North Texas Daily

Analysis: Plus-minus ratings show only one significantly positive men’s basketball lineup

Analysis: Plus-minus ratings show only one significantly positive men’s basketball lineup

February 22
10:00 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceWaddell15

North Texas men’s basketball has rolled out six lineups this season that have more than 30 minutes of playing time on the court together. Of those six lineups, only two have a positive plus minus rating.

A plus minus rating is a metric used to measure how effective a team is with certain players on the court. For instance, a player with a high plus minus rating heavily contributes to the team on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Conversely, a player with a low plus minus rating is usually someone who is on the court when the team is not performing well and is either struggling to score the ball or giving up lots of points.

The lineup with the most playing time for the Mean Green this year has been its usual starting five: sophomore forward Jeremy Combs, junior guards J-Mychal Reese and Deckie Johnson, graduate forward Eric Katenda and freshman guard Ja’Michael Brown.

“That group right there has been pretty consistent,” head coach Tony Benford said.

But that lineup has been one of the only effective and stable groups for Benford. With a +34 rating, the starting five for North Texas has scored 327 points while allowing 293. Having played 160 minutes together and counting, Benford has frequently relied on this lineup to produce.

North Texas senior forward Eric Katenda (20) passes the ball while driving the lane against WKU. Katenda 4-4 from the free throw line despite a team 58 percent from the line. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

North Texas senior forward Eric Katenda (20) passes the ball while driving the lane against WKU. Katenda 4-4 from the free throw line despite a team 58 percent from the line. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Unfortunately for the Mean Green, that same lineup with freshman center Rickey Brice Jr. in place of Katenda drops from a +34 to a staggering -7.

“There’s a different skill set,” Benford said. “Eric has more experience than Rickey, but Rickey is going to get there in time. We’re really pleased with his progress. But he’s still got a way to go where he can really be effective for extended minutes.”

Katenda himself has experienced firsthand the struggles on the court this season. A graduate transfer in his first and only season with North Texas, Katenda attributes a majority of the team’s struggles to chemistry, or a lack thereof.

“It sounds like everyone has their own agendas,” Katenda said. “We just need to continue to grow. We’re running out of tomorrows. I talked about it earlier in the year. We have a lot of guys from different places. We have eight newcomers this year. The chemistry, […] it’s been a problem for us.”

However, the decision of Katenda or Brice has not produced the worst statistical lineup of the year. The group of Combs, Reese, Johnson, Brown and freshman guard Allante Holston has been on the court for over 48 minutes and is a -28 together.

The third most used lineup for the Mean Green this season has been Combs, Johnson, Reese, Holston and freshman forward Khalil Fuller. With more than 59 minutes of playing time together, this group has a -2 rating and has been most frequently used when Brown, Katenda or Brice get into foul trouble.

North Texas sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) throws down a dunk off of a break away against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

North Texas sophomore forward Jeremy Combs (1) throws down a dunk off of a break away against WKU. Nathan Roberts | Contributing Photographer

The same holds true for the fourth most used lineup in terms of minutes played, which is the starting five with Fuller in for Katenda. With a +1 rating, this is yet another group Benford has utilized to give Brice and Katenda a breather during games.

Finally, the squad of Katenda, Reese, Johnson, Holston and Combs are the least used lineup of the six, having seen action on the court for 39 minutes exactly. This group holds a -9 rating.

Aside from the occasional defensive breakdowns, three of the Mean Green starters have played more than 850 of a possible 1,080 minutes. Additionally, Reese leads the team in minutes played at just over 897 and ranks seventh overall in Conference USA.

Despite the heavy workload, Reese said he has not felt any negative side affects.

“My body is fine,” Reese said. “I’ve been doing this for awhile, and even if I do get tired, I’m going to push through it.”

Named co-captains of the team prior to the start of the year, Reese and Combs have been a part of the eight most used lineups for North Texas. Ranked first and third on the team in total points scored, both have been a vital asset for the Mean Green and have become a mainstay on the court.

“I feel like we bring a lot with leadership and just going out there every game, giving it our all and doing what we can to help the team win,” Reese said.

Featured Image: North Texas freshman center Rickey Brice yells after he dunks on a fast break against Southern Mississippi. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

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