Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Teams, stats, and the story so far....
The year's first tempo-free team stats for conference games have been posted. Regular readers are invited to get on over to the sidebar and enjoy. However, those of you who joined us only recently may wonder what "tempo-free" connotes.

Good question. We're at a strange moment with this tempo-free stuff. Ken Pomeroy is toiling away for ESPN, Grant Wahl is continuing to tout the superiority of the tempo-free lifestyle, and, closer to home, giddy Wisconsin fans are itching to see their team's success depicted in tempo-free terms.

But every conference stat page still looks like this. I once said of such pages that, with the exception of assist-turnover ratio and FT and 3FG percentages, every single number contained therein needs to be ignored. True enough--and that thought seems to be spreading with greater speed than I anticipated. That being said, as long as inertia still reigns supreme with the actual stat providers, you'll want to stop by any one of a number of reputable tempo-free ma-and-pa shops for numerical confirmation (or, in some cases, contestation) of what your eyes are telling you.

Still, it's early in the conference season....

A secret about conference stats in mid-January: as Newman said of zip codes, they're meaningless
At this point, teams that have played more home games than road games look beautiful. The numbers become more meaningful with surprising speed but for now take the following in-conference eye-poppers with a grain of salt:

--Indiana is scoring 1.22 points per possession (putting them on-pace with Wake Forest 2005)
--Minnesota opponents are shooting 17.4 percent on their threes.
--Purdue opponents are shooting 54.0 percent on their threes.
--Northwestern opponents are shooting 61.1 percent on their twos.

One thing we can say with confidence: Penn State has been far and away the most entertaining team of the young conference season. They score a lot of points (1.16 per possession) and so do their opponents (1.10). Boffo box-office scoreboard-overheaters of Penn State, Wonk salutes you!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Home team domination crumbles! (Relatively speaking.) Visitors go 2-3! Mass hysteria!...

Wisconsin beat Northwestern 56-50 Saturday in Evanston. Alando Tucker scored 15 of his 17 points after halftime to lead the Badgers to a win in a slow (55 possessions) ugly game in Welsh-Ryan (go figure!). The Wildcats got Wisconsin to turn the ball over (no mean feat--Tim Doyle recorded four steals) but couldn't hit their threes (4-of-18) and got mauled on the defensive glass. Jeff Ryan led Northwestern with 18 points. (Box score.)

Indiana beat Penn State 84-74 in State College on Saturday. What the? I was under the impression that this year's edition of the Hoosiers was going to be a hard-nosed grind-it-out defense-first team. But on Saturday in Bryce-Jordan Arena, they gave up a Pac-10-like 1.12 points per possession to the Nittany Lions. Not to worry! IU was meantime hitting 14 threes and scoring 1.27 points per trip. In the course of a nifty 25-12 dub-dub, Roderick Wilmont shot no fewer than 17 threes. He made seven, however, don't be surprised if this is the proximate cause of a 1-for-12 day 'ere long from Wilmont, a career 33 percent three-point shooter. D.J. White added a 14-11 dub-dub for the Hoosiers. Meantime, Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley scored 17 apiece for the home team in a losing cause. Penn State, heretofore surprisingly strong on the defensive glass, was beaten to a pulp on the defensive glass, giving Indiana 18 offensive boards out of 41 chances. White had six offensive rebounds and Wilmont had five. (Box score.)

Iowa beat Minnesota 60-49 Saturday in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes and the Gophers attempted 112 shots from the field in this game and 74 of them clanged. Adam Haluska (led Iowa with 22 points) and Lawrence McKenzie (scored 17 for Minnesota) were a combined 12-of-33 from the field. On the other hand, those who see the glass as half-full will note that both teams held on to the ball exceedingly well, to wit: just 18 turnovers combined from both teams. As it happened, however, the Hawks got to the line (27 FTAs) and the Gophers didn't (seven)--thus the final margin. Dan Coleman recorded a 19-12 dub-dub for the visitors. (Box score.)

Purdue beat Michigan 67-53 in West Lafayette on Saturday. The Wolverines' interior D was shredded by Carl Landry (22 points) and the Boilers, as the home team made 21-of-33 twos. That was the unusual part (Michigan having the best trio of shot-blockers in the Big Ten in Courtney Sims, Brent Petway, and Ekpe Udoh). The usual part was 17 Wolverine turnovers in just 59 possessions. David Teague made 4-of-5 threes and added 21 points for Purdue. Dion Harris led Michigan with 21 points on 14 shots. (Box score.)

Michigan State beat Illinois 63-57 Sunday in East Lansing. The Spartans outscored the Illini 40-23 after halftime in this game. Drew Neitzel led all scorers with 19 points thanks to 10-of-10 shooting at the line. Rich McBride and Jamar Smith have apparently made a pact with the three-point shooting devil wherein at least one of them will be head-case ineffective in every game. It was McBride up until mid-January--now it's Smith, 0-of-6 on his threes Sunday. (Box score.)

Token non-conference game
Ohio State beat Tennessee 68-66 in Columbus on Saturday, thanks to a Ron Lewis three with 11.2 seconds remaining. For one of the few times in the Matta era, turnovers put a Buckeye game in serious jeopardy, as OSU coughed up the ball 20 times in a 73-possession game. Mike Conley had five TOs and Greg Oden and Jamar Butler had four each. Had the Volunteers done better than 5-of-11 at the line, this game could have tipped their way. Alas....Oden led the way for Ohio State with a 24-15 dub-dub. Chris Lofton scored 21 points on 20 shots for Tennessee. (Box score.)

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

Tune in tomorrow!
The excellent emails I received in response to Thursday's post on shot-selection are now tentatively scheduled to take over the blog tomorrow.

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