How Much Is Jarrett Culver Worth to Texas Tech’s Final Four Spread?
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jarrett Culver
- Jarrett Culver's rise has been the highlight of Texas Tech's Final Four run. But how valuable is he to the spread?
- Eli Hershkovich spoke to an oddsmaker to find out, plus makes his own assessment.
- Texas Tech will face off against Michigan State (-2.5) on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET on CBS.
En route to Texas Tech earning its first Final Four berth in program history, Jarrett Culver’s ascension has emerged as one of the most notable storylines of the season.
The Red Raiders were pegged to finish seventh in the Big 12 standings after losing three of their starters from last season, including eventual lottery pick Zhaire Smith. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Culver notched only the 16th-most win shares (4.2) among Big 12 players last season (per Sports Reference), and a major production spike wasn’t expected of him.
I'm convinced Jarrett Culver can finish ANY shot around the rim, dude is going to be a stud in the NBA pic.twitter.com/KaiP8ouVT7
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) March 29, 2019
His scoring average has jumped 7.7 points per game (18.9 ppg) in his sophomore campaign, as his possession rate (31.7% ) rose 10.4 percentage points in the process — good for the 28th-highest in the country.
Culver now owns the 16th-most win shares (6.9) across college basketball, ranking first overall in his conference. The emerging star has also tallied the most defensive wins shares (3.4) in the nation — ahead of Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke (3.2), Michigan’s Zavier Simpson’s (3.2), Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ (3.1), the Wolverines’ Jon Teske (3.1), Washington’s Matisse Thybulle (3.0) and even his teammate Matt Mooney (3.0).
The Lubbock, Texas native has vaulted to No. 1 in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings, sitting above Duke freshman Zion Williamson, who slid all the way to seventh after the Blue Devils’ Elite Eight loss to Michigan State.
Matt Lindeman, an oddsmaker at Caesars Palace, noted that while his player ratings aren’t definitive because their worth changes by game, Culver has at least top-10 value to the spread.
Lindeman would even slot Culver as high as No. 5.
“It’s a bit of a guessing game until I see how the market reacts that first game without a player,” Lindeman said. “I’ll estimate roughly what I think a guy is worth and stay on the conservative side when making my adjustment, then adjust again once I see how the game closes and how they look.
“[Michigan State’s] Cassius Winston and [Purdue’s] Carsen Edwards are probably more valuable just because they run the offense, Texas Tech has the ability to rely more on their defense. Above them, Ja Morant is probably right there with Zion Williamson, and Markus Howard is in the mix as well.
“You just typically don’t see the market give the same value to defensive impact — even if it’s warranted with Culver. I’d think he’s worth 2-2.5 points.”
Culver’s merit is delivered within his versatility, seeing time at power forward, small forward and even point guard, respectively. His ability to shift to any of those positions creates a mismatch offensively, but he can also switch 1 through 5 at the other end.
He showcased his defensive prowess in the second half of Texas Tech’s Elite Eight win over Gonzaga, matching up with the 6-foot-8 Rui Hachimura when the Red Raiders went to their small-ball lineup. In turn, Chris Beard’s unit limited the Bulldogs to 0.97 points per possession overall — their second-lowest offensive efficiency this season.
Culver contributed to the havoc with three steals, as he’s manufactured the 204th-highest steal rate (2.8%) in Division I. Without his services, Texas Tech doesn’t come close to presenting the lowest Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (84.0 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) in the KenPom era (2002-19).
Culver’s offensive presence isn’t just felt in the scoring department, either. He’s racked up the 138th-highest assist rate (26.5%), asserting himself as the Red Raiders’ go-to ball handler down the stretch.
Overall, I’d rate him as the fourth-most valuable player to the spread — behind Williamson, Winston and Edwards — equivalent to 2.5 points. But if Texas Tech ends up cutting down the nets on Monday, he could easily vault himself higher on that list.