Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Time for the year's first All-Wonk team
We've seen enough hoops: nominations are now being accepted for the All-Wonk 1.0. And by "nominations" I mean send me an entire five. (As opposed to saying merely Player X "must" be included. The All-Wonk is a remorseless zero-sum exercise--tell me who gets left off!)

Best submittals will be posted. And then of course I'll ignore them all entirely and just choose who I want.

To be announced next week.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Michigan beat Illinois 71-61 last night in Ann Arbor. Lester Abram shook off his shooting slump and had the kind of night that was expected of him, so long as he stays healthy: 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field. Speaking of shaking off slumps, Dion Harris hit 3-of-4 threes and added 22 points. And Ekpe Udoh continued his shot-altering ways, recording four blocks in 27 minutes. As for the Illini, they shot poorly from inside (13-of-32 on their twos) and outside (7-of-21 on their threes), all the while failing to control their defensive glass (giving Michigan 12 offensive boards in 27 chances). Jamar Smith got the start in place of Rich McBride and led Illinois with 17 points but hit just 3-of-11 threes. (Box score.)

Penn State beat Northwestern 83-57 in State College last night, a game the Nittany Lions led by 34 before sending in the reserves in the final minutes. Sure, PSU scored 129 points against VMI the other night. But this--scoring 83 in a 60-possession game--was an even more efficient night of offense: 1.38 points per possession. Penn State couldn't miss and turned the ball over just 10 times. Danny Morrissey hit 6-of-9 threes and led the Nittany Lions with 24 points. (Box score.)

Minnesota beat Purdue 65-59 last night in Minneapolis. What a strange game: the Gophers gave the ball away 22 times in a 62-possession game and were dominated yet again on their defensive glass. And won. Good shooting erases a lot of problems and Minnesota enjoyed their best shooting night of the year. Lawrence McKenzie led the Gophers with 23 admirably efficient points: 6-of-7 from the field, 3-of-3 threes, 8-of-9 from the line. (Though he did cough up the ball seven times. So did Limar Wilson.) Dan Coleman also chipped in with a 13-11 dub-dub and three blocks. Carl Landry led the Boilers with 20 points while David Teague added 15--but at great cost, as Teague went 6-of-18 from the field. (Box score (pdf).)

Hoops tonight!
Michigan State plays Iowa in Iowa City (ESPN, 9ET). BONUS Spartan analysis! Last week I talked hoops with the good people at SportsTalk on WKAR in East Lansing and offered some thoughts on this year's precociously youthful Michigan State team. Link here and click on "Thursday, Dec. 28." (I follow Drew Neitzel and come in at about the 32-minute mark.)

Wonk back!
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Landry and Stiemsma--essential equipment!
Yesterday I noted that Wisconsin is doing very well even though Marcus Landry and, especially, Greg Stiemsma don't play many minutes. (Last year, of course, the two players were declared ineligible for the second semester and we subsequently heard much about how vital they had been.) The readers respond!

Yo Wonk!

I continue to believe that losing Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry last year at this time was a key part in developing a National Championship caliber team the Badgers have this season.

First off, it gave some key minutes away to freshman Joe Krabbenhoft and Kevin Gullikson. Gullikson hasn't played much this year but its certainly not the same situation it was last year, when I wanted to close my eyes every time he came off the bench. Krabbenhoft on the other hand has turned into a sure-handed clutch player to complement the likes of Tucker, Taylor and Landry. Case in point, the Georgia game on Sunday. When the Dawgs were in a zone in the last five minutes of the game, it was Krabbenhoft who played the point position at the top of the key--and he did a mighty fine job, getting the ball to the corners so Tucker and Taylor could both nail threes, all while being very strong with the ball. Had Landry and Stiemsma not been out last season for half the year, I don't think Joe would have this kind of confidence.

As for Landry and Stiemsma, certainly Stiemsma doesn't play a lot, but he's a mean dude who throws a lot of elbows; it'll be nice to throw him at Oden, who should be guarded by someone 6-11 or more for almost the entire game (Stiemsma, Chappell, Butch). Otherwise, as Bo has done a few times by going small, Landry might see some time vs. Oden, and with his incredible athletic ability, I think he will stand his own pretty well. He has dominated blocking shots with both hands, and seems to have earned Bo's trust, playing in the final minutes of almost every game (and hitting big free throws at Georgia) when Chappell and Butch are usually sitting. Landry has made a big difference and I liken him to Josh Howard of the Dallas Mavericks. They have a lot of weapons, in Dirk, Jason Terry, and Devin Harris that you can kinda account for and push around. Same with the Badgers: you might be able to cover Tucker, Taylor, and Butch, but how do you contain an athlete like Marcus Landry/Josh Howard?

Go Badgers!

Max Z.

Thanks, Max!

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