Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Forget PPG. Remember PPWS.
There's no trick to putting up a nice number for points per game (PPG). Just shoot a lot. But who would get the most points from the same number of shots?

To answer that question we turn to the handy stat that not only measures scoring efficiency, it also captures more than just points from the field (unlike, say, points per shot or "PPS"). This stat takes in both FGA's and FTA's. It's points per weighted shot (PPWS), developed cannily by John Hollinger (The Basketball Prospectus) and renamed brazenly by Wonk.

Here are the final numbers for the regular season--Wonk has included just about everyone who played quality minutes and who did not end the year injured (e.g., Carl Landry, 1.32) or off the team (Pierre Pierce, 1.06):

Big Ten PPWS
1. Dee Brown, Illinois (1.41)
2. James Augustine, Illinois (1.34)
3. Alan Anderson, Michigan State (1.33)
4. Kelvin Torbert, Michigan State (1.31)
5. Luther Head, Illinois (1.31)
6. Maurice Ager, Michigan State (1.30)
7. A. J. Ratliff, Indiana (1.28)
8. Adam Haluska, Iowa (1.27)
9. D.J. White, Indiana (1.26)
10. Roger Powell, Illinois (1.26)
11. Aaron Robinson, Minnesota (1.23)
12. Courtney Sims, Michigan (1.22)
13. J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State (1.22)
14. Chris Hill, Michigan State (1.22)
15. Brent Lawson, Minnesota (1.22)
16. Terence Dials, Ohio State (1.21)
17. Jeff Hagen, Minnesota (1.21)
18. Paul Davis, Michigan State (1.21)
19. Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern (1.20)
20. Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin (1.20)
21. Brent Petway, Michigan (1.20)
22. Ivan Harris, Ohio State (1.19)
23. Graham Brown, Michigan (1.19)
24. Doug Thomas, Iowa (1.19)
25. Chris Hunter, Michigan (1.18)
26. Je'Kel Foster, Ohio State (1.18)
27. Alando Tucker, Wisconsin (1.18)
28. Clayton Hanson, Wisconsin (1.17)
29. Vince Scott, Northwestern (1.17)
30. Greg Brunner, Iowa (1.17)
31. Michael Jenkins, Northwestern (1.17)
32. Jeff Horner, Iowa (1.16)
33. Matt Sylvester, Ohio State (1.15)
34. Vincent Grier, Minnesota (1.14)
35. Travis Parker, Penn State (1.13)
36. Zach Morley, Wisconsin (1.12)
37. Bracey Wright, Indiana (1.10)
38. Gary Ware, Purdue (1.09)
39. Patrick Ewing, Jr., Indiana (1.08)
40. T.J. Parker, Northwestern (1.08)
41. Davor Duvancic, Northwestern (1.08)
42. Deron Williams, Illinois (1.08)
43. Shannon Brown, Michigan State (1.07)
44. J'son Stamper, Minnesota (1.06)
45. Danny Morrissey, Penn State (1.06)
46. Matt Kiefer, Purdue (1.05)
47. Jack Ingram, Illinois (1.05)
48. Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin (1.05)
49. Ron Coleman, Michigan (1.05)
50. Sharif Chambliss, Wisconsin (1.05)
51. Mohamed Hachad, Northwestern (1.04)
52. Tony Stockman, Ohio State (1.04)
53. Robert Vaden, Indiana (1.03)
54. Geary Claxton, Penn State (1.03)
55. Roderick Wilmont, Indiana (1.02)
56. Aaron Johnson, Penn State (1.02)
57. Rich McBride, Illinois (1.01)
58. Erek Hansen, Iowa (1.01)
59. Ray Nixon, Wisconsin (1.01)
60. John Andrews, Michigan (1.01)
61. Xavier Price, Purdue (1.00)
62. Rico Tucker, Minnesota (0.99)
63. Marshall Strickland, Indiana (0.99)
64. Dan Coleman, Minnesota (0.99)
65. Mike Walker, Penn State (0.99)
66. Dion Harris, Michigan (0.97)
67. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, Ohio State (0.96)
68. Tim Doyle, Northwestern (0.96)
69. David Teague, Purdue (0.94)
70. Jamar Butler, Ohio State (0.94)
71. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State (0.92)
72. Mike Henderson, Iowa (0.92)
73. Nick Smith, Illinois (0.90)
74. Spencer Tollackson, Minnesota (0.90)
75. Andreas Helmigk, Wisconsin (0.88)
76. Ben Luber, Penn State (0.88)
77. Brandon McKnight, Purdue (0.87)

What it means. Give Dee Brown 12 FGA's and six FTA's and he'll likely score about 21 points. Give Brandon McKnight the same number of shots and he'll likely score about 13.

What it really means. It means that Dee Brown was statistically dominant this year, posting a margin of .07 over his nearest competitor in a stat where very often each increment of .01 takes in multiple players. Brown's game--made three's and layups off fast breaks--might fairly be said to be paradigmatic for a stellar PPWS number. Prodigious and efficient scorer Dee Brown, Wonk salutes you!

(Did Wonk miss anybody? Of course! But the line had to be drawn somewhere. Fans of Matt Trannon, Warren Carter, Carlton Reed, and Charles Davis can email your intrepid blogger and the PPWS's shall be revealed.)

Wonk on the Moline!
Your intrepid blogger answered "20 Questions" in today's installment of the weekly feature brought to you by the erstwhile pundits on the sports desk of the Moline Dispatch. Those of you who are paid subscribers of the Dispatch are doubtless giddy with excitement over having learned Wonk's favorite movies, books, and music. Those of you who are not, link here for perhaps the most forbidding wall Wonk has ever seen erected around a paid site. Too bad, too, because the picture of Wonk, while certainly not on a par with that blogger eye-candy known as Kyle Whelliston, is one of the few such images extant where your intrepid blogger has both eyes open.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Wonk's SEF becoming a meme? Yesterday your intrepid blogger directed your attention to this Friday's 4-5 game between Indiana and Minnesota. Wonk noted the game is heavy with NCAA tournament implications and that a resounding win for the Hoosiers could even make the selection committee rethink a bid for the Gophers, due to what Wonk has called the Selection Embarrassment Factor (SEF: can the committee really invite Minnesota and leave Indiana out two days after the Hoosiers beat the Gophers on a neutral floor?). Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times covers some of this same territory this morning in his Big Ten Tournament preview.

Purdue held its basketball banquet last night and Gene Keady said a goodbye: "I'm sorry we didn't get to the Final Four. I'm sorry we didn't get to the National Championship game. It's something we all wanted to do. We got up the mountain and pretty close to the top, but we kind of slid back down that mountain. We're going to get it back with Matt Painter and his staff." Coach, may your fairways be wide and your three-putts few. Best wishes.

Indiana beat writer (and Wonk interview subject) Terry Hutchens has posted the latest installment of his excellent Indianapolis Star feature, "Ask the Expert." In the Hoosiers' darkest hour in January, Hutchens correctly predicted that they would go 10-6 in conference play. Take a bow, Terry. (And respond to my emails about visiting Vegas with me.) As to the small matter of whether 10-6 will get his team into the big dance, coach Mike Davis doesn't mince words: "I think we're in."

Iowa coach Steve Alford answered, "I hope so," in response to a question as to whether he would be the Hawkeyes' coach next season. He also says his team can get an NCAA bid without winning the Big Ten Tournament. (More here and here.)

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker answered, "I hope not," earlier this season when his mother called him and asked if he were going to be fired.

Minnesota coach Dan Monson as Big Ten Coach of the Year? Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press makes the case here.

Michigan State guard Shannon Brown is recovering from an injured toe and is expected to be OK for Friday's game against the Iowa-Purdue winner. (Delco Rowley, on the other hand, "shrieked in agony" as he suffered a knee injury in practice yesterday.)...Associate head coach Doug Wojcik has interviewed for the head job at Tulsa (a.k.a., the cradle of coaches).

Despite suffering their first loss Sunday, Illinois remained number 1 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. (Wonk says: polls, schmolls. This is the most wonderful time of the year precisely because polls are about to become meaningless and fade into neglected obscurity.)...Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper says Bruce Weber is "still a little snarly" about the loss to the Buckeyes. Columnist Carol Slezak of the Chicago Sun-Times says Illinois is "a very good team, capable of winning it all. They also are capable of stumbling." Columnist Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune says he's read all the day-after criticism of the Illini (e.g., "From swagger to stagger") and he just wants to say one thing: "I've never read such a load of nonsense in my life."...Weber says his team doesn't have to win the Big Ten tournament to get a 1-seed in the NCAA's. (Wonk says Weber's right--then again don't lose to Northwestern or Michigan by 20 Friday morning.)...The-Illini-like-the-United-Center coverage here. No current Illinois player has ever lost a game in the UC.

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The "Jack Dempsey-esque long count" revisited
Yesterday Wonk noted that Iowa, with about 30 seconds left in OT during its win at Michigan Saturday, appeared to benefit from a no-call where the Hawkeyes were apparently given about 13 seconds to bring the ball across half-court. Wonk's readers respond!


Not sure if you watched the game, but on television I thought they showed on the replay that the ball had left the hands of one of the Iowa players and was headed across the timeline with 25 left on the shot clock. Since the pass looked live like it couldn't have taken more than a fraction of a second to travel from the backcourt to the frontcourt Iowa player, the shot clock may have still read 25 when the Iowa player received it (the production crew focused inappropriately on when it left the hands of the Iowa player, as opposed to when it was received by an Iowa player across the timeline).

In the case that this scenario is correct, I would venture that the call fell somewhere close to within a reasonable margin-of-error for a referee, since they use a hand-count (I think) as opposed to a digital timer. It should've been a backcourt violation--ideally, it would've been called the moment the shot clock read 25 and the ball hadn't been advanced across the timeline in the possession of an Iowa player--but I don't think that the no-call was nearly as egregious as it is being portrayed.

Oh, and I like the site very much, though I wonder whether you'll blog quite as comprehensively after the Illini tank without Self's recruits.

Tristan S.

Personally, your intrepid blogger thinks it was a violation (and, Wonk has it on good authority, so does blogger Ryan of Hawkeye Hoops fame, who attended the game in person) but, hey, in this crazy workaday perspectival privatized-Social-Security-accounts Rashomon world, who's to say?

And Wonk appreciates your concern for the continuity of the blog, Tristan. Be assured, alert readers! If your intrepid blogger followed Big Ten hoops in 1999 when Illinois finished in last place, he'll follow it any year, regardless of how Weber does without Self's recruits (and Wonk is bullish here), or how Self does without Roy Williams', or how Williams does without Matt Doherty's.

Day-aftershock! Complete coverage....

Pretty amazing. Illinois went from UCLA or Indiana in 1976, to a "flawed team" in the eyes of the media in one day. If anyone had any doubts about the luck factor in college basketball, yesterday should have changed his mind. Winning in sports always involves luck but winning a single-elimination tourney involves much more luck than say, the NBA finals where it is best of seven. Wake Forest barely beat NC State and Carolina barely beat Duke at home, and the rest of the top ten pretty much got wiped out.

Illinois is still just as good as they were on Saturday. Damn good. They have lost once in 2005 and Carolina has lost twice, and therefore, the Illini deserve to maintain their hold on number one.

What is true, however, is that in the context of a single-elimination tourney, Illinois, along with UNC, Duke, Wake, UConn, Arizona, Kansas, MSU, OK and OK State, and maybe five other teams I am forgetting, has a decent chance to win it all. But if any of the above has an opponent who has an unusually good or "lucky" game in which the opponent rains trifectas, or makes 32 free throws in a row, or in which any other such statistical anomaly occurs, then it may very well be sayonara, one and you are out. That is what makes it fun, but it doesn't make the winner necessarily the best team.

Keep the faith Orange fans. Regardless of what happens in the next three weeks, this may be the best team you will ever have in that college town with the strange double name.

William L.

Thanks, William!


No mention of the ominous scroll across the TV screen mid-second half? The one that said something like, "From the Illinois Athletic Department--there will be no celebration at Willard Airport tonight"?

Don G.

For those of us outside of WCIA-range, alert reader Don refers to a text message that indeed scrolled across the screen while the Illini were comfortably in the lead in the second half, telling Illinois fans not to come to the airport to welcome the team home. For his part, oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper pooh-poohs any talk of this somehow jinxing the team.

But Wonk says: why provoke the hoops gods so?


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