It’s time to give Oso Ighodaro more love

I was re-watching the Seton Hall game earlier and started writing some notes about how Oso Ighodaro’s impact, as great as all Marquette fans already acknowledge it, isn’t quite lauded as it should be.

But then I saw this clip from Andy Katz pulling together the top-25 big men nationally and, you guessed it, leaving Oso completely off the list. I can’t let this slander stand.

No, Oso isn’t a prototypical big. No, he’s not averaging a double double, pushing people around the paint at will. No, he’s not a household name across the Big East, let alone the country. But this is why you expect more from national pundits like Katz who do this for a living.

It’s time to sing his praises.

Seton Hall Dominance

From about the 17 minute mark to the 12 minute mark of the 2nd half, Oso nearly single handedly buried the Pirates and sapped any semblance of a potential comeback from the building, scoring 8 of Marquette’s 13 points and wreaking havoc defensively en route to pushing an 11 point lead to 19.

He had 3 dunks in that span, 2 of them self created, was fouled twice, blocked a shot and forced an airball a separate possession. He had one deflection that led to a jump ball and also added another and a steal another time. Oh, and added an offensive rebound for good measure. In that 5 minute span, he was the only Marquette player that did not come off the floor.

Simply put, Oso was mostly responsible for the segment that put the game to bed.

Not A Mirage

Of course, it’s one thing to have a great stretch within a half of one game. That in and of itself doesn’t tell us much. But that stretch wasn’t an isolated incident. He’s been doing this for full games all season.

The site gives you the chance to filter team performance, adjusted for opponent quality per 100 possessions, with certain players on or off the court, and no matter how you slice or dice the data, Oso’s impact is undeniable.

If we take out garbage time, which pads stats and skews numbers, Marquette is scoring 123.1 points per 100 possessions with Oso on, and only 113 with him off. On the other end, MU gives up 93.8 pts when Osos is on, but 105.5 when he’s off.

Oso On/Off Splits Without Garbage Time

Put that together and Marquette’s Adj Net Rating of +29.3 with Oso on the court has MU playing like the 4th best team in the country. When he’s off, MU’s Net Rtg of 7.5 would pit them as the 105th best team in the country. Oso is literally the difference between Marquette being a legitimate Final 4 contender or not even an NIT team.

Of course, On/Off is impacted by a lot of different factors. How many possessions you see (sample size). Who you play with (starters v bench). Who you play against. Nevada Smith has consistently railed against plus/minus as a value indicator, because it’s much more of a team measure and less an individual merit.

But this is the clear and obvious case where one player’s impact is primarily responsible for the difference. I mean if we filter out the cupcakes (+ Georgetown) and only focus on top-200 teams, check out how the already outrageous numbers get engorged.

Oso’s On/Off Splits vs Top 200, No Garbage Time

Marquette is 32.6 points better every 100 possessions when Oso is on against the best teams in the country than when he’s sitting. This is why Shaka has started incorporating timeouts before a media TO, to erase a usual sub for Oso, and instead buy him an additional 2-minute breather before the TV timeout without having to pull him off the court.

No other Marquette player has an On/Off Net Rating over 15 in this filtered view (OMax at +13.4). That isn’t to say all the other players are scrubs, but rather there is no one on this team that can remotely bring the impact Oso does when he’s off the court. He’s a true unicorn.

Super Advanced Stats

Don’t take my simple filtration at face value either. There are people who are much smarter than I am that have created models and regressions that can take simple on/off splits and attribute value based on both box score and time on court and teammates and opponents.

Once again, I’ll direct your attention to Hoop-Explorer who runs a D1 database of RAPM scores (which is short for Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus and uses super fancy math to do all of that). Based on RAPM, Oso’s score of +9.3 ranks 2nd in the Big East and 9th in the country. Not amongst big men, but including all players.

Here are the next 4 best full season RAPM scores since the database began in 2019.

Markus Howard (19): +9.4
Markus Howard (20): +8.9
Sam Hauser (19): +7.1
Justin Lewis (22): +5.5

No one had any problem saying Markus was one of the best players in the country, because his impact came in the most visible way, scoring oodles on oodles of buckets. We were the ones screaming about Sam’s value and how underrated he was (and still haven’t gotten over his transfer) in real time. And Justin, though not drafted, had a breakout campaign and was named the conference’s most improved player based again, on scoring.

If you don’t want to fully ascribe to one fancy metric, can I interest you in Evan Miya’s BPR database?

Much like RAPM, BPR uses fancy math to ascribe individual value based on way more than box score stats. (Full definition from the site: BPR: Bayesian Performance Rating is the sum of a player’s OBPR and DBPR. This rating is the ultimate measure of a player’s overall value to his team when he is on the floor. BPR is interpreted as the number of points per 100 possessions better than the opponent the player’s team is expected to be if the player were on the court with 9 other average players. A higher rating is better.)

Guess what, we were also beating the Jae Crowder drum way back in 2012 when it seemed West Virginia’s Kevin Jones was the media favorite:

Jae had some pretty eye-popping box stats, don’t get me wrong, but what BPR can show now is that even relative to his teammates (like DJO) that also had fantastic years, Jae’s impact was much more consequential.

So to see Oso currently putting up the 2nd best BPR in recent MU history (and 18th best overall this season) should put in context how special he truly is.

Don’t forget the basic stats

If I lost you at any point, you don’t have to take an advanced calculus class to make a case that Oso is clearly one of the best 25 big men in the country.

He’s averaging 12.2 pts and 6.3 rebs per game on an eFG% of 67.2%, which ranks in the 96th percentile nationally. Heck, his shot chart makes him look like prime Shaq.

If you want to add some KenPom context, he’s currently a top-100 player in Offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, true shooting and block percentage.

And we haven’t even touched the fact he acts like a point guard in the half court, putting up a 17.6% assist rate on the year, 5th nationally of all players 6’9″ or taller, per TRank.

A key reason Marquette has the most efficient offense in the country is because Oso gives the team another creator so even taking away Kolek’s magic doesn’t keep the ball from humming. He’s gone coast to coast on dunks and left others frozen like statues off of spin drives.

He also did this to a literal giant.

The time is now

Whether you want to ascribe to fancy numbers or not, you only need to watch like 15 minutes of a game to see that Oso is the fulcrum to both ends of the court.

I can’t say this is a good time to get on the bandwagon, because Twitter draftniks have been whispering about Oso since the offseason. And some well known ones have even put together YouTube compilations based only off his 2022 season. This would be like 10 minutes at this point including 2023 games.

At the end of the day, I’m sure Andy Katz’ snub won’t make a difference in any regard, but I do think there is value in people outside of the Big East hoop-heads recognizing the gem that is Oso. At his rate of growth, another season at Marquette may simply be this diehard fan’s wish, rather than an NBA evaluation.

I don’t want to wait until it’s common knowledge to give Oso his flowers.

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Categories: Analysis


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