Big Ten Wonk
Monday, September 11, 2006
A (Big Ten-specific) addendum: on tempo
A couple weeks ago I posted the average number of possessions per 40 minutes for each "power" conference team in conference games played in 2006. Since then I've heard some surprised reactions from Big Ten fans: specifically surprise that Wisconsin looks this fast and that Illinois looks this slow in these numbers:

Possessions per 40 minutes, 2006 (conference games only)
1. Michigan (66.6)
2. Indiana (66.4)
3. Wisconsin (65.3)
4. Ohio State (65.1)
5. Iowa (64.9)
6. Purdue (64.8)
7. Michigan State (64.7)
8. Penn State (62.6)
9. Minnesota (62.4)
10. Illinois (62.3)
11. Northwestern (58.8)

So let me add a couple additional points regarding any alleged surprises contained herein:

1. Wisconsin was indeed surprisingly fast. "Fast" being, granted, a relative term: the Badgers were about one possession slower than the national "power"-conference average of 66.2. But for a Big Ten team that is indeed speedy. And it does run counter to the widely held (and perhaps outdated) stereotype of slow plodding Wisconsin teams.

2. But Illinois may not have been as slow as these numbers suggest. In straight possession-per-game terms, the Illini were dinged to a certain extent simply because they took such good care of the ball--only the Badgers and Ohio State gave away fewer turnovers in conference play (speaking in tempo-free terms, of course). In other words, several of the teams that look "faster" than Illinois on this list created those extra possessions by turning the ball over. Look at Michigan: the Wolverines were the "fastest" Big Ten team in large part because no less than 24 percent of their offensive possessions ended in a turnover.

In my post two weeks ago I offered up a stat I call effective possessions, basically the number of possessions per game where a team doesn't turn the ball over. Looking at the Big Ten in terms of ePoss sheds a different light on the matter of pace:

Effective possessions per 40 minutes, 2006 (conference games only)
1. Ohio State (54.2)
2. Wisconsin (54.1)
3. Indiana (51.8)
4. Michigan State (51.5)
5. Illinois (51.0)
6. Iowa (50.9)
7. Michigan (50.5)
8. Penn State (50.5)
9. Minnesota (49.1)
10. Purdue (48.7)
11. Northwestern (46.2)

In other words, the Illini swam comfortably in the conference mainstream when it came to (effective) pace: 51 times a game they ended a possession with a shot attempt, whether from the field or the line. The Big Ten average was 50.8.

As for Ohio State and Wisconsin, they were in a league of their own on this metric--a fact which propelled the outstanding performance of the Buckeye offense and mitigated the negative impact of the Badgers' abysmal shooting.

And Northwestern? Really slow. By any measure.

OK, this time I mean it....
The hiatus will now re-resume. See you November 1.

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