Analysis: What has Been the Best Statistical Lineup for Marshall Men’s Basketball in 2022?

February 22, 2022

Marshall men’s basketball is currently in its worst season since 2015, a time when Drake had just released Hotline Bling and Marshall’s all-time leading scorer, Jon Elmore, was in his first season with Marshall.  

 Despite a win against Southern Miss on Monday night, the Herd sits at 11-17 on the season heading into March. With another loss, Marshall would fall to the lowest point in head coach Dan D’Antoni’s time at Marshall since his first season as coach in 2014, a season where the Herd ultimately finished 12-21. 

When thinking about Marshall basketball, the past few years of storylines have largely centered around either Taevion Kinsey or Elmore, two players within the top ten of points scored in Marshall history. Generally, headlines gravitate to the leading scorer of a team when things tend to go wrong, no matter the level of play. 

 Lebron James, for instance, is a popular example within the NBA because many say he is in a “down year” due to the lack of success had by the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite this, he is statistically having his best scoring season since 2007, averaging nearly 30 points per game. It’s probably not all on James. It may be the fit. 

But Marshall, of course, doesn’t have Lebron. There is no real “do-it-all” man present for the Herd. Kinsey averages the most points, Andrew Taylor leads the team in assists and Obinna Anochili-Killen leads the Herd in rebounds. There is no denying the individual talent across the board for Marshall. There is someone for every stat. The skill is present, but the scoreboards don’t show it. The Herd has yet to win more than two consecutive conference games this season. 

With that in mind, the question that makes Herd fans scratch their heads should be just that: What’s been the best fit? 

Method 

This analysis is done using a spreadsheet of every lineup showcased by the Thundering Herd during C-USA play in the 2021-22 season. After a list of nearly 100 different combinations that had taken the floor was collected, the number was trimmed down to 29 different lineups that have played with each other for at least 5 minutes. 

The stats collected of each lineup include the following: minutes played, points scored as a lineup, plus-minus during minutes played, total rebounds, total steals, total assists, total turnovers and points scored per minute. 

Normalization of stats to 10 minutes played is considered alongside raw stats in order to rid outliers from possible outcomes. 

Scoring 

Of the 29 lineups studied, 15 have a positive plus-minus when on the floor. Essentially, this means that roughly half of the lineups that have taken the floor for Marshall are outscoring their opponents when they take the floor together. 

Of these lineups, the highest plus-minus comes from a lineup of Andrew Taylor, Darius George, Kyle Braun, Obinna Anochili-Killen and Mikel Beyers with a final tally of a +11 differential in roughly 7 total minutes played together. We can represent this lineup as “differential”. 

 Time is important in this consideration. A long run can be the difference maker in plus-minus analysis. Therefore, when only considering lineups with 30 or minutes played, the lineup of Taylor, Chase McKey, David Early, Taevion Kinsey and Anochili-Killen sits atop the list with a differential of +10. We can represent this lineup with the name “time”. 

Scoring can be boiled down to points scored per minute. The same lineup of Taylor, George, Braun, Anochili-Killen and Beyers sits atop those with a points per minute average of 3.04, the highest of all lineups with five or more minutes played together. 

Overall, it seems that while the “differential” lineup is the most efficient, the “time” lineup should be considered the most realistic lineup when strictly looking for scoring. It has the highest differential when playing large amounts of time and has a points per minute average of over 2.25. 

Optimal scoring lineup: Andrew Taylor, Chase McKey, David Early, Taevion Kinsey and Obinna Anochili-Killen 

Defense 

For defense, it is likely best to consider rebounds and steals as the most important factors that can be played with for an entire lineup. 

 The overall total leader can be found again with the general lineup that plays the “most”. The “most” lineup from the scoring section leads all stats. 

While normalization of stats would typically be beneficial here for comparison, the “most” lineup seems to stand the test against other lineups. The differential is almost even at -1 with over 100 minutes played, allowing for opportunities made from rebounds and steals to give the most opportunities for the Herd. 

The second-best lineup is likely Andrew Taylor, Darius George, David Early, Taevion Kinsey and Obinna Anochili-Killen. The difference maker between the two is in points differential as the “most” lineup tends to have better results in preventing scoring. 

Optimal defensive lineup: Andrew Taylor, Goran Miladinovic, Taevion Kinsey, Obinna Anochili-Killen and Mikel Beyers 

Playmaking 

The final highlight to make is found in the assist numbers put up by each lineup. When normalized to the standard of 10 minutes, a lineup of Andrew Taylor, Darius George, Marko Sarenac, David Early and Taevion Kinsey averages eight assists every ten minutes. It is also great at protecting the ball with only three turnovers in ten minutes of play. 

This is likely due to the high shooting volume of the aforementioned players. This lineup seems to provide the best protection of the ball in all phases. 

Optimal playmaking lineup: Andrew Taylor, Darius George, Marko Sarenac, David Early and Taevion Kinsey. 

Conclusion 

When considering these “optimal” lineups, it is best to remember that Marshall’s players tend to specialize in different things. The best scoring lineup struggles to rebound. The best defensive lineup struggles to score. The best playmaking lineup is well rounded, but struggles to exceed with outscoring opponents, the name of the game. 

Despite this, it is notable that the following lineup seems to exceed in every category: Andrew Taylor, Darius George, Marko Sarenac, David Early and Taevion Kinsey  

This lineup has only played 11 total minutes with itself, but averages 2.4 points per minute, ten rebounds per ten minutes, 27 points per ten minutes and a score differential of +6. It also has one of the lowest turnover margins to go along with three steals.  

There is no “best” lineup. Adjustments to every situation is the name of the game, something that Marshall has done much more in the past few weeks compared to lineups of multiple players playing 40 minutes earlier in the season. These are just the numbers. 

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    Steven LucasMar 1, 2022 at 11:28 pm

    I like this in-depth analysis very well! Keep up this fantastic work; this really spices up the sports section of the paper.

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