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Darrun Hilliard: The Big East's Most Efficient Returnee

Villanova's stellar shooting guard is the model of proficiency going into 2014, as Christopher Novak found out.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Efficiency

[ih-fish-uh n-see]

noun

1. the state or quality of being efficient; competency in performance.

2. accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum exenditure of time and effort

3. the ratio of work done or energy developed by a machine, engine, etc.,

via Dictionary.com

In the traditional model, Field Goal Percentage (FG%) stands as the marker of efficiency based on its pure simplicity. A player who makes six of nine baskets is going to look much better than someone who, for instance, converts on only three or four baskets on nine attempts from the field. With the new wave of analytics sweeping through, Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) and True Shooting Percentage (TS%) have been able to make their own marks to reestablish thinking on the most efficient scorers on the hardwood landscape.

For those unfamiliar, eFG% is a measurement that, according to Basketball-Reference, "adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal" (Basketball-Reference).

eFG% Formula: (FG + 0.5 x 3PT FG) / (FGA)

TS%, meanwhile, per Basketball-Reference, "Is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws" (Basketball-Reference).

TS% Formula: (PTS) / (2 x FGA + 0.44 x FTA)

In the 2013-14 season, the Creighton Bluejays demolished opposing defenses with their tremendous efficiency. Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge led the way, but luckily for the rest of the conference, they have since departed Omaha, Nebraska to attempt to make it at the professional level. And with much of the conference playing inefficiently for the year, only one player stands out amongst his peers:

Villanova Wildcats senior shooting guard Darrun Hilliard.

It's true that Hilliard may have flown somewhat under the radar last season, with 6-foot-6 senior teammate James Bell and fellow junior JayVaughn Pinkston being the Wildcats' most significant contributors. But in reality, Hilliard had the second highest usage rate of any Wildcat last year -- 23.6 percent -- and was also Villanova's top free throw shooter as he knocked down a staggering 81.5 percent of his 108 attempts from the line.

To find where Hilliard truly made his mark though, we have to dig into the eFG% and TS% categories. For now, let's look at some raw numbers. From a points standpoint, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native scored an average of 14.3 points, constantly finding ways to wreak havoc against opposing defenses. His premier performance came on a Sunday afternoon in early March, when the Cats were entrenched in a tussle with the Marquette Golden Eagles. Inside the Wells Fargo Center, was the best player on the floor. He scored 26, was a remarkable 7-11 from the field (63.6 percent) in "The House That Allen Built," as it has been poignantly called in the past.

Burrowing deeper into the fold, Hilliard's numbers not only stick out amongst his peers in the Big East Conference, but entire country, also. He ranked in the Top 100 in the nation -- yes, that's right, the entire country -- in both eFG% and TS%, coming away with percentages of 59.4 and 62.2 respectively. Hilliard's eFG% was higher than Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas' (58.6) who was the Big Ten Conference's Player of the Year a season ago, and his TS% brought him in the company of Cleanthony Early and Jabari Brown.

There might be one major concern going into 2014 for him and Wildcats fans. To show that, let's take a look at Hilliard's year-to-year progression in the eFG% and TS% categories.

eFG% TS%
45.6 49.2
47.1 53.2
59.4 62.2

It's one thing to steadily improve like Darrun Hilliard did from his freshman to sophomore year, going up by roughly two and four percent in the categories. But the colossal upsurge from the sophomore to junior campaign is perhaps indicative that there might be a slight regression back to the mean. Going up by 12.3 percent in eFG% and 9.0 percent in TS% is certainly tremendous, and that isn't to say that Hilliard played above his head, as year-to-year growth is plausible. But, the numbers would indicate that he may drop down a tinker or two. Or, he'll get even better, and perhaps we'll look back at this paragraph and laugh in a few months.

The truth is: Nova Nation should feel spoiled to have a player the caliber of Hilliard's, with so many around him -- JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Josh Hart -- that are talented in their own right. It's not hard to see why Villanova is the preseason favorite to win the Big East Conference, nor is it hard to see why Hilliard is remarkably efficient, and could very well be on track to devastate defenses again in 2014.