Big Ten Wonk
Friday, November 18, 2005
Terrible offense? Great D? Both?
The first week of the hoops season has brought some point totals that would make even Dick Bennett wince:

Iowa 86, Maryland-Eastern Shore 41. (Ugh.)

Duke 93, Seton Hall 40. (Eep.)

Texas 77, Samford 33. (Ick.)

Which of these represents the most extreme offensive impotence? Drum roll please!...

These were actually three games of very different paces. The game in the middle, neither fast nor slow, was the Duke-Seton Hall obliteration. At 69 possessions, the Blue Devils dismantled the Pirates at a pace remarkably similar to an average "power"-conference game from last year. Alas, they allowed the Hall 0.58 points per possession (PPP), placing Duke third in this three-horse race of ostentatiously good D. (Of course, they were playing Seton Hall, not Samford or Maryland-Eastern Shore.) We've got some great consolation prizes for you backstage, J.J. and Shelden!...

By far the slowest game of the three, clocking in at a meager 59 possessions, was the Texas-Samford annihilation. So don't be fooled by that 33 points--after all, the Bulldogs may not have gotten many bites at the apple but they still posted a 0.56 PPP. Nice try, Horns! Come around again sometime!...

No, the winner of the outrageously good D contest here comes to us courtesy of the Iowa-Maryland-Eastern Shore evisceration, a game that also featured the winner of the incomparably inept opponent award. Is there a connection? You bet! Maryland-Eastern Shore was one of the very worst teams in D-I last year. Only a fast pace (79 possessions) got the Hawks those 41 points. The Hawkeyes held their opponent to just 0.52 PPP.

November, traditional month of statistically aberrant behaviors, Wonk salutes you!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Michigan opens it season tonight against Central Michigan in Ann Arbor. Here are some game notes. (Not a lot of buzz among the Wolverine faithful about this one, strangely. Wonder why....)

Ohio State opens its season Sunday against Chicago State in Columbus. I rubbed my eyes repeatedly when I saw this: someone besides your intrepid blogger or Ryan Kobliska doing a preview of the Buckeyes? The Buckeye basketball team? It's true! You go, John Supinie! (I sense, however, that Buckeye fans aren't terribly focused on hoops today. Wonder why....)

Indiana opens its season tonight against Nicholls State in Bloomington. I'm on the record as expecting some good things from the Hoosiers this year, defensive rebounding permitting. On the other hand, if IU players keep busily stockpiling the man-we're-great November statements--the ones that just beg for a January comeuppance--your intrepid blogger may have to revisit some assumptions. Stay tuned....

True offseason story: Illinois coach Bruce Weber is stopped by a fan in the grocery store. The following exchange takes place:

Fan: Hey, coach, I really think you can win 38 games this year.

Weber: We probably won't even play 38 games.

The Illini open their season tonight against South Dakota State in Champaign. Surprising Shaun Pruitt will get the start at power forward but Weber says Warren Carter would have started if not for his broken nose. Carter is wearing a protective mask....Brian Randle says sitting on the bench all year last season while recuperating from a broken hand made him "more of a student of the game." (Randle without question dunks better than any other agricultural finance major I've ever seen.) More on Randle--and fellow juniors Carter, Pruitt, and Rich McBride here. Industry-standard player-by-player rundown here....Tonight's game marks the beginning of a lively three-games-in-five-days stretch. South Dakota State is coached by Scott Nagy, son of former Illinois assistant coach Dick Nagy.

Minnesota opens its season tonight against North Dakota State in Minneapolis.

Wisconsin opens its season tonight against Norfolk State in an opening-round game of the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands. The Badgers will play three games in four days during their island sojourn.

Penn State opens its season tomorrow against Cornell in State College. (Trust me. It's true, even if no one's writing about it.)

Michigan State opens its season tomorrow against Hawaii in Honolulu. Tom Izzo says he wants Drew Neitzel to look for more shots, rather than last year's approach: "Pass first, pass second, shoot third."

Purdue opens its season against Wofford tomorrow night in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers are the subject of this very fine preview contributed by Jeff Washburn of the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Yesterday I offered my busy on-the-go readers an attention-deficit-friendly 50-word Big Ten preview. Wonk's readers respond!

Do do that haiku that you do so well

As I was reading your "preview in 50 words," I was struck with an idea for next year: Preview haiku!

Dee and James return
Weber must work the magic
Maybe a 3-peat?

OK, my poetry skills are weak. You get the idea.

John L.

Thanks, John! Good thought. Wish I'd had it before Gregg Easterbrook. I've declared my fandom of TMQ on more than one occasion--but I don't want to make the guy have to get a restraining order against me or anything.

Already lobbying for Wonk's April selection of the year's five best emails....
Hey, Wonk,

I'm with Matt Painter in agreeing with you that Carl Landry can still carry the Boilers this year despite the injuries and suspensions and growing pains. I think that the nonconference schedule will help them gel and build confidence, especially with no Cincinnati or Oklahoma on the schedule.

However, I feel a little jilted. Last year, I was on your Five Favorite Emails List with the "easy-to-digest gelcap" reference. Now, you've shunned it in favor of a "handy to-go pack" metaphor for your 50-word preview.

How quickly last season is forgotten. I'll come up with something in the next five months.

Russ R.

Look forward to seeing what you come up with, Russ. Thanks!

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