Big Ten Wonk
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Leaders out of the gate
Way early, of course. And against competition of wildly varying levels. Still, it's interesting to see who's off to a fast tempo-free start....

(All stats, 15+ minutes per game--through games of December 5)

Scoring efficiency (PPWS)
1. Ron Lewis, Ohio State (1.43)
2. Chris Lutz, Purdue (1.43)
3. Earl Calloway, Indiana (1.41)
4. Courtney Sims, Michigan (1.38)
5. Daequan Cook, Ohio State (1.34)
6. Carl Landry, Purdue (1.34)
7. Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin (1.33)
8. Joe Krabbenhoft, Wisconsin (1.33)
9. Lance Stemler, Indiana (1.30)
10. Ivan Harris, Ohio State (1.30)

Lutz shoots nothing but threes (39 of his 43 attempts have been from outside of the arc) and so far they've been going in: he's 20-of-39. (Errek Suhr was like this out of the gate last year.)

Defensive boards (defensive rebounding pct.)
1. Brian Butch, Wisconsin (26.6)
2. Joe Krabbenhoft, Wisconsin (25.6)
3. Daequan Cook, Ohio State (24.5)
4. D.J. White, Indiana (24.0)
5. Shaun Pruitt, Illinois (22.5)
6. Brent Petway, Michigan (21.6)
7. Brandon Hassell, Penn State (20.6)
8. Warren Carter, Illinois (20.1)
9. Courtney Sims, Michigan (19.9)
10. Marquise Gray, Michigan State (19.2)

I'm mulling whether or not to junk or at least augment the plain old individual rebound percentage stat familiar to this blog's readers and instead go with defensive rebounding percentage this year. The problem with looking at a player's overall rebounding percentage is that, for reasons too tedious to detail here, it's as much a gauge of coaching style and an individual player's role on offense as it is of rebounding ability.

That being said, given his role and his coach's style Othello Hunter's been a beast on the offensive glass for Ohio State. He has the best offensive rebounding percentage (17.5) in the Big Ten and he's one of only five oddities in the conference who've actually been better on the offensive boards than on the defensive. (The others: Spencer Tollackson, Calvin Brock, Alando Tucker, and A.J. Ratliff.)

Assists per 100 possessions
1. Mike Conley, Ohio State (13.7)
2. Tim Doyle, Northwestern (11.5)
3. Dion Harris, Michigan (11.2)
4. Chester Frazier, Illinois (11.0)
5. Kevin Payton, Minnesota (10.9)
6. Travis Walton, Michigan State (10.1)
7. Tony Freeman, Iowa (9.8)
8. Jamar Butler, Ohio State (9.5)
9. Ben Luber, Penn State (8.7)
10. Jerret Smith, Michigan (8.7)

Payton creates assists for the Gophers, no question. Yet he didn't start last night against UAB. Here's why....

Turnovers per 100 possessions (from worst to less-worse)
1. Raymar Morgan, Michigan State (7.6)
2. Kevin Payton, Minnesota (7.5)
3. Earl Calloway, Indiana (7.1)
4. Marquise Gray, Michigan State (7.0)
5. Tony Freeman, Iowa (6.8)
6. Carl Landry, Purdue (6.5)
7. A.J. Ratliff, Indiana (6.5)
8. Goran Suton, Michigan State (6.1)
9. Joey Shaw, Indiana (5.9)
10. Tyler Smith, Iowa (5.9)

Based on the prevalence of "Michigan State" and "Indiana" on this list, it will come as no surprise to find that the Spartans and the Hoosiers are bringing up the rear in terms of holding on to the ball. MSU's coughed it up on 25.1 percent of their possessions so far this young season. Indiana's been even worse, giving the ball away on 25.8 percent of their possessions.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
UAB beat Minnesota 88-81 in two OTs in Birmingham last night. The Gophers trailed by as many as 14 in the second half before rallying but were outscored 11-4 after Lawrence McKenzie fouled out with 3:47 left in the second OT. There were 146 shots from the field in this game and 85 of them missed. But the Gophers hung in this game because, uncharacteristically, they didn't turn the ball over. McKenzie led Minnesota with 25 points on 20 shots. Spencer Tollackson posted a 17-13 dub-dub with nine offensive boards. After the game, interim coach Jim Molinari declared Limar Wilson his starting point guard. (Box score.)

Purdue beat Loyola 78-62 last night in West Lafayette. The Ramblers actually exposed a Boiler question mark--defensive rebounding (Loyola pulled down 16 offensive boards in 37 chances)--but it didn't matter on this night. For the first time in who knows how long, Purdue won a game the Butler way: by taking care of the ball and playing good D. Matt Painter's men turned the ball over just 12 times in a 69-possession game. Carl Landry led Purdue in boards (eight) and points (22). Freshman and early-season starter Chris Kramer returned to action and logged 16 minutes after sitting out four games with an injured knee. David Teague said Kramer's return helped the Boilers: "It's just his presence. Everyone respects Chris as a hard-nosed, hard-working guy." Ramblers coach Jim Whitesell was impressed: "The thing that Purdue did so well is that they sometimes drilled us out of our offense and they ran their offense well." But Whitesell's players thought they missed an opportunity: "We could have gotten this one,” said Majak Kou. “Most of their points in the first half came off our turnovers." (Box score.)

Northern Iowa beat Iowa 57-55 in Iowa City last night, which makes three "Iowa"s in this sentence. (No, wait--four!) The Hawkeyes led by 13 with under seven minutes to play but the Panthers mounted a 15-2 run to take this one down to the wire. When Brooks McKowen missed two free throws with 9.9 seconds left and UNI up by two, Iowa appeared to have new life. But the Panthers denied Adam Haluska the ball and Tony Freeman's "scrambled and hectic" last-second 25-footer was off. (Haluska, by the way, looked downright Munch-like in defeat.) There were 111 shots from the field in this game and 72 of them missed. Tyler Smith led the Hawkeyes with 20 points on 15 shots. Eric Coleman posted a 21-15 dub-dub with no turnovers and three blocks for UNI. Iowa had won 21 straight games at home before last night. (Box score.)

Eight teams in action tonight--five of which are unaffiliated with Indiana or Purdue!
Michigan State plays IPFW in East Lansing tonight. Latest word on Raymar Morgan is that the freshman may be out "for as long as three weeks" with the beginnings of a stress fracture in his right leg.

Indiana plays Western Illinois tonight in Bloomington. Kelvin Sampson says Ben Allen is adjusting to life in the paint.

Illinois plays IUPUI in Champaign tonight. Illini injury update here: add Shaun Pruitt to the list of ailing players. The junior injured his hand against Arizona and will likely play tonight with a padded wrap....Rich McBride says he's working to pull out of his shooting slump: "I have to stay aggressive." Bruce Weber says his team has to "find some way to get him the ball." McBride has hit just 31 percent of his threes so far this season. (But wait! Michael Flowers of Wisconsin is also shooting 31 percent on his threes but he gets a listing under "who's hot"--o, the injustice! OK, Flowers is doing many other good things. Duly noted.)

Penn State plays Hartford tonight in State College. Ben Luber, who sat out most of the second half against Morgan State Saturday after taking an elbow to the head, has been cleared to play.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta says the return of Greg Oden won't slow down the pace of his team: "From the day I started recruiting Greg I loved his speed. I'm anxious to get him running up and down the floor. I don't expect our style to change at all."

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Of empty seats and cupcakes
Yesterday I noted that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo used a portion of his Monday teleconference to remark on what he perceives as the growing number of no-shows at allegedly "sold-out" Spartan home games.

The readers respond!

Dear Wonk,

I find it interesting that Izzo is complaining about attendance at the games. I believe that Spartan fans have just been spoiled over the last ten years.

The main reason that attendance was so high during that time period was the obvious talent on the team. This year the talent isn't blatantly obvious and fair weather fans can recognize it.

Another factor easily overlooked is how the Spartans schedule has gotten dramatically worse over the last four or five years. We used to play four or five college basketball powerhouses on our non-conference schedule but this is no longer the case. In fact, this year there is no Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Syracuse, or Kansas of the past. Instead, it is all Sara Lee. Even when we play decent college programs now, we often play in neutral sites.

If Izzo wants more people in the stands, give us fewer Vermonts and more Dukes.

Jeremy B.
(Spartan fan in) Indianapolis

P.S. I will be going to the Butler game tonight. Can't beat eight bucks. Especially when I can't get a ticket when I make it up to E.L.

Thanks, Jeremy. (Though I think this particular schedule actually fits pretty well with this particular team's relative youth.)

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