John Shurna: NCAA's MVP?

This is an odd post to put up a day after a 40-point win without John Shurna, but, regardless, hear me out.
John Shurna isn't the best player in the country by many standards. Or any standard, really. But hear me out, because it's hard to say that he isn't both one of college basketball's most versatile players and really damn good.
Kenpom keeps 15 advanced, tempo-free categories for every NCAA team, and all the important players on those teams. These categories show how good players are at doing certain things, as well as showing how important the player is to the team.
If a player is ranked in the top 500 of a category, Kenpom tells you. Top 500? That doesn't sound impressive. After all, there's only 340 teams, and a lot of them suck. Basically, if you're one of the best two players on a good team at doing something, you have a good chance of being one of the best 500 in the country at it.
John Shurna cracks the top 500 in 13 of the 15 categories. Yes, 13 of 15. He's not the best in the country at anything - although he does crack the top 25 at two categories - but the range of versatility is amazing. We all know he's been a great scorer, but that fact makes you realize he's so much more.The things Shurna is good at are so diverse that, although there's no way of checking besides looking at all 340 team pages, I'm pretty certain no other player manages to be in the top 500 in 13 of 15. (Some are close - I'll discuss them.)
Let's break Shurna's year down, category by category.


Importance to team stats
%min (81.1%, 208th)
: This category is simple: how many of the team's overall minutes have you played. He's no Michael Thompson - who plays 91.6 percent of NU's minutes, 15th in the nation - but he's close. Even with an ankle injury, he's hard to take off the court - this stat will probably take a bit of a dip after last night's no-show, but, he'll still be nationally ranked.


%poss (25.0%, 342nd)
: This category measures how many of your team's possessions end with the ball in your hands, either via shot or turnover. It doesn't indicate how good you are - turn the ball over 10 percent of your team's possessions and miss shots on 10 percent, you have a 20 percent possession rating - but does indicate how often your team turns to you. In Shurna's case, quite a bit, as on a fairly balanced team, he's the only player with a national ranking in this category, albeit it is 342nd. This will be made more impressive by stats I'll discuss later. Kenpom notes that "it is difficult to combine high possession usage with high offensive rating." We'll see if that's true.


%shots, (24.7%, 495th):  A very similar stat to possessions, and Shurna is clinging on to his national ranking. You'd assume because Shurna has a higher number in %poss than %shots that he has a tendency to turn the ball over, but you'd be wrong. Northwestern just happens to be one of the best teams in the country at not turning the ball over - tenth, in fact - so Shurna's relative turnover stats are magnified.

 


Scoring stats


ORtg (124.2, 69th): I can't explain this category, because there's apparently a relatively complicated formula behind it, but it measures how efficient a player is, factoring in points, shots, turnovers, and free throws and probably other stuff too. Not only has Shurna been scoring, as we all know, he's one of the best scorers in the conference, he's been scoring very efficiently.


EFg% (65.2, 15th): It's your field goal percentage, but made 3-pointers are worth 1.5 shots, so this factors in how good an outside shooter you are. As we all know, Shurna has been fantastic, hitting at nearly 55 percent with a decent amount of looks from downtown taken. But he's also hit over 50 percent from two-point range, making his regular fg percentage high to begin with - and even more meaningful when you include his 3-point stroke.

TS% (66.9, 23rd): This stat factors in your free throw percentage - which actually probably hurts Shurna, as he hasn't been that efficient from the charity stripe. But he's still one of the top 25 in the country.


FD/40 (5.9, 150th): This stat isn't adjusted for tempo, but measures how often per 40 minutes you draw fouls. Shurna gets 5.9 fouls drawn for every 40 minutes he plays - good enough to foul out one defender. This could be because NU plays a relatively high tempo - but it's still impressive, and I'll tell you why soon.


FTRate (52.7, 227th): This measures how many free throws you take per 100 shots - Shurna takes 52.7. A lot of guys who are very efficient shooters are good 3-point shooters, but might struggle at getting to the line a good amount proportionally to how frequently they shoot, since they can't drive. And a lot of guys who get to the line a lot can't shoot very well - think of big centers who get hacked down low, or Allen Iverson. Shurna is ranked in the top 20 of EFG%, top 25 of TS%, AND although top 250 is nothing to scream from the rooftops, damn, he's in the top 250 of getting to the line proportionally to how often he shoots.


Miscellaneous stats (hint: this is where it gets impressive, since most people think of Shurna as just a scorer.)
ARate (21.1, 411th)
: How many of your teammates' field goals while you're on the floor come off assists from you? Shurna doesn't have a top 100 number or anything, but considering he uses a quarter if his teams' possessions and shots, its absurd thinking that he also manages to assist the ball at a fairly decent rate. Shurna is a good scorer, but that doesn't mean he doesn't occasionally pass the rock.


TO Rate (12.9, 179): The percentage of personal possessions used on turnovers. Kenpom describes any number below 15 as "great", Shurna clocks in at slightly under 13. So, to recap, he's a great shooter, but also gets to the basket a lot - hence the FTRate - but rarely turns the ball over while driving. He passes the ball enough to create a good amount of assists, but rarely turns the ball over while passing as well. Yeah. Also look back to the %poss stat, that made Shurna look like he used up a lot of possessions, possibly indicating a tendency for turnovers. Now we can see that that isn't true.


Blk%: (3.1, 392): The amount of opponent's shots you block. Shurna is second on the team to Drew Crawford and better than either of NU's centers - he's an underrated athlete with an ability to meet decent jumpers at the apex of their shot, registering several blocks against Jajuan Johnson you saw in my 1-3-1 post last week. People focus on Shurna's shooting skills, but his help defense has been really good.


Stl% (2.9, 330): Like I said one paragraph ago, eople focus on Shurna's shooting skills, but his weak side defense... has been really good. This is the amount of possessions Shurna is on the court that end in steals. Again, he's a sneaky athlete that has a tendency to pick off skip passes from the wing position of the 1-3-1. He's been menacing out of that spot, both helping to the basket and defending on the perimeter.


FC/40 (1.8, 93rd): He gets a lot of steals and blocks, that  means he probably fouls a lot, right? BAM! Not at all. And he draws a lot of fouls, and that number might have been affected by NU's fast tempo? BAM, WRONG AGAIN. Shurna registers under two fouls a game while drawing nearly six. Having him on the court gives your team a two foul advantage per half he's on the court. His ability to be a menacing defender while rarely committing violations is pretty rare.

What I hope I showed is how contradictory a lot of the things Shurna is good at are. Basketball players tend to fall into types. Good shooters won't dribble much, they'll have high EFg% numbers and low turnover ratings, but won't get to the line much and won't contribute much on defense. Great athletes will get to the line a lot and get a lot of blocks, steals, and rebounds, but won't shoot with a high percentage and might turn the ball over. Big men might have high field goal percentages and rebounding/block rates, but little else.
Shurna has managed to be relatively successful in a Jackson Pollack-esque sprinkling across the Kenpom radar. He's not top rate elite in a lot of categories - after a brief skim looking for players with rankings in 12 or 13 categories, I've decided the nation's best player is Kalin Lucas for cracking the top 100 in eight categories - but Shurna' ability to be well above-average competent in such a wide variety of categories when people paint him as a one-trick pony from beyond the arc is really spectacular.

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