Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What If...Mizzou Hired Bob Huggins?

We all know what happened around this time last year. In February, Quin Snyder resigned after being told he would be fired at the end of the season. Because Mike Alden and Snyder were not on speaking terms (a street that ran both ways—Alden wouldn’t talk to Snyder, but Snyder wouldn’t talk to Alden either...and supposedly Snyder was a no-show at multiple scheduled meetings with Alden...though that’s just rumor like everything else), he sent Gary “Nicest Grim Reaper Ever” Link to Snyder’s house to deliver the news that he would be fired at season’s end. Snyder decided not to wait and resigned.

It was what almost every Mizzou fan wanted, but Mike Alden faced an almost unprecedented public revolt nonetheless. To put it lightly, P.R. has never been Mike Alden’s strong suit, and it showed big-time. P.R. has never been Chancellor Brady “Robot” Deaton’s strong suit either, and it too showed. There was an investigation into the ‘embarassing’ affair, and then I’m pretty sure there was an investigation into the investigation. People demanded answers! Heads needed to roll! The owner of Harpo’s decided to ban Tiger Talk from his bar anymore (even though it was already known that Tiger Talk was moving at the end of the season anyway). Jon Sundvold was made part of a Mizzou coaching ‘search committee,’ but the committee was quickly dissolved (my own personal opinion was that Sundvold wanted to call all the shots on the committee, and he threw a fit when his power play was rebuffed...but again, that’s just my own curmudgeonly opinion...I know, Sundvold is a Mizzou god, and I love him as a color commentator, but I felt he was gunning for the A.D. job at a time when a positive figure was needed, and I’ll always resent that a bit).

Success-starved Mizzou fans—most likely the same ones who were begging for Gary Pinkel to be fired and for class act Gary Barnett to replace him—began drinking the Bob Huggins kool-aid in mass quantities, and when Alden refused to give Huggins a look, people like Sundvold started taking pot shots at him in public. On Sunday, March 26, the horrid affair came to an end when, after rumors of Jamie Dixon and Steve Alford floated around a bit, Mike Anderson was hired as the new head coach of the Missouri Tigers.

(As a side note, my wife and I saw Gary Link at the grocery store a couple months after all this went down...I told her not to make eye contact with him, else we’d be in trouble.)

In Anderson’s first season, Mizzou improved from 12-16 to 18-12, showing a spark that hadn’t been seen in Mizzou Arena since, well, it opened in 2004. His squad was actually easy to root for...players threw their body on the ground and didn’t coast half the time. A lot of the mistakes they made--and they did make quite a few--were ones of aggression. Anderson didn’t have enough time (or scholarships) to fully institute his system (he said last week on This Week in Mizzou Basketball that he implemented about 65% of what he wanted to), but it was a lovely first step.

So here’s the question: what would have happened if we’d hired Bob Huggins after all?


Well, first of all…Rick Reilly would have written this exact column (taken from a message board post because you now have to pay to read the original column), only it would have been 10 times worse. Actually, make that 25x worse. Huggins hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing at K-State after 12 months, so it’s not a sure thing that Huggins would have broken any rules at Missouri, but as Tripper from Meatballs would say, it just doesn’t matter. To critics, Missouri would have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it doesn’t care about ethics or NCAA rules—just win, baby. And they'd have been right (again, the fans who wanted Huggins are the same fans who wanted Gary Barnett.). It would have taken decades to change that perception.

Anyway, I’m going to look at this season’s stats here in two different ways: first, I’m going to compare the change in K-State’s team stats from ’05-’06 to ’06-’07 and apply that to Mizzou. Second, I’m going to look at what a likely ’06-’07 Mizzou roster would have looked like and base the stats off of that.

I don’t know what the numbers are going to say, but I’ll say this right out front—when Huggins’ name started to emerge as a possibility, I allowed myself to think about the possibility of getting players like Bill Walker and Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo to play in Mizzou Arena, and it was kind of exciting. Previously rational people were being seduced with the thought left and right, and I could at least marginally see why. However, thinking about Huggy Bear’s potential success also made me queasy. I would have been embarassed rooting for the team. The right coach has to do more than just win—he has to win with class and with likeable players. Let’s just say that, as college basketball goes further and further down the road toward being a slave to the broken AAU system, the odds are much greater that we’ll like the players Mike Anderson recruits more than the ones Huggy Bear recruits.

Anyway, that’s just conjecture. I’m off the high-horse now, I promise.

Team Stats

From ’05-’06 to ’06-’07, K-State’s team stats (and opponents’ team stats) changed in the following ways as Bob Huggins took over for Jim Wooldridge.

- K-State: 68.3 to 70.6 (3.5% increase)
- Opponents: 63.9 to 64.9 (1.7% increase)
- Differential: +4.4 to +5.7

- K-State: 36.4 to 36.0 (0.9% decrease)
- Opponents: 32.4 to 33.2 (2.3% increase)
- Differential: +4.0 to +2.8 (Didn’t expect that one, did you?)

- K-State: 16.1 to 15.5 (3.8% decrease)
- Opponents: 13.8 to 12.2 (11.0% decrease)

- K-State: 15.0 to 13.8 (7.6% decrease)
- Opponents: 14.4 to 15.4 (6.4% increase)

A/TO ratio
- K-State: 1.08 to 1.12
- Opponents: 0.95 to 0.80

- K-State: 6.0 to 6.0
- Opponents: 7.0 to 6.3 (10.0% decrease)

- K-State: 44.4% to 42.9%
- Opponents: 39.8% to 41.8%
So they took care of the ball better, scored more points, and forced more turnovers under Huggins. However, they rebounded slightly worse, shot worse, and allowed opponents to shoot better.

Now’s a pretty good time to remind you that, in 2005-06 K-State wasn’t too bad a team.

Overall, K-State improved under Huggins, but not as much as one would have thought. Now, there’s a variable here that straight per-game stats don’t mention—strength of schedule. So let’s look at that.

’05-’06 K-State SOS (according to College RPI): #62
’06-’07 K-State SOS: #88
And since we’re looking it up...

’05-’06 Mizzou SOS: #44
’06-’07 Mizzou SOS: #69
Well...I couldn’t have planned THAT better. Both SOS’s decreased by the same amount. The means I don’t have to worry about making adjustments later on. Good to know. Anyway, this shows that the improvements (and regressions) made by Huggy Bear’s first K-State squad were done against a weaker schedule, just as they were for Mike Anderson at Mizzou.

So if we were to make the above statistical adjustments to Mizzou’s ’05-’06 stats, what do we end up with for ’06-’07?

- Mizzou: 68.6 (under Anderson in ’06-’07, it was 77.6 / Advantage: Anderson)
- Opponents: 71.6 (71.9 / Huggins)
- Differential: -3.0 (+5.7 / Anderson)

- Mizzou: 33.4 (34.8 / Anderson)
- Opponents: 35.4 (36.8 / Anderson)
- Differential: -2.0 (-2.0 / Same)

- Mizzou: 11.6 (15.5 / Anderson)
- Opponents: 14.0 (13.0 / Anderson)

- Mizzou: 14.4 (14.9 / Huggins)
- Opponents: 15.4 (18.9 / Anderson)

A/TO ratio
- Mizzou: 0.81 (1.04 / Anderson)
- Opponents: 0.91 (0.69 / Anderson)

- Mizzou: 5.9 (10.0 / Anderson)
- Opponents: 5.9 (7.4 / Anderson)

- Mizzou: 41.4% (46.0% / Anderson)
- Opponents: 48.1% (43.7% / Anderson)
There are quite obviously holes in the science of this comparison, so we won’t go too deep with this, but...when Anderson’s stats are better than Huggins’ ‘projected’ stats in almost every category, that suggests something, doesn’t it?

For the purposes of this post, we’ll say that Mizzou would have played the same schedule with Huggins as they did with Anderson. Anderson made it well-known that he didn’t choose the cupcakes, and they were all pretty much locked down upon his arrival, so we’ll go with that. Let’s make some general conclusions off of point differential. There was an 8.7-point difference between Anderson’s +5.7 differential and Huggins’ -3.0. We’ll shrink that to about 7 points (call it 'margin for error' or something) and see what happens when we subtract 7 points from all of our victories.

Well, as you’ll remember, we didn’t exactly win too many close games this season. In fact, subtracting 7 points from all our games only drops our win total two games (we now lose to Davidson and OU and go to OT with Baylor). But that’s still a drop to a 16-14 record, and that’s not what would have been expected from a Huggins team, even considering what he would have been inheriting.

Now let’s look at this from another perspective.

Player Stats

What would the 2006-07 Mizzou roster have looked like with Bob Huggins as head coach?

Well, we have to assume that Thomas Gardner was going to go pro no matter what, and that James Douglas was going to realize he he wasn’t very good and leave Mizzou no matter what as well. So those two (along with seniors Jimmy McKinney and Kevin Young) are gone. What about Marcus Watkins? Huggins wouldn’t have retained his dad as an assistant, so maybe he’d have left...but would he have left with only one season remaining? Kelvin Sampson’s son stayed at OU for his senior year even when his dad screwed OU over and went to Indiana, so we’ll presume Marcus might have done the same.

So who would Huggins have brought with him? We all know that Huggy Bear had basically been recruiting without a team for the last year or so, and he pretty quickly convinced quite a few kids to come to K-State.

C – Jason Bennett (Fr)
PF – Luis Colon (Fr)
SG – Blake Young (Jr)
I doubt any of those three committed simply because they loved Manhattan, KS, so much, so we’ll assume they would have come to Columbia too (along with walk-on Ryan "Rooster Mohawk" Patzwald, who followed Huggins from Cincy). Who else?

Well, from what I’ve read, Keon Lawrence stayed committed to Mizzou primarily because Melvin Watkins was retained, so while there was always a possibility he’d have come to play for Huggy Bear too, I’m going to presume he’d have decommitted. However, I think Stefhon Hannah would have still come to Mizzou. We all know the story of how he wanted to commit to play for Huggins until his mom convinced him to play for Mike Anderson instead. But if Mike Anderson wasn’t in the picture, mom wouldn’t have has as much of a say. So we get Hannah. We probably also still get Vaidatos Volkus; let’s face it—Volkus didn’t have many other options, so even if he wasn’t a great fit, he’d have kept his deathgrip on his only major offer unless Huggins withdrew it (and I don’t think he would have). We’ll say Ty Morrison would have still decommitted, and we obviously wouldn’t have gotten Darryl Butterfield or J.T. Tiller (or Mike Anderson Jr...call it a hunch).

And of course, we get the late, eyebrow-raising commit of Bill Walker for the second semester as well.

So here’s the 2006-07 Mizzou roster:

G – Stefhon Hannah (Jr)
G – Jason Horton (Jr)
G – Matt Lawrence (So)
G – Blake Young (Jr)
G – Marcus Watkins (Sr)
G – Ryan Patzwald (Jr)

F – Marshall Brown (Jr)
F – Bill Walker (Fr)
F – Glen Dandridge (Jr)
F – Vaidatos Volkus (Jr)

C – Kalen Grimes (Jr)
F/C – Leo Lyons (So)
C – Jason Bennett (Fr)
F/C – Luis Colon (Fr)
Overall, this is a bigger team than the one Mike Anderson put on the court this season. But how do the stats shake down?

Stefhon Hannah (30 G, 30.4 MPG, 15.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.6 APG, 3.3 TOPG)
Bill Walker (5 G, 27.8 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.2 TOPG)
Matt Lawrence (30 G, 27.3 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.0 TOPG)
Marshall Brown (30 G, 23.4 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.8 TOPG)
Blake Young (30 G, 22.1 MPG, 6.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.6 TOPG)
Jason Horton (30 G, 22.0 MPG, 3.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.4 TOPG)
Leo Lyons (30 G, 19.5 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.0 TOPG)
Kalen Grimes (30 G, 16.7 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.4 TOPG)
Jason Bennett (24 G, 13.4 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.4 TOPG)
Luis Colon (26 G, 11.1 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TOPG)
Vaidatos Volkus (30 G, 6.9 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.4 TOPG)
Marcus Watkins (24 G, 6.7 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.3 TOPG)
Glen Dandridge (18 G, 4.8 MPG, 1.4 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.6 TOPG)
Ryan Patzwald (11 G, 1.7 MPG, 0.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.1 TOPG)
Nick Berardini (8 G, 1.1 MPG, 0.5 PPG, 0.1 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.0 TOPG)
I guess you could argue that Bill Walker wouldn’t have injured his knee after 5 games since he would have been in different circumstances and knee injuries are such fluky things, but we’ll just go with fate here.

So what do these numbers actually say?

Well, the overall PPG average of this team is 72.6, about 4.8 PPG less than Mike Anderson’s squad. However, you also have to take into account the fact that Huggins’ style leads to about 4 fewer possessions a game (using Ben’s possessions formula). This team would also give up about 68.6 PPG, for a +4.0 point differential. Again, Anderson’s team was +5.7, so Huggins’ team would be about 2 points worse. However, Mizzou didn’t win any games by 1 or 2 points, so that leads us to about the same 18-12 record, which would have been something of a success. And hey, with a more brand-name coach, maybe we’d have gotten into the NIT.

2007-08 Season (and beyond)

So hiring Bob Huggins wouldn’t have led to any more immediate success than hiring Mike Anderson. What about down the line?

The other aspect drawing point of hiring Huggins was his recruiting abilities. Talk to a K-State fan (like my neighbor), and you’ll hear the words “#1 recruiting class” in about 2.4 seconds. They’re giddy about it. Good for them. They sold their souls—they might as well reap the benefits. Huggy Bear would have had much fewer scholarships to work with for 2007-08 at Mizzou. You have to figure the #1 target would have been Michael Beasley, Rivals.com’s #1 player in the 2008 class, and he’d have gotten him to Columbia too. With Matt Lawrence on academic scholarship (have we ever established if that’s the case or not?), the final scholarship would probably go to Jacob Pullen, a 3-star freshman from Chicago (being that every point guard on the roster would be a Senior in ’07-’08, this might be a smart idea). If someone like, say, Glen Dandridge were to transfer, another schollie would open up and probably go to Tyree Evans, a JUCO shooting guard who committed to Cincy out of high school.

So the ’07-’08 roster would look like this:

G – Stefhon Hannah (Sr)
F – Michael Beasley (Fr)
F – Bill Walker (So)
G – Matt Lawrence (Jr)
F – Marshall Brown (Sr)
G – Blake Young (Sr)
G – Jason Horton (Sr)
G – Tyree Evans (Jr)
G – Leo Lyons (Jr)
C – Kalen Grimes (Sr)
C – Jason Bennett (So)
F – Luis Colon (So)
G – Jacob Pullen (Fr)
F – Vaidatos Volkus (Sr)
G – Ryan Patzwald (Sr)
G – Nick Berardini (Sr)
So...including walk-ons, you’d have 8 seniors and two players (Walker, Beasley) who might go pro with a good season. Yikes. But that’s not altogether different than what Anderson will be facing. And I’m sure Huggy Bear has already lined up 8-10 AAU stars in the ’08 class who would want to play for him. There’s no questioning that Huggy Bear would attract more 4- and 5-star athletes than Mike Anderson, but is indeed a reason to question whose roster would lead to the most wins.


It might surprise some to realize that Mike Anderson did as good or better a job of coaching at Mizzou this year than Bob Huggins did at K-State. However, that’s only short-term return. The real question of Anderson vs Huggins at this point is, what would have been better long-term for Mizzou? Hard to answer, naturally, since it would require a time machine, but we do know a few things.

For one, while you never know for sure, there’s a pretty decent chance that Huggins would take a better job as soon as it came along. Anderson’s a much more likely bet to stay for the long haul if he’s successful. However, would Huggins have had more success? I actually doubt it. But if so, how much more success is worth the sleaze that would forever be associated with our program?

Another thing we know is, the entire country, as long as Bob Huggins were our coach, would look at Mizzou either with disdain or with a smirk (or both). Some might not care about that, but to a certain extent, I do. I want to win—I grew up a Mizzou, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Dolphins, and Portland Trailblazers fan...in other words I’ve never won anything. However, I’m not willing to sell my soul for wins, and it really disappointed me to see how many people were. The fact is, he made the right decision in dumping Quin Snyder (few disagree with that one), he made the right decision in forgoing Bob Huggins, and he made the right decision in hiring Mike Anderson.

He just needs to work on his technique a bit.