Big Ten Wonk
Monday, February 26, 2007
Ohio State is the ugliest 14-1 team I've ever seen
In Columbus: Ohio State 49, Wisconsin 48 (box score)
No, it's not just you. Ohio State's record really is better than their numbers. The Buckeyes are outscoring conference opponents by 0.17 points for every possession they play. That's very, very good but it's certainly not unparalleled. Just ask around....

For instance, North Carolina's outscoring their ACC opponents by 0.19 points on every possession and all they have to show for it, after last night's loss at Maryland, is a 10-4 record.

Georgetown, likewise, is +0.19 points per possession on their conference opponents. They're 12-2 in the Big East.

And don't even get me started on Kansas.

So the Buckeyes have won some tight games. They're "clutch" or lucky or a bit of both, depending on one's point of view. But in either scenario they're not as easy on the eyes as a "14-1" might suggest. (Ohio State's most aesthetically pleasing game of the year, by far, was a loss--their ACC-Big Ten Challenge game in Chapel Hill.) The ugliness and, more importantly, the winning continued yesterday....

This--49 points in a 58-possession game--was as bad as OSU's performance on offense at Florida. (A hair worse, actually.) Kudos, then, to the Wisconsin Badgers. Coming off a performance wherein they were pummeled on the boards by Michigan State, Bo Ryan's men did the pummeling this time around, allowing Ohio State just five offensive rebounds.

And yet the Buckeyes won. Credit Mike Conley for hitting the game-winner with 3.9 seconds left. (Additional note: Kammron Taylor does not shoot free throws well late in Ohio State games.) But also give a nod to Kelvin Sampson, for Thad Matta wheeled out precisely the same zone defense that Sampson used on January 31 in Indiana's five-point win over the Badgers in Bloomington. Billy Packer seemed to think Matta was watching Ryan's substitution patterns closely and was going man-to-man situationally--say, when Alando Tucker was sitting on the bench. The truth is a good deal less complex, though more befitting a young team: the Sampson/Matta 2-3 zone is used on every possession following a score or a whistle on your own offensive end.

Make no mistake: Wisconsin does struggle against this zone. (Yes, I know. Penn State and Northwestern lost playing zone against the Badgers over the past two dozen days. But, you see, they're Penn State and Northwestern.) And Greg Oden's not a bad guy to have in the middle of your 2-3, witness his block on Joe Krabbenhoft in the second half. (Pity Krabbenhoft. What else was he supposed to do? Jamar Butler did everything but wave a sign: "Please drive the lane and get your shot blocked." Krabbenhoft had the ball out top and Butler went wide to hedge on that lethal three-point threat known as Trevon Hughes. So into the lane the sophomore dutifully went--but the D didn't collapse. They knew they didn't have to. Oden's handy that way.) With Oden anchoring a packed-in zone, Wisconsin shot just six free throws and Tucker had only 12 points on 15 shots.

Ugly for the Badgers. Effective for the Buckeyes.

BONUS kudo to the Value City Arena crowd! Rarely have I heard a savvier crowd reaction than the one I heard yesterday with 17 minutes left in the second half. Oden and Ron Lewis ran a pick-and-roll outside the arc and when Oden rolled he was achingly wide open. For reasons plain only to himself, however, Lewis chose not to hit him with the pass and the crowd moaned in disgust. It's not often that you hear a crowd react so immediately and correctly to something off the ball--uncommonly discerning Ohio State fans, Wonk salutes you!

No word yet on Butch's injury. But if he's done for the year, that's big. Butch is not only the best rebounder in the Big Ten (yes, better than Oden), he also makes opposing bigs uncomfortable by forcing them to guard him out on the arc.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Big Ten bubble teams went 3-0 on the road this weekend against the conference's bottom three teams. But first....

Token Saturday home win!
Michigan State beat Indiana 66-58 in East Lansing. The Spartans committed no fewer than 14 turnovers in a 31-possession first half. Amazingly, they found themselves down only 10, played a normal (for them) second half (nine TOs--which, note, is still a lot), and came back for the win. Raymar Morgan did his best Alando Tucker imitation and scored 18 points fueled by 11 FTAs. Drew Neitzel didn't have his best game (eight turnovers) but did hit 3-of-6 threes for 17 points. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are still without the services of Earl Calloway. In the senior's absence, Armon Bassett scored 25 points on 12 shots. D.J. White, on the other hand, struggled: 1-of-7 from the floor (though he did grab 10 boards.) (Box score.)

You weigh 96 pounds, so the sand I kick: bubblicious Saturday road smackdowns!
Illinois beat Penn State 68-50 in State College. Tired of his team's relentlessly Edvard Munch-level horrific shooting, Bruce Weber arranged to have every player on his team kidnapped and replaced for a game by the Phoenix Suns. And though PSU's Jamelle Cornley could be seen tugging at "Shaun Pruitt"'s latex mask, the ruse worked and "Illinois" recorded its best shooting by far of the conference season. Pruitt and "Warren Carter" combined for 37 points on 15-of-20 shooting. And so here we are: asked to believe that actual Illinois players scored 68 points in a 54-possession game. Right....Mike Walker hit 4-of-6 threes and scored 14 for the Nits. (Box score.)

Purdue beat Northwestern 75-68 in Evanston. OK, critics of offensive systems named after certain Ivied schools, here's your ammo. The 'Cats took good care of the ball and actually shot better than the Boilers. But because they were hammered beyond recognition on the boards (by a team that defines the very essence of meh rebounding on both sides of the court) they lost at home by seven. While Carl Landry sat with foul trouble, David Teague jacked up shots like he was playing in the fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star game and scored 26 points on 20 attempts. Tim Doyle's 26, conversely, came on just 12 shots. (Box score.)

Michigan beat Minnesota 62-51 in Minneapolis. Late in the year Tommy Amaker has gone with a starting lineup that replaces Courtney Sims and Ron Coleman with Ekpe Udoh and Jerret Smith. In theory that should be a smaller look for the Wolverines but don't tell that to the Gophers, who shot 33 two-point shots on Saturday and made just 10--thus the measly 51 points in a 64-possession game. Udoh recorded four blocks and Brent Petway had three. Dion Harris led Michigan with 15 points on 12 shots. Jamal Abu-Shamala had a career day for Minnesota, hitting 5-of-8 threes and scoring 27 points. And Lawrence McKenzie will want to burn the tape of this game, deposit the ashes in an urn, weld the urn shut, charter a plane, and drop the urn into the active volcano at Mount Nyiragongo in the Congo. (Box score.)

O, the blogging! O, the fatigue!
It's that time of year, bay-bee! Seven-day-a-week blogging commences next Monday and goes through the national championship game. Next week's festivities to include:

--2007 All-Wonk (the official 2.0 release)
--The 2007 tempo report--how fast (or not) did the "power" conferences play this year?
--Other things I make up before then

Tune in next week!

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

<< Home

wonk back!
email me

a very special wonk
the blog's final days

me, simmons, and 150 million other american males
the four dullest topics for a hoops blog
drama, magnitude, and finality
2007 "power"-conference velocity report
special report: in tedium's path
stop DAD: defensive attention deficit
consistency, threes, and stereotypes
they shoot free throws, don't they?
every rebound needs an adjective
fouls: call fewer or allow more
was norman dale wrong?
what's PPWS?
POT: perimeter-oriented team
symphony of altruists
mammalian theory of extreme home-court advantage
law of november weight change
scoring and preventing points: how to

tempo-free aerials
(conf. games only)
big east
big ten
big XII

geek chorus
intro to tempo-free stats
2007 big ten team tempo-free stats
2006 big ten team tempo-free stats
2005 big ten team tempo-free stats
state of the stats, april '06

canonical bloggers
yoni cohen
ken pomeroy
kyle whelliston
ryan kobliska
chris west
brian cook

November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
August 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
August 2006
September 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
October 2007