Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, December 23, 2004
BONUS out-the-door edition!
Your intrepid blogger's getting in the car this morning with the Wonk Family and heading to the Wonk Boyhood Home for the holidays. Posting will be non-existent the rest of this week and intermittent next week.

COMING January 3
Special return-of-full-strength-Wonk edition, featuring an interview with Jeff Shelman. The indefatigable Shelman not only covers college hoops for, he also covers the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Missouri played by far its best game of the year and Illinois played by far its worst game of the year and the result was a 70-64 Illinois victory in the annual Braggin' Rights game at the Savvis Center in St. Louis last night. (Links here, here, here, and here. Meanwhile there's wall-to-wall Braggin' Rights coverage this morning from the columnists of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Jeff Gordon, Bryan Burwell, and Bernie Miklasz chip in their thoughts here, here, and here.) James Augustine was nonexistent (two points, four boards, fouled out), the Illini shooting was cold (.423), and the vaunted assist makers mostly took the night off (just 13 for the game). Ken Pomeroy got his wish: they're human!

Charlotte beat Indiana 74-73 in Bloomington last night on a last-second half-court shot by Brendan Plavich. (Link here.) The refs on the court initially ruled the shot had come after the buzzer but reversed their call after reviewing the tape, giving Charlotte the win. The Hoosiers were left muttering angrily about their home-court clock, which gave an opponent time to catch, dribble, and shoot all in just seven-tenths of a second. Indiana's lost six in a row.

Northwestern beat Robert Morris 72-58 in Evanston last night. (Link here.)

Minnesota beat St. Francis (PA) 85-67 in Minneapolis last night. (Link here.)

Ohio State beat Mercer 102-77 in Columbus last night. (Link here.) All-Wonk selection Terence Dials posted 29 points and 13 boards.

Wonk back!
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Guards: Illinois vs. Iowa
Yesterday Wonk discussed an article by Gregg Doyel of cbs.sportline that had asked whether or not Iowa's three guards were better than Illinois' more well-known trio. Wonk's readers respond!


I took part in that message board at cbs.sportsline yesterday, but I'm sure my posts were gone by mid-afternoon.

I'll summarize a few of my points from that discussion board:

Free throws - You were right about the Illini's passing taking away from their FTs. But also consider that teams tend to rack up FTs at the end of close games they are leading. The other team is willing to concede a pair of FTs in order to stop the clock. Illinois hasn't played a game yet where that's been a factor. Iowa, on the other hand, has played a few of those. It should be no surprise that Iowa's guards have more FTs.

Rebounds - Illinois and Iowa have roughly the same number of offensive rebounds (thru 10 games), but Illinois is shooting 5% better than Iowa. This means the Illini are more efficient on the offensive glass. The reason Iowa outrebounds Illinois overall is because their opponents take more shots. Both teams' opponents are shooting roughly the same (40% - IL, 42%- IA), but Iowa's opponents have put up an average of 3 more shots per game. When you look at defensive rebounding efficiency, Iowa is grabbing 75% of their opponents' missed shots, and Illinois is getting 73%.

If anything, I'd rather have the Illini's rebounding numbers because it means their opponents aren't putting up as many shots, which leads to fewer scoring opportunities. I see the rebounding differential between the teams as more of a testament to Illinois's defense than Iowa's superiority on the glass.

As far as the guards go, Illinois plays for the fast break. Their guards are looking to get the outlet pass, not give it. As you said, it's a matter of who plays which role.

Drew S.

Thanks, Drew!

Meanwhile, Ryan, who runs the excellent Hawkeye Hoops blog, has some thoughts on the same topic....


Excellent discussion of the Doyel column today. Your point about Deron Williams is a good one - if you add this year's Luther Head to the expected versions of Williams and Brown, I doubt this whole question is even posed.

The thoughts on the interaction of free throws and assists are interesting too. I'm not basing it on anything concrete, but I would expect teams that shoot a lot of free throws to have fewer assists simply because getting fouled takes away a shooter's field goal attempt, and thus the corresponding passer's chance at an assist (which I think is about the same as you said about the Kings).

Individual players shooting a lot of free throws have fewer assists...because...they're shooting more, and thus passing less? Sounds simple, but it makes sense to me at least.

Take it easy,

Thanks, Ryan!

Can box scores be trusted?
Yesterday Wonk noted the euphoria that Drew Neitzel can seemingly trigger in the Michigan State press by merely scoring eight points and recording one assist. Wonk's readers respond!

Hey, Wonk,

I know I saw Neitzel get at least two assists last night, he hit brown (could have been Ager) on the fast break for an alley-oop lay-up, and then hit Ager in the left corner for a 3 on the fast break. Neither player dribbled or hesitated before shooting, gotta be assists right?

Marcus S.
MSU class of '99

Thanks for the keen eye, Marcus! Man, if Neitzel can't get credit for his assists at the Breslin Center, imagine what his numbers on the road will look like.

In defense of Paul Davis
Hi there, Wonk,

As a result of your recent discussions of the All-Head Case Team, and of Paul Davis in particular, I began to suspect something altogether terrifying: that perhaps everyone, including myself, is wrong about Paul Davis. That perhaps the all-encompassing meta-narrative that has crystallized around Paul, the one that leads to endless "Trying to Figure Out Paul Davis" stories in the media and perhaps even his inclusion on your own AHC team, is at its core misguided.

Taken aback, I ran for the stats. On the year, Davis is averaging 13 points a game. Not superb, but certainly a respectable number considering the amount of offensive weapons State currently has (Mo Ager, a member of the All-Wonk 2.0 team, leads the team with an average of 14.3). What's more, the 13 a game isn't a result of wild fluctuations in productivity: Davis has scored in single digits only twice this year (GW and Delaware State), the same as Ager and Alan Anderson.

Furthermore, while Davis is prone to taking a play off now an then, he certainly isn't known for acting in a particularly odd manner on the court, fouling out, or otherwise leaving his teammates in the lurch.

So if we're dealing with a player that scores well consistently, often has good games against good competition (see Duke), and acts in an extremely consistent and predictable manner, why is he on everyone's All Head Case Team? Some may say expectations, or perhaps his sleepy/gloomy on-court visage, but I believe the true answer lies in Paul's unrelenting willingness to eviscerate himself in the press on a weekly basis. In effect, Paul has allowed himself to be crowned King of the Head Cases (apologies to St. Crispin), and this has legitimized the living, breathing narrative that informs each Spartan fan's every waking hour during basketball season. Or at least mine.


Shawn M.

Good food for thought, Shawn! Class, read Shawn's email and be ready to discuss when we get back.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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