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Penn St Iowa Basketball

Iowa forward Nicholas Baer sits on the bench during the second half of a March 5 game against Penn State. According to a statistical formula used by, Baer was the second most efficient player in the Big Ten this season.

People always are coming up with new and complex statistical formulas to measure the quality of teams and players in various sports. It happens a great deal in baseball and it’s beginning to happen even more in basketball.

If you’re a fan of Quad-Cities area athletes, you probably would like the college basketball “box plus/minus’’ ratings assembled by

According to the efficiency metrics used by that website, the best all-around player in the Big Ten this season was former Rockridge High School star Ethan Happ.

And No. 2 on the list, believe it or not, was Bettendorf’s Nicholas Baer.

It’s not very close. Happ, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and helped Wisconsin to be the last Big Ten team standing in post-season play, had an overall box plus/minus rating of 15.8. Baer, who was named the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year after an excellent season at Iowa, and Michigan’s Derrick Walton were a distant second at 11.1 with Baer edging the Wolverines senior by mere percentage points.

The mathematical formula is way, way too complicated for us to explain here. It factors in both offensive and defensive statistics so it undoubtedly helps that Happ and Baer each led their teams in rebounding, blocked shots and steals.

It’s interesting because the top 20 on the box plus/minus list includes a lot of guys — Baer, Zak Showalter, Juwan Morgan, Dererk Pardon, Kevin Huerter — who wouldn’t ordinarily be regarded among the top couple of dozen players in the league but who a lot of us suspected were somewhat underrated. also tracks such unusual and revealing statistics as offensive and defensive win shares, effective field goal percentage, true field goal percentage and usage percentage, and the box plus/minus numbers are broken down by both offense and defense.

Happ was fourth on the Big Ten offensive box plus/minus list behind Walton, Indiana’s James Blackmon and Iowa’s Peter Jok. Baer was 11th on that list and Iowa freshman Jordan Bohannon was 19th.

Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch was No. 1 on the defensive box plus/minus list, but Happ was second and Baer fifth.

In case you were wondering about Caleb Swanigan, who won the Big Ten player of the year award while leading Purdue to the conference title, he was only 14th in offense, seventh in defense and fourth overall.

To check out the top 20 in the conference in every statistical category, go to

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