Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
The best at what they do
As part of my preparations for selecting the All-Wonk Team (2.0), I've updated the tempo-free stats for individual players. (I'll post a "final final" set of numbers when all games have been played.) Here are the leaders--not that leadership in a category nets you an automatic selection to the All-Wonk. (Let me be even more plain: Jamar Smith and Graham Brown shouldn't get their hopes up.)

(Note. All stats: all games, 15+ minutes per game.)

Scoring efficiently (PPWS)
The most efficient scorer among Big Ten players this year was none other than Illinois freshman Jamar Smith, who made 59 of his 120 threes. The most efficient scorer among Big Ten starters was Marshall Strickland. Regular readers may recall that Je'Kel Foster led this race virtually the entire year before faltering late in the season....

1. Jamar Smith, Illinois (1.33)
2. Marshall Strickland, Indiana (1.31)
3. Courtney Sims, Michigan (1.31)
4. Je'Kel Foster, Ohio State (1.30)
5. Paul Davis, Michigan State (1.30)
6. Graham Brown, Michigan (1.29)
7. Jamal Abu-Shamala, Minnesota (1.28)
8. James Augustine, Illinois (1.26)
9. Jamar Butler, Ohio State (1.25)
10. Shannon Brown, Michigan State (1.23)

And here are some bonus PPWS numbers for a few other big names that I've heard bandied about for All-Big Ten consideration.....

Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern (1.21)
Terence Dials, Ohio State (1.20)
Daniel Horton, Michigan (1.19)
Marco Killingsworth, Indiana (1.15)
Maurice Ager, Michigan State (1.14)
Greg Brunner, Iowa (1.05)
Jeff Horner, Iowa (1.04)
Dee Brown, Illinois (0.99)
Vincent Grier, Minnesota (0.99)
Alando Tucker, Wisconsin (0.98)

Rebounding (rebound percentage)
Never mind that shooting- and pace-dependent statistical Yugo known as rebounds per game. The best rebounder among Big Ten players this year was actually Graham Brown of Michigan. When Brown was on the floor he rebounded fully 19.3 percent of the missed shots all by himself.

This was a two-man race between Brown and Paul Davis pretty much all season. As it turned out, Brown and Davis finished the regular season well ahead of what can be thought of a third-place knot of four players: Greg Brunner, James Augustine, Courtney Sims, and Marco Killingsworth.

1. Graham Brown, Michigan (19.3)
2. Paul Davis, Michigan State (18.6)
3. Greg Brunner, Iowa (17.0)
4. James Augustine, Illinois (16.9)
5. Courtney Sims, Michigan (16.8)
6. Marco Killingsworth, Indiana (16.7)
7. Matt Kiefer, Purdue (16.4)
8. Terence Dials, Ohio State (16.0)
9. Shaun Pruitt, Illinois (15.9)
10. Doug Thomas, Iowa (15.1)

Offensive rebounding (offensive rebound percentage)
I'm going to skip the defensive rebounding entirely here because, frankly, that leader board (Davis, Brown, Augustine, Brunner, Killingsworth, etc.) looks pretty much like the one above. Most rebounds in a game are defensive rebounds so the overlap between the two lists shouldn't be surprising. More interesting, perhaps, is the question of who grabs more than their share of those relatively scarce offensive rebounds.

And so we find that the best offensive rebounder among Big Ten players this year was J'son Stamper of Minnesota, who personally gathered in a robust 14.1 percent of the shots missed by the Gophers while he was on the floor this season.

1. J'son Stamper, Minnesota (14.1)
2. Graham Brown, Michigan (13.4)
3. Shaun Pruitt, Illinois (13.0)
4. Courtney Sims, Michigan (12.6)
5. Matt Kiefer, Purdue (12.5)
6. Brian Randle, Illinois (11.6)
7. Spencer Tollackson, Minnesota (11.6)
8. Geary Claxton, Penn State (11.5)
9. James Augustine, Illinois (11.4)
10. Paul Davis, Michigan State (11.3)

Assists (per 100 possessions)
The best assist man among Big Ten players this year was Drew Neitzel of Michigan State, who recorded ten assists for every 100 offensive possessions he played.

1. Drew Neitzel, Michigan State (10.0)
2. Dee Brown, Illinois (9.8)
3. Jeff Horner, Iowa (9.5)
4. Daniel Horton, Michigan (9.4)
5. Tim Doyle, Northwestern (8.8)
6. Ben Luber, Penn State (8.7)
7. Jamar Butler, Ohio State (8.6)
8. Adam Boone, Minnesota (8.2)
9. Travis Walton, Michigan State (8.0)
10. Matt Sylvester, Ohio State (7.1)

Turnovers--in a bad way (turnovers per 100 possessions)
The most turnover-prone soul among Big Ten players this year was, no surprise, Marco Killingsworth, who gave the ball away about eight times for every 100 offensive possessions he played.

1. Marco Killingsworth, Indiana (8.1)
2. Daniel Horton, Michigan (6.6)
3. Mohamed Hachad, Northwestern (6.6)
4. Courtney Sims, Michigan (6.5)
5. Tony Freeman, Iowa (6.2)
6. Robert Vaden, Indiana (6.0)
7. Chris Hunter, Michigan (5.6)
8. Marcus Green, Purdue (5.6)
9. Tim Doyle, Northwestern (5.2)
10. Dee Brown, Illinois (5.1)

Big Ten statistical outliers, Wonk salutes you! Except for you turnover guys.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody, who was hired in Evanston in September 2000, admits: "I thought we would have been in the tournament by now....It’s not that far away, but until you do it, it’s really far away." The biggest hurdle according to Carmody? Recruiting. A former Wildcat has some interesting thoughts there....

Jitim Young, a Chicago product who starred at Northwestern from 2000-04, remembers other top Chicago standouts, such as Luther Head and Kelly Whitney, considering Northwestern when Kevin O’Neill was coach.

But when O’Neill left and Carmody brought in the Princeton offense, many of those players lost interest because of a system Young called “intimidating” and “conservative.”

“The top players, these kids want to go pro,” Young said. “In order to recruit those guys, you have to adjust your style of play.”

Young has seen Carmody make those adjustments to highlight stars like Vedran Vukusic. “It shows growth in Coach Carmody,” he said.


Purdue has lost five consecutive Big Ten tournament games but Matt Painter says forget the ancient history! He and his men will be ready for Michigan State Thursday night in Indy: "They've had some troubles with injuries, and hopefully, we can get some shots to go. If Gary Ware can play big for us again, maybe we can come out on top."

Penn State guard Ben Luber says he thinks having this past weekend off "was good for us. I think some of us were a little tired. We had a lot of games straight through. From (the Iowa) game until now we got a little bit of rest in our legs. If we have a good week of practices, that'll follow through to the game on Thursday."

Iowa will face the winner of Thursday's Michigan-Minnesota game and Erek Hansen says he has a preference between the two: "I'd rather play Minnesota, because they got us at their place. If we'd won that we would have tied Ohio State, so I'm real eager to go after them again."...When Doug Thomas plays, his four-year-old son (Doug Thomas III) is watching from Pasadena--read all about it here.

Michigan wing Lester Abram says he'll play against Minnesota Thursday. Abram has been sidelined for the past six weeks with an ankle injury.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan says Alando Tucker is his choice for Big Ten POY: "Is he the most valuable (player)? To me, yes."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says there's "a 50-50 chance" that Matt Trannon will play this weekend. Trannon suffered a broken jaw in the Michigan game on February 18. Apparently concerned about his team's depth, Izzo is reportedly working on some zone defense looks in practice this week, even though, according to the coach, "It's nothing I'm planning on springing on anybody."...With regard to Shannon Brown, who has said he plans to return to East Lansing for his senior year, Izzo says nothing's been set in stone yet: "I don't think he knows what he's going to do yet. I think you get caught up in the emotion of the day (MSU's final regular-season game). I think for sure he'd like to go (to the NBA). I don't think that's necessarily bad." ....Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp says State "doesn't win dirty anymore, but you can look pretty stylish and still win four straight NCAA tournament games on a neutral floor."

The Illinois bench is playing better of late and Bruce Weber is happy. (Although he's unhappy about the prospect of a 14-hour turnaround between a Friday night quarterfinal and a Saturday afternoon semifinal, should the Illini make it that far.)...Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper (who says Illinois is playing for a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament) divulges his choices for the All-Big Ten team, and the thinking behind them, here.

Four erstwhile Chicago Tribune scribes hold forth on the best and worst of the Big Ten season here.

This week's Rashomon Award goes to....
Discussion of Chicago vs. Indy as semi-permanent home for the Big Ten tournament here (head: "Coaches of 2 opinions on host cities") and here (head: "Coaches favor Indianapolis"). More here--with a cautiously neutral headline.

COMING tomorrow!
Media? Coaches? Bah! What savvy fans truly await is the unveiling of the All-Wonk Team (2.0). Tune in tomorrow!

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

If everyone played everyone, part deux....
Yesterday I posted the latest email from alert reader Ross B., who uses what he calls Schedule Independent Wins to hypothesize who would win the Big Ten if everyone played everyone in a 20-game home-and-away round robin. As part of his conclusion, Ross yesterday offered the thought that, according to his numbers, Ohio State would have won the Big Ten had a theoretical 20-game round robin been played.

Another alert reader begs to differ....


I have enjoyed Ross B.'s contributions on Schedule Independent Wins. I'm not going to pretend to understand all of the nuances, but from a practical standpoint, I think I have to take exception to this comment in his most recent Wonk-back:

"Fortunately, the title race was not affected by the unbalanced schedule this year. Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes, undisputed Big Ten champions."

You have stated many times in this blog how much advantage the home team has. This Big Ten season, home teams had a 62-26 record. Looking at the schedule we see that Illinois and Ohio State have only met once, in Columbus. That game was won by the Buckeyes. It's very likely that if the game had been played in Champaign we would've had the opposite outcome; which would have given the Illini the "undisputed" Big Ten title. Of course we'll never know.

We can analyze the hypothetical numbers all we want, but until there is a balanced conference schedule, I don't think we'll have a true champion.

Keep up the good work,
Brian M.

Thanks, Brian. I think part of the confusion here--which I've probably helped along--is the conflation of the ideal (for discussion purposes) hypothetical and other possible hypotheticals....

Hypothetically, Ohio State would win if everyone played everyone. Call that "ideal." (Though responsible adults can disagree on the actual desirability of Big Ten teams giving up four RPI-stuffing wins against non-conference teams in exchange for a trip to Iowa City or Madison just to please fussy Archimedeans like me.) That doesn't preclude us from coming up with other hypotheticals--say for example, Ohio State's eighth and final road game isn't in Evanston but, lo and behold, in Champaign.

Note there's no necessary collision between these two hypotheticals. But of course Ross's key premise, for what it is worth, is that the Buckeyes are indeed the best team. (By a hair.)

Michigan State 2006 = North Carolina 2004? (No, not Carolina 2005. Sorry.)
Hey, John,

In trying to determine where Michigan State might be seeded, I looked to the past to see where similar situations have arisen. I thought the ACC in 2004 provides an excellent comparison to what has been going on in the Big Ten in 2006.

ACC in 2004: 1
Big Ten in 2006: 1

Top 20 RPI teams
ACC in 2004: 6
Big Ten in 2006: 5

Here are the standings from the ACC in 2004:

Duke - 27-5 (13-3 in ACC); RPI: 1; SOS: 4
NC State - 20-9 (11-5); RPI: 17; SOS:8
Ga Tech - 23-9 (9-7); RPI: 16; SOS 11
Wake Forest - 19-9 (9-7); RPI: 20; SOS:9
No. Carolina - 18-10 (8-8); RPI: 19; SOS:5
Maryland - 19-11 (7-9); RPI: 18; SOS: 2

North Carolina provides the closest parallel to MSU in 2006. They finished 5-5 in their last 10 games, including an opening round loss in the ACC tournament. They were 7-7 against top 50 RPI teams, with a similar RPI and SOS as MSU. Seed in 2004? Sixth.

Maryland is a more interesting case. 14-11 (5-9 in conference) heading into their final two games of the season. They win the final two, then win the ACC tournament. Final seed? Fourth.

What about Georgia Tech? 22-8 record (9-7 in conference) heading into the ACC tournament. Same RPI as MSU. 7-6 against top 50 RPI teams and four more RPI top 100 games than MSU before heading into the ACC tournament, where they went 1-1 (against two top 20 RPI teams). 6-4 in their final 10 games. Final seed: a 3 seed.

Is MSU more like Georgia Tech or North Carolina? If MSU wins two games in the Big Ten Tournament, could they make a legitimate claim to a 3 seed?

Matthew S.

Excellent sleuthing, Matthew! But I want to see the wins before I speculate on what seed said wins may secure. Let's wait and see....

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