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What was BYU basketball's best lineup from last year? We checked the stats

Take a look at the plus/minus statistics of this past season.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, Vanquish The Foe published an article called, "Can Kyle Davis and Eric Mika co-exist in 2016-17?" A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about the roster problem Dave Rose would face this offseason (in short, BYU doesn't have enough guards, or a natural small forward). These article are a reflection of the kind of conversation that people are engaging in when thinking about the 2016-17 BYU basketball campaign.

The interest, conversation and prediction surrounding the 2016-17 Cougars is massive! It is the most prevalent topic I've encountered in the past weeks. I've had several people email, tweet, and DM me concerning the plus/minus stat that I tracked during the past season. Here's an example:

I started recording plus/minus for both individuals and lineups at the beginning of WCC play when BYU lost at St. Mary's until the end of the season when BYU lost to Valparaiso in the NIT semifinals. The database covers the final 24 games of the season -- the part of the campaign after the departures of Jake Toolson, Cory Calvert, and Cooper Ainge.

Due to the overall curiosity concerning what the plus/minus data I tracked, I've decided that there are probably enough of you stat heads out there that would pour over this material as much as I have. Use it for good and let me know if you have any interesting observations in the comment section below, via my email, or if your takes are convey-able in 140 characters then let it fly to me on Twitter @CougarCast.

If you are interested in digging into every aspect of the data on a game-by-game basis with every lineup used, I've made it all available on this Google Drive spreadsheet.

Otherwise, here is the overall punch of the plus/minus data.

First, a look at the total plus/minus over the last 24 games of the season.

Player Total +/-
Kyle Collinsworth 226
Nick Emery 218
Chase Fisher 212
Zac Seljaas 150
Kyle Davis 125
Jordan Chatman 107
Corbin Kaufusi 77
Nate Austin 72
Jakob Hartsock 36
Jamal Aytes 27
Davin Guinn 25
Braiden Shaw 16

In order to adjust for the varying amount of playing time each player received, I adjusted the plus/minus to reflect what the players averaged over 40 minutes. Below is a table to show plus/minus per 40 minutes for the 8 Y players that played at least 200 minutes.

Player Plus/minus per 40 minutes Minutes played in final 24 games
Jordan Chatman 15.23 281
Zac Seljaas 11.61 517
Nick Emery 11.24 776
Kyle Collinsworth 11.17 809
Chase Fisher 10.02 846
Kyle Davis 8.38 596
Corbin Kaufusi 8.37 368
Nate Austin 7.87 366

A key place to look here is the difference it makes between evaluating Kyle Davis and Corbin Kaufusi against one another. In the first table, Davis appears to be 48 points better than Kaufusi, but this is simply due to Davis playing 228 more minutes. When adjusted to reflect 40 minutes of play, Davis and Kaufusi are virtually tied. As they each played for 40 minutes, BYU was 8.3 points better than their opponent.

The other player that likely stood out to you is Jordan Chatman. Good things happened when Jordan was inserted into a lineup. Chatman had a +3.6 margin over Zac Seljaas in plus/minus per 40. Had Chatman played more minutes it is likely that his huge advantage in this category would have fell closer to the 11 point range. Even still, the best news here is that Chatman was a very good option for Dave Rose off the bench and against the opponent's bench players.

Chatman also gives Coach Rose a lot of flexibility. Jordan was substituted in for and played all 5 positions -- the only BYU player to do so.

Remember Shane Battier? As a pro, he was frequently one of the better rated players in relation to plus/minus. He was the savvy veteran glue guy that forced a few bad shots, got loose balls, made the extra pass, and hit open shots. I see this as Jordan Chatman's destiny. His freshman campaign was a great building block in that direction.

Now take a look at some lineup plus/minus data. The table below is in order of the most playing time and features every BYU lineup that played together at least 20:00 over the last 24 games of the season.

1 2 3 4 5 Total +/- Court Time plus/minus per 40
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Zac Seljaas Kyle Davis 62 2h 1m 23s 20.5
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Kyle Davis Nate Austin -21 1h 46m 19s -7.93
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Kyle Davis Corbin Kaufusi 31 1h 38m 44s 12.53
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Zac Seljaas Corbin Kaufusi 27 1h 11m 37s 15
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Zac Seljaas Nate Austin 31 58m 18s 21.38
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Zac Seljaas Kyle Davis Nate Austin 4 24m 34s 6.4
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Jakob Hartsock Kyle Davis 7 23m 54s 11.67
Nick Emery Chase Fischer Zac Seljaas Kyle Davis Corbin Kaufusi -3 21m 56s -5.45
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Jordan Chatman Zac Seljaas Nate Austin 0 21m 4s 0
Kyle Collinsworth Chase Fischer Nick Emery Nate Austin Corbin Kaufusi 3 21m 2s 5.71

There are a lot of things to notice from the table above.

BYU really leaned upon Collinsworth and Fischer. They were both great.

If you have consumed other articles and media of mine, I've written a couple times about the horribleness of of the "lineup of death." Dave Rose's 2nd most preferred lineup of Collinsworth, Fischer, Emery, Davis, and Austin was also his very worst -- by a WIDE MARGIN. It is a particularly surprising that they played together for 107 minutes when balanced against the fact that Rose, by in large, impressively avoided bad lineups. Only 2 lineups that played 20:00 minutes or more were negative grouping. 33 of the 105 different lineups employed by Dave Rose over the last 24 games were minus lineups. Of those 33, only 5 played more than 10 minutes. If a lineup tends to lose while they are on the floor, the BYU coaching staff makes a note of it and stays away if possible. Except in the case of the "lineup of death."

The other major revelation I've written about is the wonders of small ball. In particular, the dominance of BYU when Zac Seljaas played the 4 spot. BYU's top 5 lineups in plus/minus per 40 (minimum of 15:00 minutes played) all had Zac Seljaas at the 4.

With that in mind, maybe it would be most prudent for BYU to look for a stretch 4 to be their primary option. Maybe it isn't a question of which front court pairing works best between Davis, Eric Mika, Corbin Kaufusi, etc. Perhaps instead the question should be, who can duplicate the output of Zac Seljaas? A player that can shoot an great percentage from behind the arc, compete hard, secure a few rebounds, block a shot occasionally, and come up with a steal. Could that player be Payton Dastrup? Or maybe Jakob Hartsock can improve in a meaningful way to be that guy? If they can provide a similar effort to Seljaas for the Cougars, why wouldn't BYU build upon their best lineups last season and play a stretch 4?

On the other hand, it could be argued, and argued well, that Collinsworth's rebounding ability was the aspect that allowed for the success of lineups with Seljaas at the 4.

As always, there is a ton for Dave Rose and the BYU coaching staff to consider. The first order of business is filling out their roster. How they decide to use their open roster spot will be fascinating. In the meantime, Cougar fans will continue to debate how the 2016-17 BYU hoops team will look and their possible pathways to success.