You Are Here > Basketball-Reference.com > BBR Blog > NBA and College Basketball Analysis

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all Basketball-Reference content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing Basketball-Reference blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Basketball-Reference.com // Sports Reference

For more from Neil, check out his new work at BasketballProspectus.com.

Ranking the NCAA Programs by Win Shares

Posted by Neil Paine on November 12, 2008

In addition to being a nifty tool for ranking NBA players according to their contribution to team success, Win Shares can be used in all sorts of novel ways: calculating what percentage of a team's wins come from each position, for instance, or evaluating trades and free agent signings -- both topics that we'll explore as the NBA season goes on. But today, in honor of NCAA hoops tipping off this week, we're going to give it the old college try and see which programs have done the best job of preparing their graduates for pro ball.

Before we begin, there is a caveat: because Win Shares can't be calculated until the 1973-74 season, we've excluded all players whose careers started before then, meaning we can't technically say that these are the "all-time" best programs at producing NBA talent.

Still, I think it's a cool way to see which schools have cranked out the best pro players in recent years. Let's start with the raw totals, the top ten colleges by total Win Shares:

    +---------------------------------------+---------+------+
    | college_name                          | players | ws   |
    +---------------------------------------+---------+------+
    | University of North Carolina          |      48 | 1322 |
    | University of California, Los Angeles |      55 |  854 |
    | Duke University                       |      39 |  644 |
    | Georgetown University                 |      22 |  621 |
    | University of Michigan                |      28 |  587 |
    | University of Notre Dame              |      27 |  581 |
    | University of Arizona                 |      35 |  580 |
    | University of Kentucky                |      36 |  578 |
    | Michigan State University             |      27 |  567 |
    | Georgia Institute of Technology       |      29 |  522 |
    +---------------------------------------+---------+------+

Basically, UNC rules (and it isn't even particularly close) thanks to an embarrassment of riches, like James Worthy, Walter Davis, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, and -- almost forgot -- this guy. UCLA is a distant 2nd, which is still impressive because we had to omit some of their best John Wooden-era talents like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Gail Goodrich. It gets more crowded from 3-10, as only 122 Win Shares separate 3rd-ranked Duke from my own alma mater, Georgia Tech.

This isn't the only way we can rank programs with Win Shares, though. We can also use Win Shares to create a "team" of 12 players from each school, taking their top 12 in career WS (a school had to have 12 eligible players to qualify, which left us with 63 different schools). From there, we can use some creative weighting to assess both a school's depth and the quality of its front-line talent, finally arriving at a composite score for each qualified program (if this sounds familiar, it's because baseball's Bill James used a similar process in his book Win Shares).

First, front-line talent. Using each school's 12-man roster we can create a weighted average, weighing the value of the college's best NBA player (i.e., the player with most career Win Shares) by 12, its second-best player by 11, and so on and so forth. This weighted average will be our score for the program's front-line talent, representing a college's ability to churn out NBA superstars:

    +---------------------------------------+-------+
    | college_name                          | front |
    +---------------------------------------+-------+
    | University of North Carolina          | 100.7 |
    | University of California, Los Angeles |  75.8 |
    | Georgetown University                 |  71.9 |
    | University of Houston                 |  65.0 |
    | Michigan State University             |  63.8 |
    | Clemson University                    |  61.3 |
    | University of Notre Dame              |  60.9 |
    | Duke University                       |  57.6 |
    | Oregon State University               |  54.9 |
    | University of Michigan                |  54.7 |
    +---------------------------------------+-------+

Again, the Tar Heels dominate on the strength of MJ, Antawn Jamison, Jerry Stackhouse, and company. And again, UCLA comes up a distant second.

Now, to measure a program's depth, we'll just do the reverse of what we did above: weight each school's best player by 1, their second-best by 2, etc., all the way to their 12th man. Here are the 10 deepest programs by this method:

    +---------------------------------------+-------+
    | college_name                          | depth |
    +---------------------------------------+-------+
    | University of North Carolina          |  65.4 |
    | University of California, Los Angeles |  40.0 |
    | Duke University                       |  37.3 |
    | University of Arizona                 |  33.6 |
    | University of Michigan                |  32.6 |
    | Georgia Institute of Technology       |  31.5 |
    | Georgetown University                 |  30.1 |
    | University of Notre Dame              |  29.6 |
    | University of Kentucky                |  28.9 |
    | University of Nevada, Las Vegas       |  27.1 |
    +---------------------------------------+-------+

Yet again, North Carolina basically owns everyone. There's a reason Dean Smith retired as the all-time NCAA Division I leader in coaching wins -- yes, this proves that he had a lot of über-talented players at his disposal, but he had to recruit them, and he had to help mold them into future stars once they arrived at Chapel Hill.

Finally, we can average the front-line talent & depth scores to arrive at an overall score for each program:

    +---------------------------------------+---------+
    | college_name                          | overall |
    +---------------------------------------+---------+
    | University of North Carolina          |    83.0 |
    | University of California, Los Angeles |    57.9 |
    | Georgetown University                 |    51.0 |
    | Duke University                       |    47.5 |
    | Michigan State University             |    45.3 |
    | University of Notre Dame              |    45.3 |
    | University of Michigan                |    43.6 |
    | University of Arizona                 |    42.2 |
    | University of Houston                 |    42.0 |
    | Georgia Institute of Technology       |    41.1 |
    +---------------------------------------+---------+

Big shocker there, Carolina is miles ahead of the pack. Now that we have this composite overall score for each school, we can calculate what percentage of it is owed to front-line talent...

    +-----------------------------------+-----------+
    | college_name                      | front_pct |
    +-----------------------------------+-----------+
    | Pepperdine University             |     0.888 |
    | University of Pittsburgh          |     0.848 |
    | Iowa State University             |     0.833 |
    | University of Southern California |     0.824 |
    | Florida State University          |     0.823 |
    | University of Tennessee           |     0.823 |
    | Temple University                 |     0.820 |
    | University of South Carolina      |     0.819 |
    | Louisiana State University        |     0.816 |
    | University of California          |     0.815 |
    +-----------------------------------+-----------+

...and depth:

    +---------------------------------+-----------+
    | college_name                    | depth_pct |
    +---------------------------------+-----------+
    | University of Arizona           |     0.399 |
    | University of Kentucky          |     0.399 |
    | University of North Carolina    |     0.394 |
    | Duke University                 |     0.393 |
    | Georgia Institute of Technology |     0.383 |
    | University of Michigan          |     0.374 |
    | University of Alabama           |     0.355 |
    | University of Kansas            |     0.354 |
    | Indiana University              |     0.353 |
    | North Carolina State University |     0.350 |
    +---------------------------------+-----------+

Finally, a pair of lists that aren't dominated by UNC! Dennis Johnson & Doug Christie were responsible for almost all of Pepperdine's NBA success; meanwhile, Arizona and Kentucky have populated many an NBA roster with the likes of Damon Stoudamire, Sean Elliott, Antoine Walker, & Jamal Mashburn -- good players, but not overwhelming superstars like Jordan.

ShareThis

2 Responses to “Ranking the NCAA Programs by Win Shares”

  1. Mountain Says:

    Duke slips to 8th on top talent (the common rip has some merit) but that still isn't bad. Top 3-4 on all the other ratings.

    Kansas and Indiana barely make 1 appearance on a list. Same for Alabama and LSU. Syracuse no appearances. Not enough for Wake Forest. No appearances for U of Florida though I expect that changes with more time. Notre Dame on the lists for this length of study but I expect will be well gone on a list of last 10 years.

  2. college football Says:

    I just added your site to my favorites. I enjoy reading your posts. Thanks!