Big Ten Wonk
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Why Ohio State can do without offensive boards
Repeatedly during yesterday's Big Ten Tournament semifinal between Ohio State and Indiana, Billy Packer remarked, in a tone suggesting this was something unusual and troubling, that the Buckeyes didn't appear to have any bodies under the basket to rebound their own (frequent) misses.

Packer needs to read up on his Wonk! Savvy Wonk readers are hip to this blog's working assumption: a robust little inverse correlation between three-point attempts and offensive rebounds.

Here's what that correlation looked like last year:

(All stats: conference games only)

3FGA/FGA, 2005 (average: .343)
1. Ohio State (.398)
2. Illinois (.394)
3. Northwestern (.383)
4. Wisconsin (.357)
5. Penn State (.353)
6. Indiana (.352)
7. Michigan (.336)
8. Michigan State (.327)
9. Iowa (.299)
10. Minnesota (.289)
11. Purdue (.289)

Offensive rebound pct., 2005 (average: 33.7)
1. Michigan State (40.5)
2. Iowa (38.0)
3. Purdue (37.6)
4. Minnesota (36.1)
5. Penn State (35.2)
6. Illinois (34.8)
7. Michigan (33.7)
8. Wisconsin (33.1)
9. Indiana (33.0)
10. Ohio State (26.4)
11. Northwestern (22.8)

And here's what it looks like this year:

3FGA/FGA (average: .356)
1. Northwestern (.471)
2. Indiana (.434)
3. Ohio State (.398)
4. Illinois (.365)
5. Michigan (.344)
6. Penn State (.343)
7. Michigan (.339)
8. Iowa (.319)
9. Purdue (.319)
10. Minnesota (.292)
11. Michigan State (.291)

Offensive rebound pct. (average: 31.8)
1. Michigan (36.5)
2. Penn State (34.4)
3. Minnesota (33.8)
4. Illinois (33.5)
5. Michigan State (33.1)
6. Purdue (32.3)
7. Wisconsin (32.2)
8. Indiana (31.4)
9. Iowa (31.1)
10. Ohio State (29.5)
11. Northwestern (22.0)

In short, Ohio State's a POT. (So's Indiana.) Observing that they don't get many offensive boards is a little like observing that J.J. Redick gets a lot of touches. The Buckeyes' style on offense emphasizes spacing and patience in finding either an open shot (on the perimeter) or a mismatch (on Terence Dials).

And it works. This year OSU had the best offense in the Big Ten, despite ranking tenth in offensive rebounding. (Much like last year Illinois had the best offense in the conference, despite ranking sixth in offensive rebounding.)

Low-offensive rebound but high-effectiveness Ohio State Buckeyes, I, for one, salute you!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
All is in readiness for today's Big Ten Tournament championship game:

(1) Ohio State vs. (2) Iowa (CBS, 3:30pm ET)
This, of course, is an exhibition game. Neither team will have their legs (this will look a lot like the hideous game yesterday between the Hawkeyes and Michigan State) and neither will have anything to play for. Too bad: ordinarily it would be really interesting to see these two teams play each other on a neutral court. In the post you'd have the Big Ten POY, Terence Dials, against the conference Defensive POY, Erek Hansen. And Iowa's willingness to let their opponents shoot threes would, against OSU, be either brilliant (if the Buckeyes are cold from outside, like yesterday) or suicidal (see Ohio State's games at Michigan and at home against Illinois). Conversely, the Hawkeyes' feed-Greg Brunner offense would seem to be perfectly suited for OSU's perimeter-heavy D. So on another day this would be a great game. Alas, today it will be mere background music for musing on who's getting what seed among teams nationwide.

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--yesterday!
Iowa beat Michigan State 53-48. Tom Izzo's men looked very much like a team playing their third game in 43 hours and their second in 14. (The Hawkeyes looked almost as bad with much less justification.) If the pitiful appearance of the inert and immobile Spartans doesn't convince the Big Ten to go back to the old semifinal sequence (where the 2-3 game follows the 1-4 game), nothing will....Izzo opened his postgame remarks with this: "Fatigue had nothing to do with the loss. Zero, zero, zero, zero. Don't use it. Don't say it. Don't even ask it." (I love Tom Izzo. Classy prevarication, that.) Paul Davis said early turnovers killed State: "It seems the times we do have (turnovers) are critical and the other team capitalizes on them." Mo Ager said his team didn't execute on offense: "We didn't do a good enough job getting the ball into Paul in the post." Lansing State Journal columnist Todd Schulz waxes oddly and unnecessarily despondent this morning, saying MSU squandered an opportunity to improve their seed. Shannon Brown agrees: "It’s a big missed opportunity." (Lighten up, guys! State won two games and beat Illinois. As long as they're slotted a 6-seed or higher by the selection committee, MSU's done its job.)...Jeff Horner says today's game could have an impact on his coach's future career: "I'm sure Indiana's going to want him a lot more if he wins it. I know Iowa will want him a lot more, too." (Horner's incorrect, by the way--Hoosier AD Rick Greenspan doesn't care one whit who wins today's exhibition game, though Billy Packer may insinuate lengthily to the contrary.) (Box score.)

Ohio State beat Indiana 52-51. After Matt Sylvester's bank shot put the Buckeyes ahead by a point with 37 seconds left to play, IU had two chances to win the game in the final seconds. First Marco Killingsworth missed a shot on a nice post move down low. Killingsworth got his own rebound, though, and fed the ball to Roderick Wilmont, who had an open look at a 12-footer with just two seconds left. But Wilmont's shot was short and the Buckeyes escaped. "Sometimes in a situation like that, you'd just rather lose that game by 40 than to lose it by one," Wilmont said after the game. For his part, Thad Matta sounded relieved: "It’s all about surviving and that’s what we got done today." J.J. Sullinger had an outstanding game, leading all scorers with 19 points and hauling down 13 boards. And Terence Dials looked downright tenacious on defense. On the other hand, Je'Kel Foster was Edvard Munch-level horrific, going 0-of-9 on his threes. (Box score.)

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