Big Ten Wonk
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Must-see TV
No one will be surprised to learn that St. Louis fell to Iowa in Iowa City last night, 67-58. (Links here and here.) The Billikens were 2-9 going into the game and but one day removed from a 16-point loss to Southeast Missouri State. And yet....

Iowa's upcoming conference opponents will be happy to see the tape of this game. In leading the Hawkeyes for the better part of 15 minutes spanning both halves, St. Louis exposed some glaring weaknesses that 12-1 Iowa will need to address quickly, including:

Rebounding. The Billikens outrebounded the Hawkeyes 40-32, including 20-10 in the first half. Erek Hansen is a marvelous shot-blocker, yes, but that is all he does and the experiment is about to be fairly tried, apparently, as to whether you can give a starting spot to a player who does nothing (Wonk is speaking literally) but block shots. He was repeatedly boxed out by the much shorter and much more skilled Izik Ohanon.

Defense. Greg Brunner is a gutty player and he gives Iowa its only rebounding presence. But he is slower than a tectonic plate and was victimized time after time by the aforementioned Ohanon on dribble penetration. Indeed, the Billikens even started running clear-outs specifically to exploit Brunner. Granted, this particular weakness is fairly easy to hide--Brunner is, after all, a 4. But there is a certain 4 in the conference who is very quick and who loves to drive to the tin. His name is Roger Powell and the Hawkeyes are going to have to make some adjustments before they see him on January 20.

Shot selection. Your intrepid blogger has been vociferous in calling your attention to and indeed quantifying the poor shot selection exhibited by All-Head-Case first-teamer Pierre Pierce. But last night's game suggests a more insidious possibility altogether: poor shot selection might be contagious. Wonk was appalled to see All-Wonk selection Jeff Horner out-Pierce Pierce on one play and drive head-down into no fewer than four defenders. And coming off defensive rebounds the Hawkeyes entrusted a striking proportion of their possessions to Pierce or Horner or Adam Haluska simply bringing the ball up court and launching a three. This is fine against St. Louis at home but it's a prescription for an L on the road in the Big Ten. Keep an eye on this.

COMING Monday....
Special return-of-full-strength-Wonk edition, featuring:

A chat with Jeff Shelman. The indefatigable Shelman not only posts frequently and insightfully on college hoops for, he also covers the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

PLUS: Updated PPWS numbers for the best and worst of 60-odd Big Ten starters and key reserves. Will Dee Brown still be number 1? Will David Teague still be anchor man? Tune in Monday!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Despite shooting just .393 from the field, Illinois beat Cincinnati 65-47 in Las Vegas last night. (Links here and here.) At 14-0 the Illini start Big Ten play as one of the nation's eight remaining undefeated teams. The others: Kansas, Duke, Pittsburgh, Wichita State, Boston College, West Virginia and Texas A&M. (The Jayhawks, by the way, play Georgia Tech today.)

Indiana beat Oral Roberts 69-68 in Bloomington last night. (Links here and here.) Meanwhile Andy Katz of reports on and perhaps adds to what he rightly calls the "ongoing soap opera" that is Hoosier basketball under coach Mike Davis.

Ohio State beat St. Joseph's (PA) in Columbus last night, 72-61. (Link here.)

Northwestern beat Texas-Pan American 56-48 in Evanston last night. (Latest in a series of archetypal Welsh-Ryan Arena scores; link here.)

Michigan beat North Carolina-Asheville in Ann Arbor last night, 75-54. (Links here and here.)

Minnesota hosts Coppin State today. (Link here.)


Undefeated Texas A&M visits Happy Valley to play Penn State.

Indiana hosts Furman.

Purdue hosts Eastern Illinois.

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