Big Ten Wonk
Friday, December 16, 2005
Now Wonk's seen everything
It's a new season. Want proof? Indiana, the slowest "major"-conference team in college basketball last year, is the fastest team in the Big Ten this season. By far.

Possessions per game (thru December 15)
1. Indiana (73.9)
2. Purdue (70.9)
3. Penn State (70.0)
4. Minnesota (69.8)
5. Iowa (69.4)
6. Michigan State (68.2)
7. Ohio State (68.0)
8. Wisconsin (67.8)
9. Illinois (65.8)
10. Michigan (65.4)
11. Northwestern (59.4)

Still, don't read too much into these just yet. It's just non-conference.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Wisconsin beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 74-68 in Madison last night. Alando Tucker had 25 points and Kammron Taylor scored 23 (on 13-of-15 shooting from the line) for the Badgers. The Panthers trailed by 20 in the first half before taking a 40-39 lead with 16 minutes to go in the game. The Badgers responded with a 9-0 run and made their free throws down the stretch to hang on for the win. (Box score.)

Michigan State plays Cleveland State tonight in East Lansing. The Vikings are coached by former Spartan assistant Mike Garland--stories in that key here and here....Tom Izzo gives freshman guard Travis Walton the ultimate Izzo praise: "He's so much Cleaves-like, it's scary."

Michigan plays UCLA tomorrow in Ann Arbor (ESPN, Noon ET) and in this morning's Detroit News Jim Spadafore calls this "The Game." I thought that label was reserved for Alcindor vs. Hayes, 1968. Be that as it may, this is not The Game (no game in December could be). It's a game against a 14th-ranked team. If the Wolverines win they may still turn out mediocre. If they lose they may still turn out excellent.

Ohio State plays Iowa State tomorrow night at the new Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines (ESPN2, 8 ET). New York product and sharp-shooting Cyclone Rahshon Clark says he's excited the game's going to be on the Deuce: "My family can see me play for the first time." See also the blogger-to-blogger game preview at CrossCyed.

Iowa plays Arizona State tomorrow night in Iowa City. The Sun Devils were last seen in this space losing at home in OT to a Minnesota team that had neither Vincent Grier nor Moe Hargrow. Translation: don't cry for the Hawkeyes, even if they are without the services of Jeff Horner (knee). Horner says he hopes to return to action soon--if not in time for Tuesday's game against Drake, then likely for the December 30 game at St. Louis....Hawkeye guard Mike Henderson says he's not worried about his 1-2 assist-turnover ratio: "I just have to slow down and let the game come to me." Wonk says: don't worry about it, Mike! That 1-2 ratio is much more a function of low assists than of high turnovers. In fact, there's no shortage of Big Ten backcourt types with higher TO percentages, namely: Rico Tucker, Jerret Smith, Mohamed Hachad, Korey Spates, Vincent Grier, Dee Brown, Bryant Dillon, Moe Hargrow, Ron Lewis, Robert Vaden, and Earl Calloway.

Purdue plays New Orleans tomorrow night in West Lafayette and it's still unclear whether or not Connecticut transfer Marcus White will be eligible at game time. White is required to sit out the first semester--his last final is tomorrow.

Future Illinois guard Eric Gordon of Indianapolis says he chose the Illini because of Bruce Weber and his system. "I like their style of play more than anything--it basically fits you to be a complete player. [Weber] said I could go further in college basketball by learning how to play as a combo guard, and that's what I've been seeing--guys in his system going to the NBA are coming out ready to do anything."...Brian Randle has a sprained right ankle and is questionable for Sunday's game against Coppin State. In the latest posting to his blog, oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper says backup point guard Chester Frazier is recovering nicely from his torn left quad and may start participating in drills after Christmas. And in his dead-tree space this morning, Tupper talks to Weber about the motion offense: "You have your passer, your screener and your cutter, and the other two have to get out of the way for the action to work. You need to have great spacing so (the other two) don't bring their man into the action....It's repetition, it's habit, it's reading situations and you need practice time. Coaches get impatient with motion. I always keep reminding myself that it usually doesn't click in until after Christmas."

Penn State plays St. Francis in State College on Sunday and Jeff Rice of the Centre Daily Times says the Nittany Lions have "yet to put together a 40-minute game. Possession-to-possession inconsistency still plagues this team, which has put together terrific 10- or 15-minute stretches of basketball only to have them erased by awful three- or four-minute stretches."

They got game up north
In the latest installment of his excellent weekly college hoops notebook for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jeff Shelman says the pool of hoops talent north of the border is improving and "the number of Canadian products playing Division I basketball is growing like crazy."

BONUS let-the-readers-carry-the-load edition of Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Michigan State and their D--define "worst"
Yesterday in the course of announcing the All-Wonk Team (1.0) and naming Paul Davis the Wonk player of the year so far (POYSF), your intrepid blogger chanced to remark that Michigan State has played the worst defense of any team in the Big Ten this year. Wonk's readers respond!


Do you really think that Michigan State has the "worst defense in the Big Ten"? I know your stats suggest that, but doesn't such an outlandish conclusion call into question the limitation of these metrics? Run them through some qualitative analysis, and see if you think you'll still be able to write that sentence in late January.

Don't tempo-free stats fail to take into account such things as getting stops when they're needed? Ummm... playing against Adam Morrison? Georgia Tech going unconscious?

Stats are helpful and help put things into perspective (yes, State has not checked well). But they certainly aren't the whole story, which seems clear when they lead to conclusions such as MSU having the "worst defense in the Big Ten."

Luke W.

What's this? Stats "certainly aren't the whole story"? If only I'd thought to say something like stats don't tell the whole story and then give it prominent feature in the sidebar every day. Alas....

Do I really think State has the worst defense in the Big Ten? Of course not. And therein arises my concern: they've played like it.

Oh, and the same stat that worries me this year (allowing opponents 1.07 points per possession) made MSU look beautiful last year (0.94 opp. PPP). So your intrepid blogger spent a good part of last season saying State was actually much better than people realized.

Strange. I don't recall too much questioning of this "outlandish" stat or any calls for a qualitative analysis then.

Let the lobbying for the 2.0 All-Wonk begin!

You are missing the boat. Praising Michigan when they have one of the softest schedules in the nation? Do you really think that Horton's stats will look the same after a few tough games? Please.

Bob B.

Talk about man bites dog! Wonk defending Horton? O, the irony!

Being as I'm but a few days removed from suggesting that Tommy Amaker outfit Horton with a special collar that renders shooting physically impossible, I would be the last person to promise that Horton's stats will look the same after a few tough games. Instead, we see that the Wolverine's scoring efficiency is on the decline. But this is hardly surprising, surely, when you first show up on Wonk's lists, as did Horton, with a 1.40 PPWS and the best one in the nation for an entire season last year was 1.38 (Salim Stoudamire).

Again, as I said yesterday, what Horton does bring to the table, even when his shot if off, is perimeter D.

PPWS lists--don't fence us in, Wonk!

Great site....Very, well, wonkish. Truth in advertising is so rare these days....

Just curious: if the Big Ten has 11 teams with five starters, that's 55 players. Your PPWS list has the top 20 and the bottom 20. Why not just list the whole thing? Even with subs, there can't be that many more if you're also excluding freshmen.

Do you really think Wonk readers are uninterested in such things??? Puh-leaze!

Mark C.

Happy Holidays, Mark! I'll expect a fruitcake from you pretty soon....

PPWS: thru December 15 (12+ min./game--squeamishness forbids freshmen under 1.00)
1. Je'Kel Foster, Ohio State (1.69)
2. Errek Suhr, Indiana (1.67)
3. Ben Allen, Indiana (1.61)
4. Jamar Butler, Ohio State (1.50)
5. Jamar Smith, Illinois (1.50)
6. Paul Davis, Michigan State (1.39)
7. Jamal Abu-Shamala, Minnesota (1.38)
8. Marshall Strickland, Indiana (1.37)
9. Courtney Sims, Michigan (1.36)
10. Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern (1.35)
11. Marco Killingsworth, Indiana (1.30)
12. Daniel Horton, Michigan (1.30)
13. Lester Abram, Michigan (1.30)
14. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State (1.29)
15. Ron Lewis, Ohio State (1.29)
16. James Augustine, Illinois (1.29)
17. Sylvester Mayes, Ohio State (1.26)
18. Tim Doyle, Northwestern (1.26)
19. Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin (1.25)
20. Jamelle Cornley, Penn State (1.22)
21. Brian Butch, Wisconsin (1.21)
22. J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State (1.20)
23. Erek Hansen, Iowa (1.18)
24. Maurice Ager, Michigan State (1.16)
25. Brian Randle, Illinois (1.16)
26. Graham Brown, Michigan (1.16)
27. Mohamed Hachad, Northwestern (1.16)
28. Nate Minnoy, Purdue (1.15)
29. Earl Calloway, Indiana (1.15)
30. Shannon Brown, Michigan State (1.15)
31. Roderick Wilmont, Indiana (1.15)
32. Jerret Smith, Michigan (1.15)
33. Moe Hargrow, Minnesota (1.14)
34. Marcus Landry, Wisconsin (1.13)
35. Robert Vaden, Indiana (1.13)
36. Mike Henderson, Iowa (1.12)
37. Michael Flowers, Wisconsin (1.12)
38. Jason Chappell, Wisconsin (1.12)
39. Bryant Dillon, Purdue (1.11)
40. Vincent Grier, Minnesota (1.11)
41. Ray Nixon, Wisconsin (1.11)
42. Adam Boone, Minnesota (1.09)
43. Spencer Tollackson, Minnesota (1.08)
44. Greg Brunner, Iowa (1.08)
45. Mike Walker, Penn State (1.08)
46. Terence Dials, Ohio State (1.08)
47. Ben Luber, Penn State (1.07)
48. Marcus Green, Purdue (1.06)
49. Lewis Monroe, Indiana (1.06)
50. Chris Lutz, Purdue (1.05)
51. Rich McBride, Illinois (1.04)
52. Dan Coleman, Minnesota (1.03)
53. Milos Bogetic, Penn State (1.02)
54. David Jackson, Penn State (1.02)
55. Matt Kiefer, Purdue (1.01)
56. Travis Parker, Penn State (1.01)
57. Dion Harris, Michigan (1.00)
58. Shaun Pruitt, Illinois (1.00)
59. Alando Tucker, Wisconsin (0.99)
60. Adam Haluska, Iowa (0.98)
61. Dee Brown, Illinois (0.98)
62. Doug Thomas, Iowa (0.92)
63. J'son Stamper, Minnesota (0.92)
64. Marcus Arnold, Illinois (0.92)
65. Geary Claxton, Penn State (0.90)
66. Vince Scott, Northwestern (0.89)
67. Chris Hunter, Michigan (0.89)
68. Brandon Hassell, Penn State (0.84)
69. Matt Sylvester, Ohio State (0.84)
70. Michael Jenkins, Northwestern (0.74)
71. Ron Coleman, Michigan (0.74)

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