Big Ten Wonk
Friday, January 20, 2006
In today's more Wonk-ish venues....
No games to recap this morning so I have a chance to comment on some items that have been meriting comment for a while....

New wine, old bottle
Startlingly savvy as you alert readers have proven yourselves to be, I know you already know this, but: Ken Pomeroy's blog now has individual tempo-free stats on every D-I player in the country. (For instance, here is the Wisconsin page.) Let's see. How can I phrase this?...This is gold. Small daily miracles like this--a guy with a day job posting stats that are more complete and vastly more informative than those offered by any national content provider--are what get me out of bed in the morning. Indefatigable hoops oracle Ken Pomeroy, Wonk salutes you!

New wine, new bottle
Speaking of canonical bloggers, Ryan Kobliska of Hawkeye Hoops fame has opened a supra-Big Ten oriented branch office under the heading of The Basketball Notebook. Already in its young blogospheric life, the Notebook has proven itself to be every bit as informative and insightful as good old HH--and that's saying something. Alert readers, I heartily commend you to make haste and link! (Right after you finish up here.)

Um, Wonk's wine-based metaphor officially peters out here
For those of you who missed the New York Times article on "Illini Guy," here it is. Money graf:

During the game, the Illini Guy refused to answer phone calls. Someone tried the doorbell, which plays the Illinois fight song, but the Illini Guy stuck with his Saturday game plan: watching Illinois basketball.

Seems perfectly sane to me.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
The conventional wisdom: it's a good thing for the rest of the Big Ten that Ohio State beat Wisconsin in Columbus Wednesday night. Now where have I heard this before? Hmmm.

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--tomorrow!
Michigan State plays Iowa in East Lansing (ESPN, Noon ET). Best post scorer in the Big Ten (Paul Davis) vs. best post defender (Erek Hansen). If Hansen can stay away from fouls and on the floor it could be fun to watch. On the other hand, the Hawkeyes come into this contest having defeated Penn State and Minnesota by only four points apiece (the latter at home in three OTs, no less). That won't get it done in the Breslin Center....Tom Izzo says he sees progress on defense....Spartan miscellany here.

Penn State plays Ohio State in State College, which gives "State" three uses in this stately sentence alone. (No, wait--four!) Profile of Nittany Lion guard Mike Walker here. Alert reader JDS asks: "Am I crazy for thinking that the Nittany Lions will shock everyone by giving Ohio State a scare--maybe even winning?" Yes! You're crazy! Next topic! Oh, wait, there's more from JDS: "Penn State has what passes for momentum with the (scoff) Purdue win and (what's this?) a close one against Iowa. Plus the beating they took in Columbus has to mean some sort of revenge-mindedness in Happy Valley." Egad! JDS makes some good points! And yet the Nittany Lions have seemingly always lost by 30 just when you think maybe they've turned a corner (see not only Ohio State but also the Pitt game this year). Stay tuned....

Indiana plays Purdue in Bloomington. In a special all-Davis write up at this morning, Seth Davis salutes Hoosier coach Mike Davis. "I love Mike Davis," says former California Governor Gray Davis. Geena Davis wants Mike Davis to do a cameo on "Commander in Chief." Meanwhile, Davis Love III offers the IU coach tips on his long irons. Rumors that Davis plans to unwind in the offseason by retreating to his vacation home in Davis, California, and watching Davis Cup matches while listening to Miles Davis could not be confirmed.

Northwestern plays Illinois in Evanston, where a sellout is cause for a special advisory to fans: arrive early!

Minnesota plays Michigan in Minneapolis. Gopher freshman Brandon Smith has been declared academically ineligible and will not play for the remainder of the season....In this morning's Detroit News, Jim Spadafore says Courtney Sims' "roller-coaster play has been puzzling." The Wolverines will need the big guy tomorrow and, especially, next week when they host Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin plays North Dakota State in Madison. After not traveling with the team to Columbus for Wednesday night's game against Ohio State, Badger freshman Marcus Landry practiced with the Badgers yesterday. No official word from the school yet--if Landry is academically ineligible, he can practice but not play in games or travel with the team.

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Wha? A Badger fan criticizing Alando Tucker?

Let me put aside my general complaints about the OSU-Wisconsin game. Wisconsin was seriously under-staffed against the Buckeyes, and evidently Terence Dials is allowed to hip-check on screens. (I know, I know. All Big Ten teams get home cookin'--part of why Bo Ryan's lost only one conference game at the Kohl.)

I'm an unabashed fan of the Badgers and generally have felt that Alando Tucker is among the elite players in the Big Televen. So far this season, however, I'm not sure that that is a supportable position. The OSU game on Wednesday is just the latest example of Tucker's inability to shoot well enough to be trusted with 15-20 shots per game.

Most of his shots come from the interior (and when they come from three, he's shooting just 28 percent). He draws a ton of fouls, but he's shooting only 47 percent from the line. He draws a lot of double or triple teams, but he rarely finds the open man (just 24 assists, fewer than any other Badger starter despite the double teams).

I love to see him work in the lane. There's no doubt his leadership is huge and he's made some memorable crunch time shots in his career. He's athletic, plays hard, and can be unstoppable. But against OSU he was clanking a lot of short range shots and missing front ends of one-and-ones down the stretch.

When your team loses two important players before the game, and then Butch tweaks his ankle, your top guy needs to step it up to win on the road. That's what elite players do and that's what Alando Tucker did not do.

I hope Tucker's shooting improves. But if it doesn't, the Badgers may have a tough time closing out close games with a hack-a-Tuck strategy coming into vogue.

Thanks for your effort. You're a daily read.

Brian H.

Tucker does indeed miss a ton of shots and I'll grant you that it's a little jarring to hear pundits blithely locking him in as first-team All-Big Ten with no mention at all of this fact.

But: for the sake of discussion let's imagine Tucker incurring the latest in a series of foot injuries and being sidelined for the rest of the year. Wisconsin without Tucker would, I think, plummet rapidly and dramatically. He's not playing as well as he can. And yet he may still be the best player on the team.

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