Big Ten Wonk
Monday, December 20, 2004
No, Virginia, there is no Wonk. Tomorrow.
Note to readers: Wonk will be traveling tomorrow and thus will not post. (Back Wednesday.) Hope you enjoy today's special double-issue, designed to carry you through this singular ordeal. Meantime be advised that Wonk is in negotiations with a major television production company for a holiday season clay-mation children's special entitled, A Day Without Wonk, featuring very special (i.e, very posthumous) performances by Burl Ives, Fred Astaire, and Boris Karloff.

Loch Ness Monster photographers of the Detroit News, Wonk salutes you!
Michigan State beat Delaware State in East Lansing Saturday by the surprisingly diminutive and non-lopsided score of 63-45. (Links here, here and here. More from the Waiting for Neitzel beat here.) Wonk All-Head-Case first-teamer Paul Davis attempted two field goals all game, one of which was actually captured for posterity (here) by a Detroit News photographer. All of which moves Wonk, who never makes predictions, to make a prediction: in the wake of a two-FGA performance by Davis in a home game against Delaware State, watch for a fresh spate of Trying to Figure Out Paul Davis stories, possibly soon enough for the run-up to State's next game (tomorrow against UCLA).

As much a part of Mondays as MNF: PPWS
It's back! The handy stat that captures more than just points from the field (e.g., points per shot or PPS), it takes in FGA's and FTA's. It's points per weighted shot (PPWS), developed by John Hollinger and brazenly renamed by Wonk. As promised, here are the very latest Big Ten PPWS numbers, including all games played through yesterday.

1. Illinois (1.26)
2. Michigan State (1.24)
3. Iowa (1.18)
4. Ohio State (1.16)
5. Minnesota (1.16)
6. Wisconsin (1.10)
7. Penn State (1.09)
8. Michigan (1.04)
9. Northwestern (1.02)
10. Purdue (0.94)
11. Indiana (0.93)

What it means. Give Illinois a game with 55 FGA's and 20 FTA's and they'll likely score about 80 points. Give Indiana the same number of shots and they'll likely score about 59.

Highest individual PPWS
1. Dee Brown, Illinois (1.58)
2. Roger Powell, Illinois (1.47)
3. Jeff Horner, Iowa (1.45)
4. J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State (1.42)
5. Alan Anderson, Michigan State (1.41)
6. Brent Lawson, Minnesota (1.41)
7. Kelvin Torbert, Michigan State (1.38)
8. Luther Head, Illinois (1.37)
9. James Augustine, Illinois (1.37)
10. Maurice Ager, Michigan State (1.34)

Lowest individual PPWS
1. David Teague, Purdue (0.74)
2. Nick Smith, Illinois (0.75)
3. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State (0.79)
4. Brandon McKnight, Purdue (0.88)
5. Dion Harris, Michigan (0.89)
6. Ron Coleman, Michigan (0.91)
7. Davor Duvancic, Northwestern (0.92)
8. Robert Vaden, Indiana (0.93)
9. Marshall Strickland, Indiana (0.94)
10. Mohamed Hachad, Northwestern (0.95)

Give Dee Brown 12 FGA's and six FTA's and he'll likely give you about 23 points. Give David Teague the same shots and he'll likely give you about 11.

In yesterday's less Wonk-ish venues....
UCLA beat Michigan 81-79 Saturday in Pauley Pavilion. (Link here.) Coming off a home loss to Boston University, the Wolverines got their offense in order--four players in double figures for an injury-riddled team playing at UCLA is no small thing. But they also allowed the Bruins to shoot .587 from the field, including 12-of-14 for leading scorer Dijon Thompson.

Northwestern beat Seton Hall 53-44 Saturday in Evanston. (Latest in a series of archetypal Welsh-Ryan Arena scores; links here and here.) The Pirates shot just .286 from the field. Ye gods. Maybe that explains how you can lose a game by nine points even when you get 21 offensive boards.

Despite coughing up 20 turnovers (granted, four less than their opponent), Iowa beat Western Carolina 88-75 Saturday in Iowa City. (Excellent you-are-there recap at the Hawkeye Hoops blog. Mainstream links here, here, and here.) Wonder why Jeff Horner made the All-Wonk Team (2.0)? Look at his line: 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4-of-5 on his three's) and ten assists. And he got yanked from the game with three minutes left in the first half and was chewed out by Steve Alford! Do it every game, coach. Wonder why Pierre Pierce made the All-Head-Case Team even though he too shot lights-out (8-of-11) from the field? Look at his line from the line: 4-of-10. Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune says local-area native Pierce is older and wiser.

Purdue's luck may just be getting better. The Boilermakers won their second consecutive one-point game Saturday, beating Evansville 62-61 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Links here, here, and here.) The thin personnel with which Gene Keady is facing his last season in West Lafayette can perhaps best be illustrated by the fact that Carl Landry's game-winning tip-in actually came on a play which Keady had drawn up specifically for Brandon McKnight--whose struggles thus far this year have been amply documented by Wonk and who at the moment was 4-for-15 on the night (about to go 4-for-16). BONUS bad omen: Purdue was outrebounded by the Aces to the tune of 33 to 24.

Amid growing speculation over whether or not Illinois can go undefeated through the regular season, Bruce Weber reacts with predictable and fatherly we-haven't-done-anything-yet pooh-poohing here.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
The aforementioned Illinois team beat Valparaiso in Champaign yesterday 93-56, in what was actually the first of four games that the Illini will play as part of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. (Links here, here, and here.) Reserves Richard McBride and Shaun Pruitt both suffered sprained right ankles during the game. Both are expected to return in time for Missouri on Wednesday. James Augustine says bring on the Tigers!

Why is the Las Vegas Holiday Classic (a five-team round-robin?) such a confusing mess? Link here. Illinois is "considering" allowing ESPN two weeks of access for an "In the Life" episode.

The aforementioned Missouri team beat Indiana in Columbia yesterday 56-53. (Links here and here.) The Tigers overcame a 17-point second-half deficit and won despite scoring only 16 first-half points. Bracey Wright had his nose broken in two places by a Spencer Laurie elbow with a little more than a minute remaining in the first half. He returned in the second half but scored only four points after the play. The thin personnel with which Mike Davis is facing his latest season in Bloomington can perhaps best be illustrated by the fact that with 18 seconds left in the game Davis specifically drew up a play for Robert Vaden--whose struggles thus far this year have been amply documented by Wonk and who at the moment was 4-for-12 on the day. BONUS bad omen: The Hoosiers have been outrebounded in every game they've played this season.

Ohio State beat Morehead State (official motto: not affiliated with Agnes) 74-48 in Columbus last night. (Links here and here.) Thad "glass half-empty" Matta fretted nonetheless about Buckeye turnovers. They had 11. BONUS note to Thad Matta: 11 turnovers is bad for a player, Thad, not for a team. Enjoy the journey, OK guy?

Also: Northwestern plays at Arizona State tonight.

Gregg Doyel of cbs.sportsline says Indiana's loss to Missouri had to be the most painful of the current five-game slide because the Tigers, even in Columbia, were the most beatable team in that brutal stretch. BONUS proof that Doyel is furtively reading Big Ten Wonk: he, like Wonk, is appalled that Florida State would lose at home to Florida International. He, like Wonk, is appalled that Michigan would lose at home to Boston University.

While Wonk is away: UCLA visits Michigan State and Texas Tech plays Iowa in the United Center in Chicago tomorrow night. Also tomorrow: Buffalo visits Penn State.

Wonk back!

Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

When Wonk makes a mistake he'll let you know, thank you!
Odd how little press was given to Gonzaga's very impressive 85-73 win over Georgia Tech in Las Vegas Saturday night--lost in the Rick Majerus kerfuffle, perhaps. But Wonk's readers keep their eye on the ball! When your intrepid blogger padded downstairs to his computer Sunday morning he found the following waiting for him:


Your blog, November 29th: "How good is Illinois? No one knows. Yet. One thing we do know is that Gonzaga had no business being in the top 25."

You wanna take this back? BTW, I like your site. You should do predictions for the Big Ten games.

Awais B.

Egad! Readers delving into Wonk's archives! The crack professionals on the Wonk Archives Desk told me that only I could do that! And I only dredge up old posts when I'm right! MEMO TO ARCHIVES DESK: Now I want a concerted effort to find out how this happened! I've got know: who goofed!...

Actually, Wonk is going to lobby for a charging foul here: your intrepid blogger thinks maybe he beat Awais to the spot on this one. My blog, December 3:

On Monday Wonk made the fatal error of starting a sentence with "One thing we do know is...." Wonk warning: never start a sentence with "One thing we do know is." It will prove only there is one thing you don't know. You could write, "One thing we do know is that John Madden will not win the swimsuit competition at the Miss World pageant," and then, lo and behold, he'd run out and get some liposuction and implants in the right places and eke out a victory over both Miss Sweden and Michael Moore. Just don't do it.

Oblivious to his own warning, Wonk, in the aftermath of the surprisingly easy victory posted by Illinois over Gonzaga, proclaimed smugly: "One thing we do know is that Gonzaga had no business being in the top 25." No doubt enraged by this post (and, perhaps, by an earlier one which lashed into the Bulldogs' hometown paper, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, for having the temerity to be a paid site), the Zags took to the court Wednesday night--while Wonk and every other person east of Coeur d' Alene was fixated on Wake Forest-Illinois--and thumped 14th-ranked Washington, 99-87.

Wonk's Senior Spokane Bureau Chief reports that the Bulldogs took the floor in a cold fury, chanting "We'll show Wonk!"

In Wonk's defense your intrepid blogger did say that Adam Morrison (game-high 26 points against the Illini and, monotonously enough, game-high 26 points against the Huskies) had game and that the Bulldogs would get better as the season went along. Just didn't know it would be this fast.

In sum: Gonzaga has double-digit victories over both Georgia Tech and Washington. Forget about top-25; they're clearly top-15.

And as for Wonk starting to offer predictions: (with a tip of the cap to Garry Trudeau) are you mad? Wonk only does post-mortems. Find I look smarter that way.

From the crack staff on Wonk's Wholly Extraneous Material Desk
Wonk doesn't usually plug consumer goods in his blog unless he gets a cut, but the inspiration and indeed exact wording for your intrepid blogger's irate "memo" (above) comes from the must-listen "Celebrity Rants" CD, featuring genuine hissy fits thrown by an eclectic mix of celebs past and present. The Britney Spears backstage meltdown Wonk had heard. The Bobby Knight obscenity-laced halftime tirade is old, if still harrowingly appalling, stuff. But newly unearthed gems from Orson Welles, Casey Kasem, Barry White, William Shatner, and, for you old geezers, Howard Cosell make this a valuable addition to any CD library. Trust Wonk on this one. Best/worst moment: a drug-addled Elvis stumbles into a press conference and insists to an audience of fawning sycophantic Elvis fans that he is not drug-addled. As he rambles on in an increasingly violent, if incoherent, rage, the audience never fails to applaud enthusiastically at every pause, including: "You (expletive deleted), I'll rip your (expletive deleted) tongue out by the roots!" (Applause.) You will never listen to the King's version of "I'll Have a Blue Christmas" quite the same way again.

Indiana: who vs. whom
On Friday Wonk posted on Indiana and its brutal schedule. Your intrepid blogger opined that the traditional get-Bracey-Wright-more-touches battle cry is perhaps less persuasive after Wright scores 31 and your team still scores just 58. And loses by 15. (See the Kentucky game.) Wonk's readers respond!


I have a friend who's a big Hoosier fan and his issue isn't whom they play but rather who they play. He is convinced Wright is a team cancer along the lines of Kobe (Bryant, not beef) and that IU will only win after he leaves for the green, green pastures reserved for NBA journeyman. I agree.

Jason H.

Thanks, Jason. Having termed Wright "locker-room Nyquil" himself, Wonk is hardly in a position to dissent too strenuously.

Wonk made it 47 days without any abstruse RPI deconstruction
Hi, Wonk,

I'm a recent new reader--from Big 12 country but enjoy your site very much. I'm actually planning on going to the IU-Missouri game Sunday.

My question that I was hoping someone would address so that I could understand: What to make of the decision to add a home/road component to RPI? I read where it would count 1.4 for a road win and .6 for a home win and neutral courts would be 1.0. I wonder how they will look at games that say Kansas plays in Kansas City when they are playing someone like Oregon? It's a little unfair to call that a true neutral court game. Much like Arkansas playing Illinois in Little Rock wasn't a neutral court game either. Beyond that though, I don't have a handle on how this will affect the RPI. Is this change going to make a small or major difference? Inquiring minds want to know!

Andrew H.

Andrew, Wonk supports this in spirit and awaits only confirmation that the math works as intended but not too much. For this is an Empirical Question! Has someone run the numbers yet (i.e., seen what last year's RPI would have looked like with this new equation)? Clue Wonk in!

One last email then Wonk's gotta jet

I've recently been a convert to your site and, as a Big 10 grad (Iowa), I really dig it.

Scott Long
(Will Carroll Presents)

Thanks, Scott! Note to alert readers: Scott's always-correct (as seen here!) writings can be found on the very fine baseball blog to which he alludes in his signature.


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