Big Ten Wonk
Monday, November 21, 2005
Games! Actual games!
Ones to blog about, even, should one be so rash. I'd almost forgotten what it's like.

True, Northwestern and Iowa played some actual games last week. But in terms of critical mass, the regular season really started this weekend. Thank you, hoops gods....

Your Honor, Michigan State fans wish to cite the precedents of Wright St. v. Spartans (1999) and Santa Clara v. North Carolina (2004)
Hawaii beat Michigan State 84-62 Saturday in Honolulu. Does this shocking result say anything meaningful about either team? Not at all, according to blogger extraordinaire Ken Pomeroy, who points out this morning that even seasoned conference foes have flopped repeatedly when they've played at Hawaii. Since 1999 only Bradley has a larger difference between its home and road conference winning percentages than the Rainbows. (Meaning a trip to Peoria is even more arduous for opposing teams than one to Honolulu--I think there's a lesson there.) So cheer up, Spartans! Loss, thy name is fluke. And calm down, Rainbows! Win, thy name is opponent jet lag. (Box score.)

Simple enough, right? Maybe. And yet, as I did with Michigan's 2005 season, I just can't help sifting the wreckage a little. How much of this loss was due to the jet lag and leg cramps and how much to poor play? The only rational deduction to this blogger is that it was one whopping portion of both. In the second half Saturday, cramps deprived State of precisely the players they can't afford to lose, their Big Four: Davis, Ager, Brown and Neitzel. OK, that explains the second half. What about the rest of the game? (Michigan State, after all, played a cramp-free first half. And was down by seven at intermission. To a team that was 7-11 in the WAC last year.) So, yeah, write this one off as bad scheduling--and stay tuned.

BONUS visual note! Ain't too much sadder than a really pissed-off coach in his spiffy new Hawaiian shirt. How pissed off? Take it from Izzo: "The maddest I've ever been as a basketball coach." And it wasn't his team's performance that had Izzo so incensed--read more here. For now, a note to Hawaii: don't schedule any games at the Breslin Center. Or at least wait until power forward Julian Sensley has graduated. (Sensley on the Spartans: "They play defense for the first 10 seconds and then they get soft.")

Never mind Killingsworth--what'd Davis put in Strickland's Gatorade?

Friday evening opened in Bloomington with Indiana crushing Nicholls State 99-65. Marco Killingsworth stole the headlines with 28 points, 13 boards, six assists (!), and, most importantly, a fake behind-the-back pass on a fast break that, if you were watching ESPN2 on Friday night, you saw about 67 times. Kudos to the burly Auburn transfer, who gave every indication of living up to his already considerable hype. But for my money the Killingsworth mania took away from the real story, i.e., the part we didn't expect: Marshall Strickland scored 25 points, hit 4-of-5 threes, grabbed five boards, and turned the ball over just twice. If Mike Davis can get anything close to that kind of production from his 2-guard this season while Killingsworth and D.J. White prowl the paint, well, watch out.

EXCLUSIVE follow-up: In my preseason walk-around of the Hoosiers, I said IU plays too dang slow and is too anemic on the defensive glass. Your intrepid blogger is therefore happy to report that Friday night's game was really fast (76 possessions) and featured complete dominance of the defensive boards by the home team (87.2 dreb pct.). IU hegemony on the boards was in fact total, including an even more gaudy 56.8 oreb pct., giving the home team a downright UConn-like 55-to-21 overall rebounding advantage. "We've been making rebounding a priority," Killingsworth explained afterward. "That's all coach has been talking about in practice and I don't think anyone wanted to hear it all over again next week.'' Indiana's numbers on the boards will of course come back to earth against stouter foes but they still represent a healthy impulse. Keep up the good work, Hoosiers!

BONUS Wonk befuddlement! Someone in Hoosierland please email this blogger and help me out with the rotation: more minutes for Errek Suhr (24) than for Earl Calloway (20)? Only five for Ben Allen? Wha? (Box score.)

Zoinks! Tommy Amaker reads blogs! (Can I get a turtleneck from you, Coach?)
The impressive Friday night displays continued as Michigan dispensed with Central Michigan 87-60 in Ann Arbor. A couple weeks ago, following precedents set by Brian at mgoblog and by Ryan Kobliska at Hawkeye Hoops, I called for Tommy Amaker to outfit Daniel Horton with a special collar that would prohibit the erstwhile point guard from lifting his arms above his shoulders, thus rendering him unable to shoot. Instead of watching Horton hoist up brick after ill-considered brick, three out of three bloggers mentioned here recommended running the offense through efficient scorers Lester Abram and Courtney Sims.

Which is precisely what Michigan did Friday night. And it worked--to the tune of 39 combined points for Abram and Sims on 16-of-20 shooting. Freshman guard Jerret Smith also distinguished himself with nine assists in only 20 minutes. (Box score.)

BONUS pro bono consulting from Wonk! The glowing coverage of the aforementioned Smith would seem to raise a question: how many minutes might the youngster get at the point this season? Indeed, Amaker's been quoted to the effect that having Smith on the floor allows Horton to move over to shooting guard. And Amaker says that like it's a good thing. In fact, the very notion should seize the usually placid coach and fill him with Edvard Munch-level horror. Fear what you wish for, Coach.

Coughing up 20 turnovers? Trailing to Texas-Pan American? It's November.
Yes, Illinois turned the ball over 20 times in their 90-65 win over South Dakota State in Champaign Friday night. Just remember this: The Team (and that would be last year's 37-2 team) averaged 16 TOs a game in their first three outings last year--and they weren't exactly playing Michigan State, either. (They were playing Delaware State, Florida A&M, and Oakland.) So chill out, Mark Tupper! ("There were 20 turnovers and not nearly enough assists. And if you remember how the Illini basketball team shared and valued the basketball last season, the performance in Friday night’s season opener sure won’t measure up.") There's no need to fret yet. (Box score.)

Still, there's no denying that Illinois looked listless and confused in their 71-59 victory over Texas-Pan American in Champaign yesterday. The visiting Broncs surprised the Illini with a zone D that they'd endeavored to "hide" from Illinois by not using it in their two exhibition games or first regular season game. Sadly, the way the Illini played, it wouldn't have mattered if the visitors had emailed Bruce Weber over the summer: "WE'RE GOING TO PLAY ZONE."

Thank goodness Texas-Pan American was also busily fulfilling that hoariest of vulgar stereotypes about zone defenses and letting the Illini have their way on the offensive glass (to the tune of 18 offensive boards--in a really slow game). Indeed (here's a fun fact), Illinois' offensive efficiency yesterday (1.18 points per possession) was on pace with what they did in-conference last year (1.18 PPP)--it just didn't look like it because yesterday the men in orange did it with offensive rebounding instead of with good shooting. (Box score.)

How slow was this game? So slow (60 possessions) that Dee Brown, instead of leaking out for fast breaks or worrying about getting back on D, had seven (!) rebounds.

BONUS groundless speculation! If I had to guess right now, I'd say Illinois is going to be a POT (perimeter-oriented team) again this year. Weber's told anyone who will listen about how the Illini will do much more "three yards and a cloud of dust" in 2006. But you know what? Dee Brown, Rich McBride, and Jamar Smith are going to get a lot of minutes this season. And those guys shoot threes. They shot 49 of them this weekend. (Weber started traditional two-guard lineups in both games but three-guard sets saw a lot of minutes.)

The Bracing Dose of Candor Award goes to....Bruce Weber, who apparently learned the art of acidic yet oddly buoyant bluntness at the feet of Gene Keady. Asked to assess Marcus Arnold's performance against South Dakota State, Weber replied: "Awful. Just laugh about it."

Grier here?
After Minnesota beat North Dakota State 70-57 in Minneapolis Friday night, Vincent Grier left the court holding his left hand and disappeared into the trainer's room. Grier is scheduled to be examined today--he may have a broken hand or he may just have banged it. Stay tuned.

As for the game itself, Grier played 40 minutes and led the home team with 21 points. The difference in the game, however, was the Gophers gathering in no fewer than 26 turnovers from the opponent. They needed to. Minnesota's offensive rebounding was non-existent (22.6 oreb pct.) and they had nothing going on outside (2-of-10 on their threes). Only a relatively fast pace (75 possessions) got Dan Monson's team to 70 points. "We're a team that's going to have to grind it out," the Gopher coach said afterward. You are correct, sir! (Box score.)

Greetings from the Virgin Islands!
Wisconsin beat Norfolk State 80-51 Friday night in the first round of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The other day I pointed out that Brian Butch is a really tall guy with a nice shooting touch who can also rebound. So he'll occasionally post lines like this: 23 points, 3-of-3 on his threes, seven boards, four assists--in only 25 minutes. OK, he banked one of those threes in. Still, a pretty good day at the office. BONUS thing for Badger fans to fret about! Take away Butch and his incredible bank-shot three and the Badgers were 4-of-16 on their threes. BONUS thing for fans of other Big Ten teams to worry about! If Wisconsin ever combines anything close to the kind of offensive rebounding they displayed Friday night (51.4 oreb pct.) with the kind of low-turnover ball-handling they've shown for the past four years, look out. (Box score.)

Moving on to the Paradise Jam's second round, the Badgers defeated Eastern Kentucky 95-89 in double-overtime Saturday night. Credit this win to two Badgers: Kammron Taylor, who sank five threes, including one to tie the game at 78 with 3.3 seconds left in the first OT; and Alando Tucker, who scored 38 points of his own. Defense was in short supply as both teams shot well (particularly the Colonels) and posted offensive efficiency numbers north of gaudy. (Box score.) Wisconsin now moves on to face Old Dominion.

It's official: there are two Landrys in this here league. Wisconsin freshman Marcus Landry, younger brother of Carl, scored 19 in the double-OT thriller against Eastern Kentucky.

Congratulations to Matt Painter: undefeated as a Big Ten coach.
I told you this Nate Minnoy kid is fearless. The true freshman took 13 shots Saturday night as Purdue held off Wofford 82-75 in West Lafayette. A teammate of Minnoy's, one "Carl Landry" (remember the name), took but ten. No one objected, though, because Minnoy led all scorers with 25 points. On the down side, Minnoy kept the game needlessly close by bricking five of his six free throws (contributing to a woeful 53.6 percent night at the line by Purdue). As for the visitors, Wofford apparently "scripted" their first 30 offensive plays Bill Walsh-style. Wonk has obtained this EXCLUSIVE copy of the Wofford script for Saturday night's game:

(Letterhead with official Wofford cheer: "WE ARE (stomp, stomp) TERR-I-ERS (stomp, stomp) ARF, ARF, ARF, ARF, ARF")
Offensive Play Script vs. Purdue, November 19, 2005
Play 1: Shoot a three.
Play 2: Shoot a three.
Play 3: Shoot a three.

Etc., etc. Fully 30 of the Terriers' 56 shots were threes. The fact that they made 12 of those 30 kept them in the game with a home team that was beating them soundly on the glass and recording a gaudy 63.2 effective FG pct. (Well, that and 21 Purdue turnovers--and the aforementioned atrocious free throw shooting by the Boilermakers. Box score.)

BONUS heralded freshman note! Not all was rosy for the baby Boilers Saturday night, however. Highly touted three-point guy Chris Lutz went just 1-of-6 on his threes and recorded five turnovers in only 24 minutes.

Bryant, thanks for stopping by. Senior Bryant Dillon started at point guard but Painter gave true freshman Korey Spates quality minutes and, indeed, had him in the game at the end. Spates responded with 16 points and four assists. After the game Painter said Spates "obviously is what we need at the point."

Blissful and balanced Buckeyes, Wonk salutes you!
Ohio State beat Chicago State 81-52 in Columbus yesterday. No fewer than five Buckeyes hit double figures: Ron Lewis and Je'Kel Foster (16 points apiece), Ivan Harris (12), and Terence Dials and Sylvester Mayes (11 apiece). Classify this one in the same cognitive box as Iowa's win over Maryland-Eastern Shore: the efficient removal of an overmatched opponent. Chicago State was 9-19 last year and lost three starters. (Box score.)

Wonk missed this one! Wonk's glad!
Penn State beat Cornell 66-54 in State College Saturday and, while I didn't see this game, it sure sounds like it was ugly: horrific shooting by both teams (Geary Claxton set a trend, apparently, by going 4-of-15) and a pace (63 possessions) that would qualify as slow even in nervous February, much less free-wheeling November. On the plus side, the Nittany Lions had four players in double figures. Kudos to the aforementioned Claxton (13 points), Ben Luber (17), Jamelle Cornley (12), and Mike Walker (11). (Box score.)

The Pat Ewing, Jr. Award for Extreme Rebounding in a Cameo Role goes to....Penn State's 6-10 freshman big man Milos Bogetic, who recorded eight boards in only 16 minutes Saturday. Frenetic Serbian board meister Milos Bogetic, Wonk salutes you!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Iowa plays Kentucky tonight in the semifinals of the Guardians Classic in Kansas City. Good news! Bill Raftery will be doing the game, which is on ESPN2 at 9 Eastern. EXTRANEOUS movie reference! There's a quote about Greta Garbo that goes something like: what men see in other women when drunk, they saw in Garbo sober. That's kind of how I feel about Kentucky's Rajon Rondo: what Big Ten hoops pundits say about Iowa's Mike Henderson when casting about for something nice to say ("athleticism, strong perimeter defense," etc.) actually applies to Rondo. And how: the guy disrupts your offense, period. I'll be interested to see if the Hawkeye offense can rise to this challenge better than they did against Cincinnati in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament. (More on the 'Cats and their D courtesy of Gregg Doyel here.) For their part Steve Alford's players are hoping they might have an advantage in the paint tonight, thanks in large measure to the still-ineligible Randolph Morris's disastrous non-entry into the NBA. BONUS motivation for Hawkeyes! Kentucky's Patrick Sparks beat out Jeff Horner for a spot on the World University Games squad this summer (a team that also had Greg Brunner)....The winner of tonight's game will face either Texas or West Virginia in tomorrow night's championship game.

Michigan State plays Chaminade today in Lahaina, Hawaii, in the first round of the Maui Invitational. Tom Izzo concedes that the Spartans may have to slow down their tempo if they continue to suffer from leg cramps during their island visit. Meanwhile, Silversword (note: cool nickname--also the guy who played Tonto on "The Lone Ranger") head coach Matt Mahar doesn't sound very inspired by what Hawaii was able to accomplish against the Spartans: "It was a great win for the University of Hawaii, but my concern is that they just made the bear angry, and they're going to come after us." (The field in Maui is stacked this year: Connecticut, Arizona, Gonzaga, Kansas, Maryland, and Arkansas. Plus State. Zounds.)

Wisconsin plays Old Dominion tonight in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands. Profile of sudden starter Jason Chappell here.

Indiana hosts Florida A&M in Bloomington tonight and the Hoosiers feel like this year's team has that elusive thing called chemistry.

Northwestern hosts Florida Atlantic in Evanston tonight. BONUS serious stat-laced hoops analysis for die-hards only! The Owls are coached by Matt Doherty. I think Doherty bears a striking resemblance to actor John O'Hurley, best known for his portrayal of J. Peterman on "Seinfeld." Judge for yourself here and here.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber says freshman C.J. Jackson will redshirt this season. In his blog, oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper says bravo to that decision....Broken nose or no broken nose, Warren Carter isn't getting as many minutes as some thought he would--and defense and rebounding (specifically a lack thereof) appear to be the reasons....Weber on freshman point guard Chester Frazier: "He dribbles too much and he dribbles in one spot. Now, he'll fake it to Dee, who's open, then throw it to the guy who's already guarded. But he's taking care of the ball, and that's great."

Adam Rittenberg of the Daily Herald previews Ohio State this morning.

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A Badger reporting from the scene of the Spartan disaster

I'm a Wisconsin fan but I live in Hawaii. I thought you might like some thoughts on the MSU-UH game. I was able to listen to the first half on the local radio, and watched the second half on TV. Random thoughts:

1) MSU trapped/pressed pretty much all second half - forced one or two turnovers, but gave up several (six or eight) easy transition baskets.

2) UH hit ten threes - lots of open perimeter shots.

3) UH was in the lead most of the game, but really started blowing it open when the Spartys started dropping like flies with leg cramps.

4) Outside of Davis, MSU was giving up position and points inside - lots of easy shots/buckets. Gray was a hacker - athletic, but used his hands a lot.

5) When your opponent can score inside, outside and in transition, you are not going to win many games.

6) UH may have a hard time scheduling high-major teams to play out here after this, although picking up teams that are playing in the local tournaments should still work.


Nuclear Badger
Kaneohe, HI

Thanks, NB!

Every other Penn State team is diametrically good

As I write this I'm headed to State College with my son for Saturday's game. (Plenty of good seats still available!) The local scuttlebutt is the lack of coverage by the local paper and on the PSU "official" SID website. It's been better today, but there was some grumbling that there was no mention of the season opener.

The women open up with number 1 Duke at home Friday night, the men's AND women's soccer teams plus the women's volleyball teams, who are all Big Ten champs and in the NCAA's. Not to mention the football team, of course, has BCS on the line . Kind of easy to see how hoops vs Cornell gets lost in that shuffle.

FYI: PSU is first school to ever win Big Ten championships in four fall sports in the same season--and number 5 could happen in East Lansing tomorrow. Put THAT in your Big Ten blog! The AD is big on the Sears Cup all-sports thing. We should be darn close to number 1 after this kind of a fall season.

Now if Ed can only get the hoops thing going.

Keep up the good work. You've been costing me lots of time during lunch, keeping me away from all the other websites I used to read.

Mark H.

Middletown, PA

Thanks, Mark!

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