Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I declare! The nation's best offenses
Caveats: "nation" is used here in the customary sense—"just the teams I've looked at closely," i.e., "power"-conferences only (sorry, everybody else—I'll hit the whole map next year, promise); just my own personal judgment informed but not dictated by all those weird graphs around here; non-Big Ten individual stats donated by either Kyle or the Willie to my Hank; subject to change (hey, it's only been March for a few hours).

As of this morning....

5. Arizona
Mind you, the Wildcats have been getting entirely too much ink for a team that's outscored Pac-10 opponents by just four points a game. But you can pin that on the 'Zona D (or lack thereof) because the offense has been dang tasty, notching 1.14 points per possession in conference games. Lute Olson's team never shoots threes--they simply hit their twos. Their most frequent shooters among starters (Marcus Williams and Chase Budinger) are their best shooters from the field--nice combination, that. (No, those made twos aren't all coming in transition. Surprisingly the Cats are motoring at a clip of only 67 possessions per 40 in Pac-10 play.) If Arizona had a stronger defense this would be a very dangerous team.

4. North Carolina
The Heels, like Arizona, largely do without threes and hit their twos. But, though they play at a much faster clip (75 possessions per 40 in conference), they take better care of the ball...and they hit the offensive glass. Brandan Wright's shooting from the field is stellar (though, granted, his shooting from the line is horrific). And Tyler Hansbrough is even more effective off the offensive glass than his relatively mortal offensive rebound percentage would suggest, thanks to his willingness to, um, "create contact" and get to the line off of those boards.

3. Florida
I realize this is not an especially propitious moment to sing the praises of anything labeled "Florida." But, hey, even in their loss at Tennessee Tuesday night the Gators showed they can score. (They just didn't show they could prevent scoring. Thus their non-inclusion yesterday.) Billy Donovan's team varies the standard make-your-twos profile (see above) in one respect: though they, too, rarely shoot threes, when they do shoot them they hit them. Be down on them right now if you want. The fact remains: at the moment this is the best shooting team in the country. (Yes, better than Air Force. At least for the moment.)

2. Texas
Wow. I already had the 'Horns slotted here even before their double-overtime 98-96 win over Texas A&M last night. Yes, there were two OTs, but Texas still scored 1.19 points per possession against a formidable Aggie defense. So here is the highest compliment I can pay the Longhorns: their offense (1.17 PPP in Big XII play) is even better than it was last year (1.15). OK, so the defense is but a shadow of last year's. Let's see that glass as half-full! Hold on to your 10-gallon hats because I'm about to praise this offense in somewhat non-Durantian terms. Turns out Texas is a pseudo-POT: 37 percent of their shots (in-conference) are threes and they're knocking those things down at better than 43 percent. (Fun fact: A&M's shooting a hair better than that (!) on their threes in conference--they just never shoot them.) Kudos to A.J. Abrams and, OK, Kevin Durant for hitting all those threes. (Off topic: Durant is an insatiable beast on the defensive glass. He should make some GM very happy very soon.)

1. Georgetown
Speaking of bad timing, I'm here to tell you this is the best offense in the country, even though the Hoyas' offense virtually defined "Edvard Munch-level horrific" whilst losing at Syracuse Monday night. Prior to that, however, the young men from DC were causing this observer, for one, to go back and recheck numbers that were so implausibly dominant. Indeed, I hope Georgetown fans were savoring the moment that commenced with the loss at Pitt and ended with the win at Villanova because that was the best nine-game stretch of "power"-conference offense yet seen in this blog's young life: 1.26 points per possession. Yes, they're slow (59 possessions per 40 in Big East games). But their shots, though few in number, just go in. Take Roy Hibbert. He's attempted 185 shots from the field this year and 129 of them have gone in. BONUS very sophisticated analysis! Making 70 percent of your twos is really good! Now for the scary part: going slow, the Hoyas still turn the ball over a lot (coughing it up on 23 percent of their possessions in-conference). If they ever get that wrinkle ironed out, they're ready for the Mavericks.

In today's less-Wonk-ish venues....
It took a while but last night the Big Ten at last added a fourth team to the confirmed Elmore City, Oklahoma category (no dancing).

Hoops--last night!
Penn State beat Iowa 74-72 in State College. Absent a Big Ten tournament championship, the Hawkeyes will now go to the NIT. Steve Alford's team shot 31 threes over the Nit zone and made nine. As it turned out they needed to make ten. Adam Haluska scored 30 points on 18 shots but did not get the ball on Iowa's crucial final possession. Instead, Haluska watched as Mike Henderson's last-second three rimmed out. Jamelle Cornley posted a 20-13 dub-dub for the Lions, who broke a 13-game losing streak with this win. (Box score.)

Indiana beat Northwestern 69-65 in Evanston. Roderick Wilmont made 9-of-13 threes and posted a 31-12 dub-dub. Not a bad night's work. Still, the Cats were right there with the Hoosiers in terms of shooting--they just couldn't limit the visitors to one shot. (See also this excellent Wildcatcentric recap and its Princeton-parsing.) (Box score.)

Purdue beat Minnesota 66-47 in West Lafayette. Alert reader Zach P. writes: "Just wanted to inform you that this was one of the ugliest games I have ever witnessed live and I have seen plenty. Minnesota had 28 turnovers and it just seemed like they were giving it to Purdue. Hopefully you have some crazy stats." Just one: this was the Gophers' worst game of the year on offense. Lawrence McKenzie posted a 10-10 dub-dub--but, unfortunately, that second "10" refers to turnovers. (Carl Landry, meanwhile, recorded the more traditional points-boards 25-12.) Minnesota now becomes the first team to finish their conference season--their numbers are what they are. And Purdue is the only Big Ten team besides Northwestern or Penn State that lost a game to the Gophers this year. Ouch. (Box score.)

In addition to typing words, I can occasionally speak them....
I'll be talking hoops and anything else that comes up with Steve "The Homer" True on Milwaukee's ESPN Radio this evening around 6:30 ET. Tune in and listen to me wing it.

O, the blogging! O, the madness!
It's that time of year, bay-bee! Seven-day-a-week blogging commences 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!

Mea culpa (repeat)
Many quality emails. I will do better getting to them. Promise.

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