Big Ten Wonk
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Preseason All-Wonk Team: WATN?
Enough games have now been played to take our first revisionist look at that continually changing socially-constructed palimpsest known as the All-Wonk Team. How are the All-Wonks doing? Do these five players still merit this prestigious honor? Most importantly, do they live up to the All-Wonk credo: not necessarily the biggest talents or gaudiest stats, just guys you'd want in your foxhole?

With that, your intrepid blogger re-introduces you to the five players selected a few weeks ago by the crack staff on the All-Wonk Desk....

Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin. Wilkinson had a well-publicized horrible game at Pepperdine, where his turnovers (seven) actually exceeded his points (six) and the Badgers were pasted 75-61. For the year he's averaging 12 points and six boards a game--good numbers but not eye-popping. Moreover, for All-Wonk purposes, Wilkinson suffers from a little category trouble: a guy who's on the preseason All-Big-Ten team arguably adds little value to the All-Wonk team. Tough call, one we may revisit later this season, but for now Wilkinson goes and his spot is now open.

T.J. Parker, Northwestern. Another tough call. Parker's stats this year are nothing to write home about but with Parker you know that going in. Not to mention he's the heart and soul of his team and is logging a ridiculous amount of minutes (36+ per game). Even so, the All-Wonk honor is only for the elite of the elite. Wonk likes Parker and all decisions are un-final but for now Parker goes and his spot is now open.

Terence Dials, Ohio State. Under new coach Thad Matta, Dials is being asked to play a more traditional back-to-the-basket kind of post than he's used to and his numbers thus far have not matched the strong finish he posted last year. That being said, the big guy is still pulling down seven boards a game and, in a conference short on non-head-case bigs, that is a real mark of distinction. Dials stays.

Lester Abram, Michigan. Injured and out for the year. Abram goes and his spot is now open.

Greg Brunner, Iowa. The toughest call of the five. Brunner is having a very strong year: 13.3 points and 6.7 boards a game. Every time Wonk catches part of a Hawkeye game Brunner is hustling. (And Adam Haluska is bricking yet another three--yet Haluska has very nice numbers. How is this possible?) And yet...the criteria for this elite honor are not merely normative, they're also comparative. And Brunner is up against some stiff competition. (Hint: check out the names--admittedly few--above Brunner in Big Ten rebounding, the foundational All-Wonk stat.) Don't you go too far now, Greg, but as of today Brunner goes and his spot is now open.

Four openings on the All-Wonk Team. Your intrepid blogger's already received many perceptive nominations from many alert readers. Today is the official last day of lobbying: send in your nominee for the All-Wonk Team.

Wonk only reprints old posts when he's right
Yesterday your intrepid blogger had this to say in advance of last night's Michigan-Boston University game:

Michigan hosts Boston University in Ann Arbor tonight and the injury-riddled Wolverines have reduced UM beat writers to filing stories on a veritable murderer's row of who-dat's: John Andrews, Dani Wohl, Ashtyn Bell, and Sherrod Harrell. (Links here and here. This second link says the burden of leadership now falls on sophomore guard Dion Harris. That is likely bad news for Wolverine fans: see yesterday's post on points per weighted shot and especially the ten lowest players in the league in that category.)

The increased leadership burden placed upon Dion Harris was bad news for Wolverine fans. The sophomore guard scored just four points more than the little old lady alum in the front row on 1-for-11 shooting and BU beat Michigan 63-52. (Links here and here.)

Harris was the first Michigan high-school Mr. Basketball in a while who did not land at Michigan State and his arrival in Ann Arbor a year ago was widely viewed as one more encouraging sign that the Wolverines were turning the corner. (He even put up some nice numbers at the start of last year.) But his performance this season has been woeful. Among players with at least 100 points, Harris has the worst points per weighted shot (PPWS) number in the conference (0.89). And the company one keeps in this over 100 and under 1 club speaks for itself: Purdue's Brandon McKnight (0.95) and Iowa's Pierre Pierce (0.97)--poor shot selectors all.

Observers will moan and wail that the Wolverines lost this game because they didn't have Lester Abram and Daniel Horton and, true enough, Michigan shot just 3-of-17 on their three's. But remember this: Courtney Sims isn't injured and he has got to show up. We've all heard the story about how he bulked up back home in Boston over the off-season by eating his mom's cooking six or nine or however many times a day. Time to use those calories: six points and four boards won't cut it. (Backcourt, schmackcourt: the Wolverines were out-rebounded despite 11 boards from Brent Petway and despite the fact that the Terriers played a lot of zone.)

Boston University, meanwhile, is now an unofficial 12th member of the Big Ten, having defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor two years in a row.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Northwestern hosts DePaul in Evanston tonight in a match up that's always had the potential to be a nice rivalry (two major-conference schools a few dozen city blocks apart) if both programs would just cooperate with simultaneous respectability. (Links here and here.) Tonight's game marks the NU debut of 6'10" Duke transfer Mike Thompson. Coach Bill Carmody is happy for the help but predicts nevertheless, "He's going to be in foul trouble right off, I just know it, because he hasn't played a game in so long."

Wisconsin hosts UW-Milwaukee in Madison tonight. (Links here and here.) Wisconsin-Milwaukee is 6-1, with wins over Air Force and St. Louis.

Minnesota hosts Chicago State in Minneapolis tonight. (Links here and here.) Chicago State is 0-5, yet lost by only 11 at UCLA.

Purdue's Matt Kiefer says he hopes to return to action in two weeks. Kiefer underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Sarah Skilling of the Lansing State Journal looks at the state of Michigan State and chips in with today's Trying to Figure Out Paul Davis piece here.

The Capital Times in Madison, WI, apparently thinks it's quaint and kind of charming to maintain a site that seems perpetually 36 hours old. So Wonk doesn't link to them much. However, Mike Lucas had a good quote-haul from Monday's Big Ten coaches' telecon and his post has at long last risen to the surface so here you go.

Ohio State plays Texas Tech tomorrow night in Dallas. (Day-before game preview here.) Tech is coached by a certain OSU alum.

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