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Comparing Sherron Collins to other NCAA basketball winners
[Taylor Witt is a Kansas University senior from Prairie Village majoring in Journalism. He is serving an internship with The Lawrence Journal-World sports staff.]
Sherron Collins will be remembered for winning games, not padding his statistics. We heard it throughout his entire senior season, in a number of fashions. Always a leader, never a stat–stuffer. A pure winner, not scorer or rebounder or assist ... er.
So after a heartbreaking loss to Northern Iowa left Kansas with 130 victories since the start of Collins' freshman season, I wanted to see just where he stands, statistically, with all of the other players with that many victories.
So I hit the record books.
What may surprise some people is that, of the litany of statistics kept about basketball players, the "career victories" stat is inaccurate at worst and misleading at best.
Unlike pitchers in baseball or goalies in hockey, no statisticians keep victory totals for individual players. It makes sense, of course.
With the hundreds of Div. I programs and complete roster turnover every four years, and with basketball being a team sport, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense on the surface to keep track of wins based on the players and not the schools. Thus, some digging was required.
The NCAA record book is a very neat document if you're a stat-rat like myself, and among the records kept is "Winningest Teams Over Periods of Time." The seniors on those teams that won the most games in a four year period seem like a good place to start looking for the winningest players of all time.
I eliminated any "scrubs" (sorry C.B. McGrath) based on games played, and the Memphis teams that are involved with the 38-win team in 2008.
I also chose to eliminate any player who played before 1986, first because the three-point shot was implemented then and, I feel, completely changed the way basketball is played. Second, statistics just aren't widely available before about 25 years ago.
So yes, Bill Walton, Oscar Robertson, Pistol Pete Maravich, Wilt Chamberlain and all other dominant players before 1986 are not included. But even if they were, teams generally played around 30 games a year up until the early '90s, so they more than likely wouldn't have made the cut anyway. The players that did make the cut are:
Shane Battier — Duke (133 wins)
Jeff Sheppard, Allen Edwards — Kentucky (132 wins)
Scott Padgett, Wayne Turner — Kentucky (132 wins)
Sherron Collins — Kansas (130 wins)
Stacey Augmon — UNLV (126 wins)
Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough — North Carolina (124 wins)
Anthony Epps — Kentucky (124 wins)
Brian Davis, Christian Laettner — Duke (123 wins)
Billy Thomas, Raef LaFrentz — Kansas (123 wins)
Quentin Thomas — North Carolina (123 wins)
Collins checks in at sixth on this list, but as I'm sure you might remember, Collins missed six games in 2008. And in fact, no player on that list played every game of his entire career.
So, I then eliminated any player with 15 or more career games missed, which kicked out Scott Padgett (30), Quentin Thomas (16), and Allen Edwards (15). The only players on the list to miss a game that resulted in a loss were Raef LaFrentz (2), Brian Davis (2), and Anthony Epps (1), so those games missed don't count against their wins.
That made the list:
Shane Battier — 131 wins
Wayne Turner — 131 wins
Stacey Augmon — 125 wins
Sherron Collins — 124 wins
Danny Green — 123 wins
Anthony Epps — 123 wins
Christian Laettner — 122 wins
Jeff Sheppard — 121 wins
Tyler Hansbrough — 120 wins
Billy Thomas — 120 wins
Brian Davis — 117 wins
Raef LaFrentz — 116 wins
Now, keep in mind that these results are pulled only from the teams that won 123 or more games in a four-year period. So even though a player like Raef LaFrentz is on this list with 116 personal victories, while a guy like Ryan Robertson (who played in all 121 victories during his four years) is left off, there is simply no data available to me for any player whose team won less than 123 games in four years.
If someone finds a player they think is worthy of being in this discussion, please post a reply here and I'll see what I can do about adding them to these rankings, but as of right now, I feel like this is the most complete list of winningest players since 1986 that I can find.
Yes, red shirts also throw this for a bit of a loop, so again I ask you, find me a player who red-shirted a year and still had enough of an impact to make this list, and I'll include him. But as of now, that is the list. Also, please don’t ask me about Brady Morningstar. He missed a year and a half of his “official” victories and doesn’t belong on this list.
So where does Collins rank among those 12 players? Let's take a look.
What stands out to me here are his assists and steals. As a point guard, assists and steals come with the territory. While he ranked first among the 12 winningest players in assists per game at 3.86, his steals are pretty minuscule at 1.01 per game, good for ninth out of the 12 players. Perhaps that’s a testament to his playing style, where solid defense suits him more than risky steals.
Also, 13.20 points per game, for a “winner not a scorer” is pretty impressive, as only four other players had a higher total, and he was nipping on Battier’s heels for fourth place. Nobody would be surprised to learn he ranked low in blocks and rebounds, because the best 5–foot–11 players in the world would do the same.
What Kansas fans may also note is that Raef LaFrentz holds his own against the very best of them, ranking first in rebounds per game, second in winning percentage, third in points per game, and third in blocks per game. I know many KU fans remember Raef with the fondest of memories, but I was really impressed by his showing statistically.
But this post isn’t about LaFrentz, it’s about Collins. The senior guard, when compared to every player since 1986 whose teams won at least 123 games in their four years, “stuffed the stats” pretty well. And although it was interesting to look at Collins’ career through his stats, they are just numbers, and don’t tell his entire story.
So while many Kansas fans could be sore with him for having a poor performance at one of the worst possible times of his career, please remember the incredible impact this player had on his school, his team, his fans and his peers. You won’t see someone like him come around that often, even at Kansas.