Commentary

Player Rankings: Under-the-radar stars

Isaiah Canaan is one of several less renowned stars in BracketBusters matchups

Updated: February 17, 2012, 1:35 PM ET
By Matt Giles | ESPN Insider
Isaiah Canaan, Jeremy GrangerAP Photo/ Stephen HaasIsaiah Canaan has carried the load for the Racers all season long.

Ever want a way to compare every player in college basketball? John Hollinger has your answer. With his college player efficiency ratings (PER), we can evaluate the productivity of Division I hoopsters from Arizona to Youngstown State to see who's really helping his team the most.

This weekend, ESPN is asking fans to pick the nation's best under-the-radar players (You can vote here.) Among the choices are players like South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, Iona's Scott Machado, Long Beach State's Casper Ware, Weber State's Damian Lillard and Murray State's Isaiah Canaan. We have a few opinions of our own on the matter, and although we've already examined Wolters, Machado, Ware and Lillard, we haven't yet analyzed the Racers' star, Canaan. Well, no time like the present.

Using John Hollinger's player efficiency ratings (PER), here's a look at Canaan as well as a number of other high-caliber BracketBusters players who have shined outside of the spotlight.

Canaan's freshman year was notable for two reasons: One, the guard averaged double digits for a squad that upset Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament's first round; and two, it was the only time in Canaan's three seasons that he attempted more 2-point field goals than 3s. Canaan's PER leads Murray State (26.50) and is second in the Ohio Valley, and the guard has a dual responsibility of generating offense for the Racers and directing coach Steve Prohm's sets. Canaan's usage rate (20.6 percent) is tops on the squad (as is his assist rate of 18.1 percent), and surprisingly for a player so involved in the game plan, he does not commit many turnovers (TO rate of 12.3 percent).

Canaan has attempted 167 3s this season, connecting on 47.3 percent of those tries, and what is interesting about the junior's game is that he is not strictly a spot-up player. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Canaan rarely spots up for a jumper. This makes some sense: Canaan is in charge of play calling and typically has the ball in his hands, so there aren't many instances when Canaan will receive, rather than deliver, the ball. In particular, the guard likes to take a dribble off a pick and then shoot. And because he averages 0.82 points per pick-and-roll possession, it's hard to argue with the strategy.