You've probably watched a Notre Dame basketball game this season and thought "Wow, Jack Cooley sure looks like he is having a great season, but do the numbers back that up?". Your imaginary question is a convenient introduction to this post, which answers it by stating that the advanced stats are indeed big, big fans of Jack Cooley. Let's run through them, with full credit to Ken Pomeroy and his wonderful website for the numbers.
All of these ranks are within the Big East, unless otherwise stated.
Effective FG%: This is a way of measuring a player's field goal percentage that gives you credit for hitting a three, meaning that a made 2PT FG is worth the normal one in the FGM/FGA formula, but a made 3PT FG is worth 1.5. So if you go 5 for 10 with 0 threes and I go 4 for 10 with 2 3's, we both have an eFG% of 50%.
This is a long introduction to say Jack Cooley has the best eFG% in the Big East at 61.1%, besting Georgetown's Hollis Thompson by a full percentage. Thompson has taken 99 threes this season compared to Cooley's zero, so they've both been effective in very different ways.
(The best eFG% in the country comes from Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, clocking in at an absurd 73.4% with zero threes attempted. In second is Creighton superstar Doug McDermott, who is shooting a crisp 50% from behind the arc.)
Rebounding rate: This is a way to measure how many available rebounds a player gets when he is on the floor. If a player is on a slower paced team so available rebounds aren't as plentiful (sound familiar?), this is a good way to adjust for pace. Cooley's offensive rebounding rate is second in the Big East with 17.5%. His defensive rebounding rate is 21.7%, good for fourth.
Please feel free to skip this paragraph, as I'm going to take the opportunity to talk about DeJuan Blair's 2009 season, which boasts some of the most absurd numbers you will ever see. The Pitt product - and current San Antonio Spur - had a stellar defensive rebounding rate of 27.8%, besting Luke Harangody's 25.4%. As impressive as that was, his margin on the offensive glass was even wider, as his 23.6% was ten points higher than runner-up Yancy Gates. That basically meant that any time a player on Pitt missed a shot, there was almost a 1-in-4 chance Blair was going to get the rebound. For comparison's sake, the best offensive rebounding rate nationally this year is Dukie Miles Plumlee's 18.1%, a full five clicks below Blair's '09.
Free throw rate: This is the measure of how often you get to the line compared to the number of field goal attempts you have. A perimeter player who mainly shoots jumpers and doesn't often earn a trip to the line would have a very low percentage, while big men who get hacked a lot will have a high one. Cooley's number is third in the Big East, behind Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston (all-name candidate) and South Florida's Ron Anderson.
Block rate: The number of available shots blocked by a player while he is on the floor. Cooley is eleventh in this at 5.62%, but the Big East has some impressive candidates, starting with Fab Melo's 14.52%. It's a shame that we didn't get to see Melo face off against the Irish last month.*
*No it isn't.
True Shooting: True shooting is a percentage that takes into account field goal shooting, free throw shooting and three-point shooting. Jack Cooley leads the Big East in this category at 64.3%, three pointers higher than his statistical rival Hollis Thompson. Cooley's number would be good for 37th in the country, which is really good when you consider how many Division I basketball players there are. Our friend Ricardo Ratliffe leads this category as well, followed by Indiana's Cody Zeller and Doug McDermott.
Offensive Rating: This is a more complicated formula that gives you an offensive player's value per 100 possessions, taking into account the previously mentioned true shooting percentage, along with offensive rebound rate, assist rate and turnover rate. In this metric, Cooley is third in the Big East among players with a 20% or higher usage rate. KenPom breaks his stats down among those with greater than 28%, 24% and 20% usage rates, as it is considerably more impressive to throw up a big offensive rating when you are taking more of the scoring burden for your team. This isn't a perfect measure, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have your name near the top of the list, even at a slightly lower rate than some of the workhorses in the league. (Jerian Grant is sixth in this category among those with a usage rate above 20%.)
So what does this mean? Mainly that if you wanted to make a case for Jack Cooley as an All-Big East performer - or even Big East Player of the Year candidate - the stats would all be behind you. There is obviously more than a quarter of the season left - including a showdown with Hollis Thompson on the last Monday in February - but so far, so good for Notre Dame's mauler in the post.