Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Does any team want to lead the Big Ten?
Northwestern beat Iowa 51-48 in Evanston last night. The Hawkeyes' late-game performance can be adjudged from the fact that they led by seven with 4:09 left and ended up losing by three, even though in those final four minutes:

--The Wildcats' Mohamed Hachad, putting the icing on a notably inept four-point, four-foul, five-turnover night (five turnovers in a 55-possession game is a lot, folks), fouled Jeff Horner on a three-point attempt--and Horner made all three free throws;

--Trailing by one with less than two minutes to play, NU ran a completely discombobulated possession (one that, with 15 left on the shot clock, already had me saying "bad possession") that proceeded its merry way as all the while Bill Carmody sat serenely with three timeouts in his pocket--and it ended with Tim Doyle traveling with one second left on the shot clock;

--Up by one with less than a minute to play, Iowa's Greg Brunner went to the line for two shots after benefiting from what appeared to be a questionable foul call on Vedran Vukusic. I say the call appeared questionable because ESPN Full Court, perhaps as a quaint throwback gesture, apparently has only two cameras at games like this and there was no replay.

And yet Iowa lost the lead and the game. When it mattered the supporting cast around Vukusic combined to sink two huge threes--in this case, Michael Jenkins (yes, that Michael Jenkins) and Evan Seacat. The 'Cats took the lead with 29 seconds left when Vukusic blew past Brunner, laid the ball in, and was fouled. (Vukusic scored 26 points; no other Wildcat had more than eight. Why was Brunner guarding Vukusic last night? Brunner is clearly quicker than he was last year, yes; but guarding Vukusic? Steve Alford says: "We don't have anyone who can guard Vukusic." Apparently not.)

Incredibly, the Hawkeyes came very close to winning a game where they both shot poorly (39.2 effective FG pct.) and committed a ton of turnovers (17 in a 55 possession game). Say this for Northwestern: they make you turn the ball over--and have for a while now in the Carmody era. For one night, at least, the NU formula--slow, with many TOs from the opponent and many threes from the 'Cats--worked well enough to eke out the W over the Big Ten's first-place team. (Box score.)

BONUS kudo to Bill Carmody! With Northwestern up by three and 6.4 seconds left in the game, Carmody had his team foul Jeff Horner at half court and put him on the line with two shots rather than allow an attempt at a game-tying three. Why don't coaches in this situation do this every time? Just asking!

Carmody says his team didn't give him much inkling that a "big win" was coming: "We had the worst practice I've had in 30 years of coaching yesterday" The NU coach also said he was happy for Evan Seacat, who sank a huge three with 2:10 left to play: "He got a concussion in a game with Penn State two years ago and has been sort of shellshocked since. He's been coming off a sports hernia. Everything that could happen to a kid has happened to this guy."...The student sections at last night's game were notably un-full and Tim Doyle had some tart words on the subject: "Northwestern’s been known for its fair-weather fans. If we’re winning, I’m sure it’d be crowded. It’s a joke (students) weren’t here. It’s incredibly disappointing. The whole team feels that way."...Jeff Horner says he can't understand his team's struggles at Welsh-Ryan Arena, where Iowa has now lost five of its last six games: "Every year here. I can’t explain it. It’s tough to take." Alford gave credit to the Wildcats: "I just thought they were the tougher basketball team. They got the stops they needed in the last five minutes, and we didn't. They made free throws down the stretch, and we didn't."

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Wisconsin beat Indiana 72-54 last night in Madison. Even with a foul-plagued Marco Killingsworth playing just 20 minutes, the Hoosiers (somewhat surprisingly) owned the boards (40.0 offensive reb. pct.; 76.5 defensive) and shot five more free throws than the home team. And lost by 18. Because their shooting (31.3 effective FG pct.; 3-of-16 on their threes) was Edvard Munch-level horrific. IU is now 5-0 at home in conference and 0-4 on the road. They are headed for an 8-8, it would seem, and there's not a lot anyone can do to push that any higher or lower. Indiana opponents are taking the ball straight at Killingsworth with a single-mindedness of purpose that borders on the obsessive--and it works. When Joe Krabbenhoft is driving, scoring, and drawing the foul on Killingsworth, word is officially out. For his part Mike Davis isn't happy with the officiating: "Marco Killingsworth is not making all of those fouls. He's 270 (pounds) and he's getting pushed around, too. You go back and watch film, and I see guys grabbing him and pushing him. Maybe he has to run from the play. You know what I mean by that? When he sees someone coming, he needs to run to the other side." (Davis made his comments after emerging from a 40-minute closed-door session with his players.) Bo Ryan, conversely, sounded pleased with the outcome: "This is good. It's better than the other alternative." Alando Tucker (game-high 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting) agreed: "This is a big win for us. Not only winning it, but in the manner we won it." (Box score.)

Michigan State beat Purdue 77-52 in East Lansing last night. The Spartans outscored the Boilers 43-20 in the second half, during which time the home team did a fair imitation of the Chinese army in November 1950 and rendered the depleted visitors as ineffective as so many thinly scattered troops along the Yalu River. Who-dat alert! As Butch and Sundance liked to say: "Who are those guys?" Brandon Darnton, Bryan Tibaldi, DeMarcus Ducre, Jacob Hannon--Tom Izzo got no fewer than 17 players into this game, albeit all of the above for only the last minute. After the game Matt Painter praised Paul Davis (game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting): "When he gets going, he is one of the best big men in the country. We tried to stop him from shooting, but our guys didn't do a very good job of getting out on him." Izzo said he was surprised to find the stats from this game look as good as they do: "The stat sheet looked better than the game I watched." The MSU coach also said he makes distinctions between stats: "We talked about, let's not win the skills test, not the white-collar stats, the stats I have no interest in. Let's win the effort-related stats and the skill stats." The otherwise lopsided second half was enlivened by a brief skirmish between two notably big dudes: Matt Trannon and Gary Ware....Lansing State Journal columnist Todd Schulz says State will go as far as Mo Ager and Shannon Brown can take them....Discussion of the battle on the boards here. For the (conference play) record: State ranks sixth in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding and third in defensive rebounding. Purdue ranks fourth in both categories. (Box score.)

Minnesota beat Penn State 77-66 last night in State College. The Gophers enjoyed their best shooting of the conference season (57.3 effective FG pct.) and dominated the boards for this 11-point road win. Adam Boone hit 6-of-9 threes ("I've been confident in my shot all along," he said afterward) and led all scorers with 20 points. PSU guard David Jackson says simply: "They had more energy than us." Nittany Lion coach Ed DeChellis says he had forebodings of a post-Illinois letdown: "I saw it coming. That's the frustrating part." Minnesota coach Dan Monson says making a few shots can work wonders: "Today, as some shots went in, you could see on their faces some confidence evolving." (Box score.)

Michigan plays Ohio State tonight in Ann Arbor (ESPN, 7 ET). Wolverine wing Lester Abram will not play due to a sprained ankle....Profile of UM forward Ron Coleman here.

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Still more number-crunching! Fouls, home vs. away....

Home v. Away team fouls, last three Big Ten seasons….I'd like to thank a fellow Peegs lurker, my former roommate and current colleague, for spending several hours this past weekend, much to the chagrin of his new bride, compiling the following statistics. The numbers are through this past week's games. Tabs will be kept for the rest of this season as well.

2003-04 (88 games)
Home Team record: 54-34 (61%)
Average fouls for the Home Team: 16.5
Average fouls for the Away Team: 19.55
Away Team had more fouls: 61 games
Home Team had more fouls: 18 games
Fouls were even: 9 games
Team with most games having fewer fouls than opponent: Iowa (13-3)

Four teams did not have a game at home where they were called for more fouls than their opponent: Iowa (8-0), Wisconsin (8-0), Michigan (6-0-2), and Purdue (6-0-2)

2004-05 (88 games)
Home Team record: 56-32 (64%)
Average fouls for the Home Team: 16.05
Average fouls for the Away Team: 18.18
Away Team had more fouls: 51 games
Home Team had more fouls: 26 games
Fouls were even: 11 games
Team with most games having fewer fouls than opponent: Minnesota (13-2-1)

One team did not have a game at home where they were called for more fouls than their opponent: Wisconsin (7-0-1)

2005-06 (39 games so far)
Home Team record: 29-10 (74%)
Average fouls for the Home Team: 14.90
Average fouls for the Away Team: 18.21
Away Team had more fouls: 27 games
Home Team had more fouls: 11 games
Fouls were even: 1 games
Teams with most games having fewer fouls than opponent: Iowa (5-2) and Wisconsin (5-2)

So far five teams have not had a game at home where they were called for more fouls than their opponent: IU (4-0), Iowa (4-0), Wisconsin (4-0), MSU (3-0), and Purdue (3-0)

In the past 2 1/2 seasons, Wisconsin has not had one home game where they have been called for more fouls than their opponent, and Iowa has had only one such game.

The numbers last week would not change the analysis much. As you may have seen, even though Wisconsin lost at home this week and committed a few fouls at the end the game to stop the clock, the Badgers still finished the game with 7 fewer (18-11) fouls than Illinois.

In the Big Ten, home teams get the calls. That's no secret. But does Wisconsin really commit fewer fouls than their opponents in Madison? Always? Doubtful.

Holt H.

Thanks, Holt! And to answer your rhetorical query: this observer, for one, thinks Wisconsin really does commit fewer fouls. Bo Ryan's all about position D. It probably costs the Badgers some steals (Wisconsin opponents historically don't turn the ball over much) but it does keep the fouls down. None of which means, of course, that UW doesn't occasionally get a call--merely that the underlying tendency is for fewer fouls, fewer blocks, and fewer opponent TOs.

Related: Gregg Doyel has a good read at cbs.sportsline this morning on what diligent hoops analysts in white lab coats refer to as the "Coach K effect" on foul calls.

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