Big Ten Wonk
Monday, December 04, 2006
The pre-Oden era has ended
Greg Oden played 23 minutes against Valparaiso Saturday evening in Ohio State's 78-58 victory in Columbus and let the record show that the freshman big man did not score every point for his team while he was in the game. Nor did he block every shot by the Crusaders. By the same token, Oden did not sell programs, diagram new plays for Jim Tressel, or broker a lasting Mideast peace settlement at halftime.

But he did post a 14-10 dub-dub. And, most tellingly, there were five blocks recorded in those 23 minutes.

Oden's still wearing a brace on his right wrist and so he's shooting his free throws left-handed. Valpo drew the obvious conclusion and fouled the man silly. He made 8-of-15 free throws and this kind of flow-killing activity (hack-a-Greg followed by 50-percentish FT shooting) will likely recur for as long as the brace remains. (Ron Lewis may have to relinquish his title as his team's--and the Big Ten's--most frequent shooter at the line.) But what Ohio State may lose in style points on offense over the next few games it will more than gain in interior defense.

Besides, now we know that Oden will be on the floor in Gainesville against Florida on December 23. (Though, granted, this matchup perhaps lost some of its luster last night.)

BONUS blinding flash of the obvious! Oden, schmoden. This team can really shoot the three. San Francisco caught them on an off night--but every other opponent has allowed the Buckeyes to hit at least 38 percent of their shots outside the arc. For the year OSU's shooting 43.7 percent on their threes. On this night Daequan Cook hit 4-of-5 treys and led Ohio State with 20 points.

(Box score.)

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
The Big Ten went 10-0 at home and 0-1 on the road this weekend. Take-away: play only home games.

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--Friday!
Iowa beat Texas-Pan American 62-46 in Hawkeye Challenge action in Iowa City. Justin Johnson made 4-of-6 threes and led the Hawkeyes with 14 points. (Box score.)

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--Saturday!
Arizona beat Illinois 84-72 in Phoenix. The Illini led by as many as 16 in the first half but were doomed in the second by foul trouble and a short bench. Brian Randle (groin) and Jamar Smith (ankle) sat this one out, while Rich McBride and Marcus Arnold both fouled out. It got to the point where Bruce Weber at one point employed a zone defense, to no avail: the Wildcats outscored Illinois 48-31 after halftime. Arizona shot 37 free throws; the Illini, nine. Warren Carter posted a 24-10 dub-dub for Illinois. (Box score.)

Minnesota beat Arizona State 66-63 in Minneapolis, salvaging the conference a 1-1 tie in the de facto weekend Big Ten-Pac-10 Challenge. The game marked Jim Molinari's debut as the Gophers' interim coach, after the resignation of head coach Dan Monson last Thursday. Molinari is very fortunate to be 1-0 this morning: his team led by 19 with a little more than seven minutes to play and yet ASU's Jerren Shipp had a good look at a three to put this game into OT as time expired. The Sun Devils missed 10 free throws and the Gophers came through with their second-best shooting performance of the year to eke out a win. Lawrence McKenzie led Minnesota with 20 points but needed 15 shots to do so. And Kevin Payton was feast-or-famine: nine assists and five turnovers. BONUS diagnostic help for the new guy! The problems in Minneapolis are as follows: 1) Turnovers. The Gophers have turned the ball over on very nearly one in every four possessions. Name your guard: McKenzie, Payton, Limar Wilson--they all average more than five turnovers per 100 possessions. Payton in particular merits special mention: he's attempted just six shots in 134 minutes and, while he does create assists (12.2 per 100 poss.), his turnover rate is truly Killingsworth-esque: 8.7 per 100 possessions. 2) Defensive rebounding. It's horrible: Minnesota gathers in just 61.4 percent of their opponents' misses. No Gopher averaging more than 15 minutes a game has a defensive rebound percentage above 12.3, a figure that was good enough to make Je'Kel Foster the 37th best defensive rebounder in the Big Ten last year. 3) Offensive rebounding. For a team that shoots relatively few threes, Minnesota's 30.0 offensive rebound pct. is really bad. (Box score (pdf).)

Indiana beat Charlotte 74-57 in Bloomington. After sitting out the entire second half of the Duke game, A.J. Ratliff was given a go-get-'em-tiger speech by Kelvin Sampson and launched 16 shots and 11 threes in 28 minutes against the 49ers. He only made seven and four, respectively, but, hey, don't let that stand in the way of a feel-good head like "Ratliff quickly regains confidence." Character development through frequent shooting--by this standard Trey Johnson will be canonized soon! D.J. White added a 13-12 dub-dub for the Hoosiers. What to dwell on when you're not scoring Ratliff's Rorschach exams: Indiana's defense might be good this year. No opponent has scored more than one point per possession yet this season. (Box score.)

Iowa beat Coppin State 83-67 in the title game of the Hawkeye Challenge. Adam Haluska hit 6-of-12 threes and led the Hawkeyes with 31 points. Offensive rebounding spelled the difference in this game, as Iowa pulled down 17 offensive boards in 37 chances. Haluska and Tyler Smith had four offensive rebounds each. This game also marked the season debut of Mike Henderson, who returned from a broken finger suffered in practice on Halloween. He missed three shots and coughed up three turnovers in eight minutes. (Box score.)

Purdue beat Delaware State 62-40 in West Lafayette. The Boilers' best defensive effort of the year (0.71 points per possession for the opponent) coincided with their slowest game of the year (56 possessions) to produce the ostentatiously scarce 40 Hornet points. Carl Landry led Purdue with 19 points on 11 shots in 25 minutes. (Box score.)

Penn State beat Morgan State 80-71 in State College, which makes three "State"s in this sentence (no, wait--four!). The Nittany Lions were outshot from the field in this one but pretty much everything else broke their way, including free throws (a +20 in FTAs), turnovers (just 11 in a 71-possession game), and offensive boards (16 out of 38 chances). Ed DeChellis got notably balanced results from Jamelle Cornley (18 points), Mike Walker (16), Geary Claxton (15), and Brandon Hassell (14). Ben Luber took an elbow to the head early in the second half and did not return. (Box score (pdf).)

Michigan beat Wofford 83-49 in Ann Arbor. Nine Wolverines saw 10+ minutes in a game that was never close. Courtney Sims led Michigan with 19 points, while Dion Harris posted a 14-10 points-assists dub-dub. (Box score.)

Wisconsin beat Florida International 79-63 in Madison. Both teams shot and made a lot of threes but Bo Ryan's men were superior on the inside and shot 17 more free throws than the visitors. Kammron Taylor went 4-of-4 on his threes and led the Badgers with 16 points. Johwen Villegas showed well for the Golden Panthers in a losing cause: 7-of-10 on his threes for 24 points. After travel mishaps delayed their arrival in Madison and separated them from their luggage, FIU played this game in borrowed shoes and jerseys. (Box score (pdf).) Wisconsin plays Winthrop tonight in Madison.

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--yesterday!
Michigan State beat Bradley 82-53 in East Lansing. Drew Neitzel made 3-of-6 threes and led the Spartans with 20 points. Raymar Morgan added 18, Travis Walton had a nice line (3-of-3 on his threes for 15 points and nine assists), and Drew Naymick pulled down 10 boards in 27 minutes. The Braves made just six of 34 two-point shots. Still, today's "Down, boy!" goes to: the anonymous scribe in the MSU athletic department who saw in yesterday's game "some of the best defense Tom Izzo's program has played in 12 seasons." Zounds! (Box score.)

COMING tomorrow!
The first of this year's promised occasional pro bono wonking outside the Big Ten....

They're undefeated! They're a mid-major! Their home games are within walking distance of my house! (A key point in their favor.) So just how good is Butler really?

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Latest update from indefatigable Hoosier fan Nate
Indiana, the new Michigan State?

When I think of the great Tom Izzo teams up in East Lansing, I remember teams that did two things extremely well: rebounding and defense. These are also two things that rarely take a game off (unlike FG shooting). If a team defends and rebounds well, they will have a chance to win any game.

Well, as you stated, the IU team identity this year will likely be defense. But I would also add rebounding.

Charlotte had been outrebounding their opponents by about four boards per game. IU outrebounded them by 12. Rod Wilmont, who at the moment can't buy a three-pointer, managed 10 rebounds (four offensive) and played solid defense.

Once IU learns to value of holding on to the basketball (apparently Armon Bassett decided it was his game to play Mr. Butterfingers last night) and they have a better idea of Sampson's offense (it is getting better--slowly), they will be a tough team to beat in the Big Ten.

One more note: I like the aggressive play from Ratliff last night on the offensive end, but with 16 FGA one would like to see more than 18 pts. (PPWS of 1.13). I would like to see him drive more to the basket. But it is a start.

Nate D.
Back home in Indy

Thanks, Nate!

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