all-D team.


Many thanks for visiting the site,



On your description, you wrote, "His 91 blocks on the year were second only to UK's Noel" when speaking about Oriakhi.  But on the chart is shows him with 52 and Buckner with 91.  Which is correct?  (Sorry, not trying to be critical.)  Always enjoy your insights and perspective.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



The chart is correct and that line has been removed.  Staring at 300 numbers and 52 lines of text, my eyes must have crossed.  Good catch.  Thanks.




I guess this is mainly for fun (a way to kill time) but its application is horribly flawed. It is completely slanted to big men.  I mean how is a guard playing out on the perimeter or following a shooter around the floor supposed to get defensive rebounds (by far the most important statistic in your formula)?


You could literally have Bruce Bowen, Ron Artest and Micheal Jordan in the league and none of them would make it in the top 10-20 defenders based on how you score this award.  The best defenders on the top two SEC defensive teams (Scottie Wilbeken and Trever Releford) are outside your top 30.  And I believe both were voted onto the SEC All-defensive team.  That should show you that you need to reconfigure your method of assessment.  This cannot be a pure stat award as there is no way to keep track of passes denied, shots contested, pressure applied, etc.


In my opinion, a defensive rebound is far and away the most important aspect of team defense. Nothing can kill a team like the inability to get a defensive rebound when it really matters.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Yes, and you'd have to go all the way back to 2006 to find the last time a player under 6-9 even shared the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year Award.  Defensive awards almost always go to big men (except for the annual all-D teams which consist of 2 Fs, 2 Gs, and 1 C... thus forcing a pair of guards into the conversation each year). 


Thanks for realizing that... and for reading,


John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



From above: "Obviously, there is no statistic for “good guarding,” so this isn’t a perfect way of doing things.  Some defensive efforts — like taking a charge or altering a shot — aren’t measured.  Still, we feel this system is fairer than most “eye test” awards."


It's just a different way of looking at things.  If you'd like to create your own formula -- which isn't "horribly flawed" -- the internet awaits you. 




 @John at MrSEC 


Did you just pull out the old "Its my game so its my rules" response?  What about the quality of your product?  Is it simply quantity over quality and you are limited in how much time you can spend on any one topic?  If there's no room for any real intellectual discussion on what you write . . . why do you let people comment at all?  Are you simply fishing for compliments?


I apologize for attempting to bring an opposing view to this site and pointing out a possible flaw to your metrics wherein power forwards or centers comprise 40% of a team yet 80-90% of your top 20 defensive players.  But I guess you have the numbers on your side. Please forgive me.


Great site John, keep up the good work! 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



You could have disagreed.  You chose to be ugly about it.  And I responded in kind.  "Horribly flawed" is hardly an attempt at an intellectual discussion.  That's a snarky critique tossed from the anonymous cheap seats... which seems to be all the internet's good for.  Read any story with comment boxes and the first response will almost always be a smart-aleck smackdown of the author, his work, or his topic. Makes no difference if it's a newspaper or a blog, a sports site, a news site, or a cooking site, etc.


Comment boxes = angry, anonymous people tossing insults.  At least I sign my name when I'm having a bad enough day to respond.


Now, if someone wants to have a reasoned discussion, fine.  If someone wants to point out a typo, fine, they happen.  But if you want to be insulting of someone else's work in a "you're all so stupid" kind of way, be prepared for this site -- me anyway -- to "speak your language" in response.  At least on those days when I've had it up to here (hand raising to forehead).


And for the record, you have to go back to 2006 to find the last time a player under 6-9 even shared the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year honors.  Even the perception of great defense IS weighted to the big boys (fairly or not).




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