Big Ten Wonk
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Wonk 360: Indiana in Salt Lake
A look at the teams competing against Indiana in Salt Lake City this weekend to make it to Oakland and the Sweet 16.

(6) Indiana Hoosiers (18-11, 9-7 Big Ten)
Feast your eyes: Let's start with something nobody starts with when talking about Indiana--this team plays excellent perimeter defense. They've made opponents turn the ball over--especially in Big Ten play. Speaking of Big Ten play, in conference games IU devoted over 43 percent of its shots to threes. (One thing--and maybe this should go down in the next paragraph: don't be fooled by that gaudy top-30 effective FG percentage on display at Ken Pomeroy's site. In calendar 2005, the Hoosiers had a 63.0 eFG pct. The number for calendar '06 is 49.1. And, of course, IU was last seen recording a 37.3 eFG pct. against Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, albeit in a gritty effort.)

Look the other way: Regular readers, I know you've heard me say this before. So what? (This doesn't concern you. This is for the benefit of Gonzaga fans tuning in.) Indiana is weak on the offensive glass. Not to mention that, for a team that shoots so many threes, they turn the ball over with surprising regularity. And their interior defense is suspect: Marco Killingsworth is painfully averse to fouls and Robert Vaden is undersized.

Etc. Marshall Strickland scored more efficiently than any other Big Ten starter this season....In conference games, the Hoosiers actually gave up more points than they scored. So they'll be looking to "pull a West Virginia" in the tournament this season. Last year in Big East play, the Mountaineers also allowed more points than they scored--and came within a free throw of the Final Four.

(11) San Diego State Aztecs (24-8, 13-3 Mountain West)
Feast your eyes: SDSU puts a very good offense on the floor, one powered by good shooting (including 39.4 percent on their threes), even better offensive rebounding, and a knack for getting to the line. Forward Marcus Slaughter, a 6-9 junior, personifies those last two traits all by his lonesome: he sports an offensive rebound percentage that even J'son Stamper would envy. And Slaughter is one of the five best players in the nation at getting to the line.

Look the other way: To flip a phrase, the Aztecs taketh offensive boards and they give them away: this team's defensive rebounding is anemic. (SDSU allows opponents to rebound almost 34 percent of their own misses.) And there aren't a lot of assists flying around with this gang.

Etc. About half of leading scorer Brandon Heath's shots are threes--and he's hitting 41.1 percent of said shots.

(3) Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-3, 14-0 West Coast)
Feast your eyes: This team is a monster of offensive efficiency. It's not just Adam Morrison--though, don't get me wrong, he doesn't hurt. To talk geeky talk for a moment, each member of the Zags' big three (Morrison, J.P. Batista, and Derek Ravio) has an offensive rating north of 115--that's up there in Jamar Butler, Jamar Smith, Paul Davis territory. This level of efficiency is based on an offense that's strong across the board. The Zags never ever turn the ball over. Moreover, their shooting is superb and they're even surprisingly good on the offensive glass. Most of all, they get to the line: both Morrison and Batista steer opponents remorselessly into foul trouble. And a final note, for what it's worth: this team never shoots threes. There are only about 15 teams in the country that shoot fewer threes than Gonzaga.

Look the other way: You know what I'm going to say. I know what I'm going to say. We all know what I'm going to say. So suppose I just say it: Gonzaga's defense is mediocre. Opponents are more likely to win the lottery than turn the ball over. The Zags clearly take the attitude that they can outscore you straight up. They've been right 27 of 30 times.

Etc. Gonzaga didn't exactly breeze through the West Coast tournament, did they? Mark Few's team needed overtime to get past San Diego and then beat Loyola Marymount 68-67. This despite the fact that both games were played on the Zags' home floor.

(14) Xavier Musketeers (21-10, 8-8 A-10)
Feast your eyes: The Musketeers play some of the best field goal defense in the country, holding opponents to a 44.7 effective FG percentage.

Look the other way: Xavier's undermanned. Leading scorer (and shot-blocker) Brian Thornton was lost for the year in February with a broken ankle. And starting point guard Dedrick Finn was dismissed from the team three weeks ago for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Etc. Despite the personnel challenges mentioned above, the Musketeers somehow managed to win the A-10 tournament, a run capped off with a one-point victory over St. Joseph's in the title game.

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