Big Ten Wonk
Friday, December 10, 2004
No big dance for the Buckeyes
The Ohio State University announced yesterday it is imposing a one-year postseason ban on its men's basketball team in response to payments made by former coach Jim O'Brien to one-time recruit Alesksandr Radojevic. O'Brien has reportedly admitted that he gave Radojevic $6,000 in 1999. The former Ohio State coach has maintained the money was intended as a loan for Radojevic's mother. Radojevic never played for the Buckeyes.

In announcing the self-imposed ban, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said the Buckeyes would not compete in either the NCAA or NIT tournaments, but would play in the Big Ten tournament. This raises the possibility, as with Michigan's similar self-imposed ban in 2003, that a team prohibited from play in the NCAA tournament could take a bid away from the Big Ten by winning the conference tournament.

No Horton for the Wolverines
Michigan's Daniel Horton is expected to miss four weeks due to a sprained left knee suffered in practice Sunday. (Links here and here.) This would mean Horton is unavailable for at least the next seven games on the Wolverines' schedule, including a game next Saturday at UCLA and Michigan's conference opener January 5 at Iowa.

Stat validity defined: Illinois is first and Purdue and Indiana are last
Wonk is trotting a points-per-field-goal-attempt stat through its paces, seeing if it can be of any use. Yesterday's post used the term literally and divided a team's total points by its number of field goal attempts.

Upon reading further into the matter, however, Wonk has incorporated a wrinkle, developed by John Hollinger, that takes into account (a weighted measure of) the number of free-throws attempted by a player or team. The good news is the stat is based on three readily available numbers: PTS/(FGA + 0.44(FTA)). (Read here for the reasoning.)

By taking FTA's into account, Hollinger's stat attempts to measure both the team that burns it up from the field and the team that doesn't put up gaudy FGM/FGA numbers because it's busy driving to the basket, drawing the contact, and sinking their free-throws.

With this adjustment the stat seems to track reality pretty well. See below: Illinois is on top and Indiana's at the bottom. The Illini's Dee Brown is having a slightly better year by this measure than anyone else in the conference and David Teague of Purdue is having a much worse year than anyone else.

But its name, points per field goal attempt (PPFGA), strikes Wonk as misleading: it is not points per field goal attempt. Your intrepid blogger gets to make the rules on this page and he proposes to call this stat points per weighted shot (PPWS).

Here's what it looks like as of this morning (i.e., including the Illini's win at Georgetown last night):

1. Illinois: 1.24
2. Michigan State: 1.23
3. Iowa: 1.21
4. Ohio State: 1.21
5. Minnesota: 1.14
6. Wisconsin: 1.14
7. Penn State: 1.08
8. Northwestern: 1.02
9. Michigan: 1.02
10. Purdue: 0.92
11. Indiana: 0.88

Highest Individual PPWS
1. Dee Brown, Illinois: 1.52
2. Brent Lawson, Minnesota: 1.48
3. Roger Powell, Illinois: 1.47
4. J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State: 1.45
5. Jeff Horner, Iowa: 1.43
6. Kelvin Torbert, Michigan State: 1.43
7. Ivan Harris, Ohio State: 1.40
8. Alan Anderson, Michigan State: 1.39
9. Aaron Robinson, Minnesota: 1.38
10. Chris Hill, Michigan State: 1.36

Lowest Individual PPWS
1. David Teague, Purdue: 0.53
2. Davor Duvancic, Northwestern: 0.88
3. Dion Harris, Michigan: 0.92
4. Robert Vaden, Indiana: 0.94
5. Marshall Strickland, Indiana: 0.95
6. Mohamed Hachad, Northwestern: 0.95
7. Dan Coleman, Minnesota: 0.95
8. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, Ohio State: 0.96
9. Bracey Wright, Indiana: 0.96
10. Brandon McKnight, Purdue: 0.97

Numerical confirmation for what your eyes tell you
Note how Indiana is in a lose-lose situation. There are a finite number of shot attempts to be taken in a game and the Hoosiers' chances of winning are materially damaged no matter who's jacking up the latest brick from the field or from the line: Bracey Wright, Marshall Strickland, and Robert Vaden rank 55th, 59th, and 60th, respectively, out of 63 Big Ten starters and key reserves roped in on a customarily arbitrary basis by Wonk.

Somebody please foul the guy
Ohio State's Ivan Harris is averaging 22 minutes a game and yet he has not attempted a single free-throw so far this year. Meanwhile, Illinois reserve guard Rich McBride attempted his first two free throws of the year last night at Georgetown.

All-Wonk Team: Polls are still open
Keep those nominations for the All-Wonk team coming! Alert readers will recall that Wonk threw the selection over to you all in the wake of All-Wonk selection Lester Abram's season-ending injury. Send in your nomination here and remember the criteria: not necessarily the biggest talents or gaudiest stats, just guys you'd want in your foxhole.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Watching Illinois play sluggishly for the first 15 minutes at Georgetown last night, Wonk wondered what the "game flow" graphic on the write up would look like for the Illini's 74-59 win. Here it is and it tells an accurate tale: ugly, ugly, ugly,, never mind. (More links here, here, and here. View from the Hoyas' turf here.) Illinois trailed for more minutes in the first half last night (11) than in the rest of the season combined (10) but broke the game open with a 24-3 run that spanned both halves.

Iowa hosts Iowa State tonight. The Cyclones are coming off their home win over Virginia. (Links here and here.)

Dave Dye of the Detroit News chips in with today's Trying to Figure Out Michigan State's Paul Davis piece here.

Gregg Doyel of cbs.sportsline looks at the state of basketball in the state of Wisconsin and says Wisconsin and Marquette are thriving by keeping the home-grown talent close to home.

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