Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, April 06, 2006
A salute to departing Big Ten players
Today is a total clip show. I've dredged up some old posts to bid farewell to those players who are leaving our fair conference, be they graduating seniors or transfers....

(Alert the Music Department! Cue the mandatory Green Day!)

Gary Ware, Purdue (senior)
February 9: "Michigan State beat Purdue 77-52 in East Lansing last night....The otherwise lopsided second half was enlivened by a brief skirmish between two notably big dudes: Matt Trannon and Gary Ware."

Bryant Dillon, Purdue (senior)
January 26: "Northwestern beat Purdue 78-76 in OT last night in West Lafayette. Wildcat freshman Craig Moore hit a three with nine-tenths of a second left in regulation to force the overtime.....Both teams shot extremely well (posting effective FG percentages north of 60) in a game where 21 of the 45 threes were good. Vedran Vukusic led the 'Cats with 29 points; Matt Kiefer, Bryant Dillon, and Marcus White each had 18 for the Boilers."

Matt Kiefer, Purdue (senior)
March 2: "Indiana beat Purdue 70-59 last night in West Lafayette, giving the Hoosiers their first Big Ten road win in over a year....'Crushed,' said Matt Kiefer, when asked how it felt to lose his last home game to his arch-rival. 'We probably should have worked the ball a little more. We needed to make them play defense on the road.... The coaches are always on us to get an offensive rebound, reverse the ball and make them play defense for another 35 seconds.'"

Rico Tucker, Minnesota (announced his intention to transfer)
January 11: "Canonical blogger Ryan Kobliska has posted individual numbers for Big Ten leaders on both the offensive and defensive side. You'll learn that Rico Tucker and Vincent Grier put the 'fun' in 'fundamentally felonious'!"

Maurice Hargrow, Minnesota (senior--at last)
January 11: "Wisconsin beat Minnesota 64-62 in Minneapolis last night. The Gophers went almost 16 minutes without a field goal in the first half and consequently the Badgers led 25-6. But Bo Ryan's team then defined 'uncharacteristic' by coughing up seven TOs in just three minutes heading into halftime....It kept the Gophers in the game on a night when they couldn't sink any shots. 'We showed great character,' Vincent Grier said afterward. 'Even though it's a loss, it's something to build on. We definitely played great defense.' Yes, but it wasn't enough and Minnesota guard Moe Hargrow knew it: 'I kind of hate moral victories.'"

J'son Stamper, Minnesota (senior)
March 7: "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 [for overall rebounding]. 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."

Adam Boone, Minnesota (senior--at last)
February 13: "Minnesota beat Michigan State 69-55 in Minneapolis Saturday, as the Gophers did an outstanding job preventing the Spartans from getting out in transition....Adam Boone had arguably the best 10-point game of the year: eight assists, one turnover, two blocks, and constant harassment of Drew Neitzel."

Vincent Grier, Minnesota (senior)
March 10: "Minnesota beat Michigan 59-55 yesterday....After getting fairly well lit up by Daniel Horton in the previous two games against Michigan, Dan Monson made a change and put Vincent Grier on the UM point guard. 'We just couldn't play Horton the same way we did the first two times,' Monson said. 'I wanted to do whatever it took to win this basketball game, and that's what it was,' added Grier. Obligatory gopher-based bad pun headline here--this pushes the count to over 100 for the year."

Evan Seacat, Northwestern (senior)
February 27: "Penn State beat Northwestern 68-55 in State College. The Nittany Lions shot 26 free throws. The Wildcats shot three. Though it was done in a losing cause, Evan Seacat drained six threes as he led all scorers with 18 points."

Michael Jenkins, Northwestern (senior)
February 9: "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....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."

Mohamed Hachad, Northwestern (senior)
February 17: "Mohamed Hachad for National POY.... That's right. Mohamed Hachad would also average 28 a game if he were given the same number of shots from the field and from the line as Adam Morrison. (All numbers derived from our trusty friend PPWS, of course.)"

Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern (senior)
February 15 (by way of guest-blogger Shawn M.): "Michigan State beat Northwestern 77-66 Saturday night in Evanston. Vedran Vukusic was outstanding again for the Wildcats, going 7-12 from the field for a hard-fought 23 points."

Travis Parker, Penn State (senior)
February 20: "Penn State beat Purdue 69-61 in West Lafayette. The Boilers tried and failed to shoot over the Nittany Lion zone, bricking 22 of 28 threes. (Chris Lutz alone went 1-of-8 from outside the arc.) It cost them the game. Travis Parker made four three-pointers and led the Nittany Lions with 21 points."

Chris Hunter, Michigan (senior)
February 16: "Michigan beat Minnesota 72-50 in Ann Arbor last night, a game in which the Wolverines led 18-2 before the second TV timeout. UM stretched the lead to 35-6 and the game was effectively over with a little more than seven minutes to play in the first half....'For us to show the signs of life and energy and passion and defense, that's what we needed,' said Tommy Amaker. The Wolverine coach benched Courtney Sims and instead started Chris Hunter in the low post. Hunter says a player-only meeting held Sunday night helped clear the air: 'We knew we were a better team than we showed in the last three games.'"

Graham Brown, Michigan (senior)
March 7: "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."

Daniel Horton, Michigan (senior)
February 23: "Daniel Horton (oops, I mean) Michigan beat Illinois 72-64 Tuesday night in Ann Arbor. Horton was both beastly and balanced, scoring 39 points thusly: 16 on two-pointers, 15 on three-pointers, and 8-for-8 shooting at the line. 'A brilliant, brilliant performance,' said Tommy Amaker. 'Daniel has a way to will shots in and will us to victory.' On an ordinary day James Augustine might have received attention and praise for his 23-14 dub-dub. But this was no ordinary day: Horton scored 54 percent of his team's points and put them beyond the reach of bubble talk. Said Horton: 'I have to get my teammates a lot of credit because they found me when I was open.' Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper sums the evening well: Horton 'was fantastic. He hit some outrageous shots. But he also hit some wide open shots and Illinois’ defense was sadly lacking on those occasions.'" (Update: I thought the Wolverines were beyond bubble talk. I thought wrong.)

Mo Ager, Michigan State (senior)
November 23: "Gonzaga beat Michigan State 109-106 in three overtimes in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii last night. As its very length would seem to indicate, it was indeed an outstanding game--though perhaps not quite as great as the breathless AP write up would have you believe. ('Classic' and 'November' being irreconcilable terms in hoops, about like 'classic' and 'May' in baseball.) Adam Morrison (43 points) and Maurice Ager (36) each gave heroic performances, each of them hitting shot after game-changing shot. And, in Ager's case, the big shots just kept coming from further and further out--it was an incredible performance from a player saddled with four fouls for the balance of the evening."

Paul Davis, Michigan State (senior)
March 8: "Yeah, yeah, I know. In that Sports Illustrated poll, the players of the Big Ten named Davis 'most overrated.'...The players are entitled to their opinions; I'm entitled to mine: if anything Davis is underrated. He combines offensive efficiency with sheer volume on a level that no other Big Ten player even approaches. (Link here and scroll down to 'At least 24% of possessions used.') He was the second-best rebounder among Big Ten players this season (behind only Graham Brown) and was number one last season. His team has failed to meet its expectations thus far this season, it's true. But, with the exception of some notable hiccups, Davis has delivered on his end of the deal--and then some. My pet theory is that if Davis had the facial expression and on-floor personality of, say, Zach Puchtel, he would have made first-team with the writers and coaches."

Ray Nixon, Wisconsin (senior)
February 16: "Wisconsin beat Ohio State 78-73 in Madison last night. The Badgers, who trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, got a monster game from Alando Tucker, who scored 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting while gathering in 16 boards. ('He sold programs and popcorn, too,' quipped Bo Ryan afterward.)...Ray Nixon chipped in with 13 points, ten coming in the game's final five minutes. ('I felt pretty confident because so many people were dropping down on Alando.')"

D.J. White, Indiana (preemptory see-ya, in case he decides to transfer)
January 17: "[Mike] Davis says he senses 'just a little disappointment from our guys' in the wake of losing D.J. White, possibly for the season, due to an injured foot. Not that Davis doesn't share that disappointment: 'We lost a lottery pick.'"

Robert Vaden, Indiana (preemptory see-ya, in case he decides to transfer)
March 17: "(6) Indiana 87, (11) San Diego State 83....Possession arrow, Indiana, with 13.3 seconds left. Then, off a near-SDSU steal, the hobbled Robert Vaden sank the game-winning three with 3.3 seconds on the clock. Thus ended a wild night of much tension and little D."

Marshall Strickland, Indiana (senior)
March 17: "(6) Indiana 87, (11) San Diego State 83....I've never seen a player's ignorance of the rules be so decisive in the final seconds of an NCAA tournament game. With San Diego State leading 83-82 and 20 seconds to play, the Aztecs had the ball and about 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Brandon Heath was dribbling near mid-court when Marshall Strickland poked the ball into the backcourt. But instead of simply retrieving the ball, Heath tried to block Strickland's path. The Aztec guard apparently thought that if he touched the ball it would be an over-and-back violation. Strickland dove for the ball and got into a tie-up with Heath...."

Marco Killingsworth, Indiana (senior)
January 17: "Indiana plays Illinois tonight in Bloomington (ESPN, 7 ET) and the question of the day is: will the Illini double-team Marco Killingsworth? Most teams have indeed done so, while Duke, famously, did not. Killingsworth scored 34 that night--but might the Blue Devils have made the correct call, after all?...Despite his gaudy effective FG pct. (63.6), Killingsworth ranks dead last in the Big Ten in taking care of the ball, a habit that makes him notably less effective as an offensive weapon than Marshall Strickland and Robert Vaden. So why double a team's third option on offense?...True, this may be a blinding flash of the tautological: Killingsworth's turnovers doubtless come in large part from being the target of so many double-teams. Yet even against Duke's single-man coverage, Killingsworth coughed it up seven times. Moreover, the Hoosier big man has demonstrated that he's a proficient passer, adept at responding to the double-team by finding the open man wherever he may be on the arc. What do you do?"

Erek Hansen, Iowa (senior)
January 19: "BONUS Erek Hansen note! Funny how you don't hear any more wondering aloud (say, like this) as to why Steve Alford gives so many minutes to Hansen, huh? True, the big guy is still a surprisingly unproductive rebounder for someone who looks like he can touch the rim flat-footed. So what? He virtually defines Iowa as a team. Take Hansen away and the tough Hawkeye D becomes much less aggressive, perimeter traps become much less forceful, passing lanes much less overplayed, etc. Not to mention he gets in the heads of every opposing offense and alters shots. Lastly, Hansen's offense has, at long last, improved. (After three years of articles about Hansen looking to improve his offense--he's improved his offense: he scored a career-high 20 points last night.) He's still not going to be confused for Marco Killingsworth, mind you, but last night I watched in wonderment as Hansen posted up strong, called for the ball (he really wanted it!), and took it strong to the tin. Essence of the Hawkeyes Erek Hansen, I salute you!"

Jeff Horner, Iowa (senior)
February 2: "Iowa beat Purdue 77-68 in West Lafayette. Newly liberated from his clunky Dan Marino-like knee brace, Hawkeye guard Jeff Horner lit up the Boilers to the tune of 32 points--21 in the second half alone--and hit 7-of-10 threes. 'The brace made it pretty tough to keep your balance,'' Horner said afterward. 'Tonight, it felt like everything was on balance.' Boiler coach Matt Painter proclaimed himself satisfied with his team's defense on Horner and said there was simply no stopping the Hawkeye guard: 'We had a hand in his face, and he was still hitting shots. It was his night.'"

Greg Brunner, Iowa (senior)
March 8: "Despite what you've heard, Greg Brunner is not the best rebounder in the Big Ten. While the hard-working Hawkeye rebounds a very strong 17 percent of all missed shots when he's in the game, Graham Brown hauls in more than 19 percent. Still, I find myself giving Brunner the nod for this fifth spot [on the All-Wonk Team]....You know what you're going to get with Brunner: 1) defensive rebounds; 2) fouls called on the opponent in abundance; and 3) trips to the line. Game in, game out. Brunner is a triumph of will over physics: a slow short pudgy guy (albeit less pudgy than a year ago) who, after four years of patient and dogged effort, has very nice footwork on the low block. Defense is not his strong suit but Erek Hansen's got his back. Plus he's tenacious--Brunner is the rock upon which Iowa has built its most successful season in years. If Steve Alford does get the Indiana job, he should give the signing bonus to Brunner."

James Augustine, Illinois (senior)
March 8: "Augustine, of course, rebounds (about) as well as anyone in the league not named Graham Brown or Paul Davis. He's been a model of scoring efficiency for two years running now. He creates more steals than any other big man in the conference. He dishes more assists than any big man besides Marco Killingsworth. And he takes care of the ball. Leaving him off [the All-Wonk Team] was very tough to do--I took a long, long look at Augustine over Dials."

Dee Brown, Illinois (senior)
March 9, 2005: "Brown's always been fast. And he's always been a Mateen Cleaves-esque leader. Those qualities shouldn't be taken for granted but we did at least know them coming into November. But this year Brown is making shots. Tenth in the nation, as of this morning, in three-point percentage (48.2), Brown actually has a higher overall FG percentage this season than Mike Wilkinson. Repeat: Brown, who's attempted 170 threes this season, has a better FG percentage (53.8) than get-it-to-him-in-the-post Wilkinson (52.5). It's been a sensational performance by a player who's never lacked for attention: Brown has thrived in that spotlight and even surprised us. He was indeed the best player in the Big Ten this year."

Matt Sylvester, Ohio State (senior)
April 3, 2005: "Indispensable blogger Ken Pomeroy asks: "Is it wrong for me to feel bitterness towards Matt Sylvester? You know, the guy who hit the game winner to hand Illinois its only loss. Consider the hype for a game where Illinois has a chance to be the first unbeaten in 29 years and the best player on the opposing team is the son of the MVP of the last unbeaten."

J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State (senior)
March 12: "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....J.J. Sullinger had an outstanding game, leading all scorers with 19 points and hauling down 13 boards."

Je'Kel Foster, Ohio State (senior)
March 8: "Foster has more assists (5.7) per 100 possessions than just about any non-point guard starter in the league, creates more steals (4.4) per 100 possessions than any other player discussed here, and hits 44.7 percent of his threes. I guess for me, picking Greg Brunner over Foster [for the All-Wonk Team] was like picking a solid low-growth mutual fund over a flashy tech stock."

Terence Dials, Ohio State (senior)
March 8: "Dials was named the Big Ten POY by both the writers and the coaches yesterday--and why not? He's the leading scorer on the first-place team. And--for the writers, the coaches, and, yes, me--that is indeed the key noun: scorer. It's what Dials does; there's nothing else to talk about. He's an adequate but not tremendous rebounder (eighth-best in the conference). He never dishes assists....And he's not going to block any shots....No, it's all about the scoring. Dials triggers in opposing fans what I call the 'oh crap' moment. When Dials gets the ball in the paint against your team, you sigh and say 'oh, crap,' or its equivalent....He simply gets the job done on the low block--and takes pretty good care of the ball while he's at it. A vanishing breed, that."

Bon chance in your next endeavors, men! You made blogging fun.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Former Indiana coach Mike Davis reportedly interviewed for the head coaching job at UAB this week. Hoosier fans are watching Davis's next move with interest, as D.J. White and Robert Vaden decide whether to follow their coach, stay at Indiana, or none of the above. Stay tuned.

The farewell week winds down!
Coming tomorrow: last post of the year.

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

Incontestable video proof of our backwardness. (Yay!)
Yesterday I offered some thoughts on the inexorable progress of tempo-free stats and wondered aloud when ESPN might favor us with some baby steps along the lines, say, of a graphic showing a team's effective FG percentage during a game.

In response I received an email containing this link (office warning: contains audio) to some video from an Italian broadcast of a game. "I don’t know Italian," my emailer says, "but it’s obvious they use things like points per shot and eFG pct. on their broadcasts. I mean, Italy’s ahead of us for crying out loud!"

The Italians? Beating us in hoops stats? By Godfrey, that tears it! National pride is at stake. This calls for a presidential commission, a bold statement from Bush ("I believe this country should commit itself to achieving tempo-free superiority by 2010," etc.), the works!

Ask not what tempo-free stats can do for you; ask what you can do for tempo-free stats.

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