How good is Michigan State?I don't know the answer to that question. And, despite the "they're on the mainland now and they're fine!" chorus voiced this week by local Spartan observers and national hoops savants alike, your intrepid blogger isn't so sure that we can know the answer to this question--yet.Don't get me wrong. I was delighted to see State beat Boston College. Are you kidding? At the Garden, against the highly-ranked and oh-so-scary Eagles (the team the Big Ten was so lucky wasn't playing in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge), with Dickie V., Katz, Bilas all there--what's not to like?But I was much more pleased with than impressed by this victory. The Spartans may turn out just fine. I don't say they won't. But here are three things I do know now, even in fuzzy and uncertain December.1. State's defense has been awful this year--and it was against BC. The consensus seems to be simply that the Eagles were highly ranked and the Spartans beat them so, Q.E.D., Michigan State is great. Well, yeah, they won--but the chances of them winning a game where they give the opponent 1.09 points per possession (as they did against BC) are much smaller than the chances of them winning a game where they give the opponent just 0.94 points per possession (as they did last year over 33 games). And locking down on D does not preclude simultaneously pushing the tempo and racking up the points on your end of the floor. North Carolina demonstrated that once and for all last season when they were both the fastest "power"-conference team in the nation and one of the stingiest defenses in the country (allowing just 0.90 PPP in ACC play). 2. State's rebounding has been extraordinarily ordinary this year--and it was against BC. Forget rebound percentages--let's talk plain jane round numbers. MSU's been outrebounded in each of their last three games. Yes, that includes Arkansas-Little Rock (!). So what, right? They're winning anyway. Yes, but....3. State can't always shoot as well as they did against BC--or commit so few TOs. With only 10 turnovers in a 64-possession game and an effective FG pct. of 59.6, the Spartans did a fair imitation of the 2005 version of Illinois the other night. Last year's Illini would also, on average, commit just 10 TOs in a game that slow and had an eFG pct. of 56.7 in conference games. Don't get my tut-tutting wrong: State's (mainland) offense has been a thing of beauty. But no one's Illinois-in-2005 every night--Illinois wasn't Illinois every night (see: at home against Iowa, at Michigan, at Ohio State). A big reason the Illini were able to go 15-1 in conference was that they allowed Big Ten opponents just 0.94 PPP.Having to outscore opponents, no matter how good your offense, is an open invitation to unpleasant surprises. Ask Wake Forest about last year.In today's less Wonk-ish venues....Illinois beat Georgetown 58-48 in Champaign last night. The men in orange held the Hoyas to 13 first-half points ("as good a 20 minutes defensively as I've seen in a long time," Bruce Weber called it afterward) and rebounded almost half of their own misses on the night (21 out of 43). Those two accomplishments proved to be the difference in a slow (57-possession) ugly (despite being Illinois grads and rabid fans, the Official Wonk In-Laws, in town for a visit, almost fell asleep in the game's final minutes) game. How bad was the shooting, you ask? The Illini were 20-of-62 from the field overall, though a somewhat more respectable 7-of-18 on their threes. Result: a 29.5 2FG pct., one of the lowest this blogger's seen. This 37.9 effective FG pct. represents by far the worst shooting of the season thus far for Weber's team...and they won! James Augustine barely notched the 10-13 dub-dub and, believe me, the "10" was the tough part of that one. Georgetown's Jeff Green led all scorers with 21. BONUS schedule fret! Me no likey: to play a trench-warfare team like the Hoyas and then board a bus that very night to catch a plane the next morning to fly to the west coast to play Oregon just 48 hours later (albeit in Portland instead of Eugene)? Especially now that Chester Frazier's out and Dee Brown's minutes (39 last night) are going up even further? Yikes. SCHIZOPHRENIC follow up! I've been known to point out Brown's shortcomings when it comes to point guard play this season. That being said, let it be known that Brown looked very good at the point last night. The numbers are hideous in a slow game with horrendous shooting, of course, but Brown's choices with the ball were solid and decisive. (Box score.)Illini fans, to your database! That blogger with exquisite taste in both teams and titular nouns, Illini Wonk, has joined the del.icio.us tags fun to create an archive of Illinois hoops stories. And, if said archive could speak, it would parrot P.Funk legend and regular Big Ten Wonk reader Boosty Collins: "Oh, yeah, baby, I'm programmable!" Yup, this thing's searchable by keyword! Definitely a dang handy (almost-feels-like-cheating) item for bloggers--possibly for actual humans, too. You there, actual human! Yes, you! You be the judge--get over there!Speaking of Illinois links....Hoya coach John Thompson III was asked after the game how good Illinois can be this year. "Can be?" Thompson responded. "They already are very good."...Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper blogs this morning that this winning stuff--even winning ugly--is getting monotonous: "After beating Georgetown Thursday night, it dawned on me just how few losses I’ve written about since Bruce Weber arrived on the scene."...More from the should-Jamar Smith-be-starting? front....For the moment, at least, Illinois at 9-0 has the best record in the country.Iowa plays at Iowa State tonight in Ames. Today's must-read on the game comes--where else?--courtesy of canonical blogger Ryan Kobliska at Hawkeye Hoops. Ryan interviewed the keen-eyed and dedicated Cyclone fan behind the excellent CrossCyed blog and the result is a spanking good primer on Iowa State hoops for us where's-Ames? befuddled Big Ten types--make haste! As for MSM calories....No comment needed! Merely a direct quote: "Did you know that Adam Haluska used to play at Iowa State and now he plays for Iowa? This revelation appears to be the center of attention for this season's Iowa-Iowa State men's basketball game and has the media and fans in a tizzy." Well, someone's been busy with their Photoshop! Dig this, um, "photo illustration" of Haluska as a Cyclone in 2004 and now as a Hawkeye. Apparently as a Cyclone he made some different chromatic choices where his hair's concerned (insert cat-ty noise here)....Steve Alford's being coy about his starting lineup now that Jeff Horner's out for two to five weeks with a torn knee ligament.Kyle Whelliston has competition! In this morning's Indianapolis Star, Terry Hutchens looks at mid-majors and their increasingly notable tendency to (what's this?) win games against "majors." Hutchens extracts the following quote candy from Jay Bilas: "What people need to do is quit beating up the major school that loses to a mid-major and just acknowledge that some of these teams are pretty good."Tomorrow in Big Ten hoopsKentucky vs. Indiana (RCA Dome, Indianapolis--CBS, 3:45 ET). You know the stories. No Randolph Morris. No Mike Davis wins over UK. No figuring out the Hoosiers. No interior game for the Wildcats. No miss this one.Ohio State at St. Joseph's (ESPN, 2 ET). What's this? The Buckeyes play basketball? Haven't seen them since Virginia Tech and that was 2001, wasn't it? Speaking of ancient history, the wheels of NCAA justice may finally be turning their last turns on Jim O'Brien-era hinky stuff. Stay tuned.Michigan at South Florida (Sun Dome, Tampa--ESPN2, 3ET). Last seen on the road subduing those Fighting Irish by four and those pesky Terriers by five, the Wolverines square off against that most geographically improbable of spanking new hey!-you-play-football! Big East members.Wichita State vs. Michigan State (Palace at Auburn Hills--ESPN2, 7 ET). Fresh off appearing impressively high up on Wonk's list of the Big Ten's best rebounders, Spartan redshirt freshman Marquise Gray is getting the love.Marquette at Wisconsin. It's like the Chris West version of Festivus and Alando Tucker is pumped!UNLV at Minnesota. Behold! A customarily thorough and observant game preview, courtesy of the Gopher Hoops blog. And here's a profile of the best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten, Bronx product J'son Stamper. Penn State at Pitt. Last year the Nittany Lions played the Panthers surprisingly close and made us all think maybe Penn State had turned a corner. We were wrong. This year the competitive-at-Texas A&M Nittany Lions look like maybe they've turned a corner. We'll see.Illinois at Oregon (in Portland), noted above.And Sunday....Purdue vs. Loyola, at the intriguingly named Gentile Center in Chicago. (Goyim Arena was booked.) The Boilers haven't won a game outside of Mackey Arena in 356 days.Wonk back!Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!Where there's a Wilmont there's a wayWonk,As a diehard Indiana fan, I don't dare predict that Mike Davis finally gets a W over Kentucky. But I will say this: if he doesn't do it this weekend, he ain't ever going to. The Wildcats have a good guard crew, Rekalin Sims, and the 6-1 Rondo grabbing 10 boards a game. But Rondo's been sick this week and they've got no inside presence.
On your Big Ten rebounding % stats, I noticed you included freshmen, which you didn't for PPWS. Looks like the frosh fare pretty well...
3. Milos Bogetic, Penn State (19.9)6. Marquise Gray, Michigan State (17.8)18. Ben Allen, Indiana (15.0)
and on the defensive boards:
20. Marcus Landry, Wisconsin (16.4)
Do you think the rebounding numbers for these freshmen will stay at or around these levels? Or will they become more trustworthy, like the PPWS numbers supposedly will?
P.S. You mention that Sullinger is filling the role that Alando Tucker had last year, but I want to point out that is the one thing that Rod Wilmont is contributing for Indiana, too.
13. Roderick Wilmont, Indiana (16.0)
Vaden may be playing a lot of 4-spot but Wilmont has to be in there for the rebounding. Now, if only someone could get him to identify good vs. bad times to shoot.
Thanks for wonking!
Devin S.No freshmen on the PPWS list? Who says! Jamar Smith is no senior, my friend! No, the gentle pushover known as Wonk just kept freshmen off the PPWS bottom 20.Yes, Wilmont's a beast and in fact won Wonk's first-ever Surprisingly Good Hoosier Rebounder Award.And, yes! Rebounding's a much less volatile number than shooting so freshmen who look good in this light in December may just continue to do so. We'll see.