Big Ten Wonk
Monday, November 06, 2006
Meet the new breed at Iowa
Today I continue my alphabetically sensitive preseason walk-arounds of each Big Ten team with some thoughts on the youthful band of Brunner-less and Horner-less Hawkeyes gathered in Iowa City, proud members of the Big Ten since 1899....

Last year
25-9 overall, 11-5 in conference. Lost to Northwestern State in first round of NCAA Tournament, 64-63.

Adam Haluska (13.9 PPG, 1.13 PPWS, 7.6 reb. pct., 4.0 assists per 100 possessions, 3.5 TOs per 100 possessions)
Mike Henderson (7.6 PPG, 1.12 PPWS, 7.4 reb. pct., 4.1 a/100 poss., 4.7 TO/100 poss.)
Tony Freeman (3.4 PPG, 0.88 PPWS, 4.4 reb. pct., 6.0 a/100 poss., 6.2 TO/100 poss.)
Seth Gorney (1.2 PPG)
Brett Wessels (0.5 PPG)

Cyrus Tate (6-8 F, Chicago, CC transfer--enters as sophomore)
Kurt Looby (6-10 F, St. John's, Antigua, CC transfer--enters as junior)
Josh Crawford (6-11 C, Long Beach, CA)
Tyler Smith (6-7 F, Pulaski, TN)
Justin Johnson (6-6 G, Tyler, TX, CC transfer--enters as junior)
J.R. Angle (6-7 F, redshirt sophomore, played in 11 games in 2004-05)

Dan Bohall (6-4 G, redshirt freshman)
Drew Adams (6-1 G, Bloomington, IN, CC transfer--enters as sophomore)

Greg Brunner (14.1 PPG, 1.05 PPWS, 16.2 reb. pct., 3.3 a/100 poss., 4.7 TO/100 poss.)
Jeff Horner (13.6 PPG, 1.06 PPWS, 6.3 reb. pct., 9.4 a/100 poss., 4.7 TO/100 poss.)
Erek Hansen (6.7 PPG, 1.21 PPWS, 11.5 reb. pct., 0.9 a/100poss., 4.1 TO/100 poss.)
Doug Thomas (4.6 PPG, 0.98 PPWS, 14.7 reb. pct., 1.5 a/100 poss., 3.6 TO/poss.)
Alex Thompson (2.0 PPG)

Carlton Reed (1.8 PPG)

Official motto for 2006-07
"This year names on the jerseys would actually be a help."

What we think we know in November (read the warning label)
Steve Alford says last year's Iowa "team was special defensively." He's right!
Last year's Hawkeyes did two things absurdly well: forcing and rebounding misses.

Only problem: that is all they did well, on either side of the ball (see below). And the players that enabled them to do those two things are now gone. The low expectations that surround this team (actual headline: "Alford Enjoys Teaching Basics to Newcomers") are, at this writing, justified.

Take last year's weak offense, subtract three starters. Result?
Alford also says the Hawkeyes "have to find new ways to score." He's right again! Although maybe "we have to find ways to score" would be more accurate--for there were no old ways to score, either.

Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, Erek Hansen, and Doug Thomas will be missed, no doubt. But the fact of the matter is that last year, even with the benefit of all those veterans, the Iowa offense was without exception below-average: in shooting, in offensive rebounding, and in taking care of the ball. And what's striking about that is that there was no Pierre Pierce-esque patently inefficient player gobbling up ineffective possessions and wreaking statistical havoc. (Granted, Brunner's 2FG pct. was about ten points lower than your eyes would have thought--but he did at least get to the line a couple hundred times.)

Bottom line: subtract Brunner and Horner and the potential is here for this to be an even less productive offense than last year's and for Adam Haluska's scoring average to rise dramatically. Granted, the newcomers are being talked up--maybe one of them will prove to be a catalytic surprise. But I guess that's my point: the Hawkeyes need a surprise on offense because the sum of the current knowns is not imposing to opposing defenses.

Take last year's outstanding defense, subtract three starters. Result?
Alford also has some huge gaps to plug on the defensive side of the ball this year. Hansen was not only the best shot-blocker in the league, he altered shots even if he didn't block them. Iowa opponents last year had an abysmal 2FG pct. and I scientifically estimate that a bazillion percent of the credit for that goes to Mr. Hansen.

Similarly, the now-departed Brunner was the Hawks' leading scorer, of course, but arguably his most vital contribution was his defensive rebounding. And when Brunner and Thomas were on the floor at the same time, opponents faced two of the Big Ten's best nine defensive rebounders side by side. Meaning even foul trouble for Hansen was at best a mixed blessing for opposing offenses--that was one great defense we saw in Iowa City last year. The Hawkeye D won't be as good this year, of course, but Alford's group would appear to have the length and depth needed to be plain old "good" on defense. And, given the youth of this roster, Iowa's defense will likely need to be strong to meet Alford's stated goal for this year: winning the program's first NCAA tournament game since 2001.

Do do that voodoo that you do so well
Adam Haluska should at long last have the opportunity to do what he does: he scores. He doesn't (or hasn't been asked to) rebound. And he doesn't (or hasn't been asked to) do assists. He scores. (Though, to his credit, it's also true that he doesn't turn the ball over.) Over the course of his previous two seasons in Iowa City, of course, Haluska's had to share the ball. But that doesn't figure to be an issue this year. A little more than half his shots last season were threes and he hit only 34.6 percent of them. He's arguably a better shooter than that but, then again, opposing defenses will be more focused on him this year than ever before.

BONUS analysis of future hoops analysts! Haluska can score but he poses a danger to himself and to others, apparently, when talking about non-Big Ten hoops, to wit: "We play five of six games on the road in November, and for a young team, some of the guys have never really played on the road before let alone at an Arizona State or at Virginia Tech. Those are some great teams, and it's going to be a pretty big test for us early."

"Those are some great teams"? Arizona State? Granted, the Sun Devils figure to improve under Herb Sendek but the deployment of "great" in the present tense here is adventurous, to say the least. Last year ASU went 11-17 and in fact featured one of the very worst defenses in "power"-conference basketball. Plus they lost at home last December to Minnesota on a night when Vincent Grier didn't even play.

Fearlessly iconoclastic college hoops analyst Adam Haluska, Wonk salutes you! Truly you are the Stuart Smalley to the hitherto low self-esteem Sun Devils.

Delayed and demoted but not detained
Mike Henderson will be out three to six weeks with a broken finger suffered last Tuesday in practice. And before that he was in line to be a co-captain along with Haluska until a bit of eerily predictable-feeling Iowa-variety offseason hinkiness gummed up those works. (Henderson was accused of stealing two shirts from a department store.) In non-police-beat news, Henderson's been the object of some preseason bigger-and-better-thing forecasting, thanks to last season's gaudy 46.4 3FG pct. Only problem there being that figure came from less than one 3FGA per game--and Henderson's 69.9 FT pct. doesn't exactly lead one to assume continued perimeter excellence. (He turns the ball over pretty frequently, as well.)

Talk about upside....
Not counting assists (where he put up nice numbers), in 2006 Tony Freeman had the archetypal year of a freshman given too many minutes too soon. His shooting was erratic and his turnover rate can perhaps be explained only as a moving silent tribute to the notoriously turnover-happy and now-departed Pierre Pierce. That being said, other Big Ten guards have put up similar numbers in their first year and gone onto bigger and better things. We'll see if this is Freeman's trajectory.

Alford on Cyrus Tate: "He's left-handed. He's got a big-time, Big Ten body, and we've got him for three years. He's a special get for us, but yet he's obviously not as seasoned as what Greg [Brunner] has been."

Tyler Smith originally committed to Tennessee but reconsidered in the wake of coach Buzz Peterson's departure. After a year at Hargrave Military Academy he arrives in Iowa City with the eligibility of a freshman and a reputation of being so athletically gifted it's "scary," according to his new coach. (Speaking of scary....) Smith accompanied Henderson on his shirt shopping spree.

Alford on Kurt Looby: "You watch Kurt, and I swear you're looking at Erek [Hansen]. He runs the floor like a gazelle; he blocks shots. He tip dunks." Looby is clearly being put forth as the next Hansen and, make no mistake, Iowa would dearly love another shot blocker and Big Ten Defensive POY. But keep in mind that it took Hansen three often awkward and hard to watch years to at last become "Hansen."

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Wisconsin beat Division III UW-Stout 82-33 (no, not a typo) Friday night in the Badgers' exhibition opener in Madison. Jason Chappell led Wisconsin with 14 points, as no Badger logged more than 20 minutes. (Box score.)

Purdue beat Division II North Dakota 92-60 Friday night in the Boilers' exhibition opener in West Lafayette. Carl Landry scored 28 points for Purdue, including 13-of-15 shooting from the line. Officials called no fewer than 63 fouls in this game. (Box score.)

Minnesota beat Bemidji State 88-32 (no, not a typo) Friday night in the Gophers' exhibition opener in Minneapolis. Freshman Lawrence Westbrook led Minnesota in minutes, shots, and points (21), as five Gophers reached double figures. (Box score (pdf).)

Ohio State beat Walsh University 87-62 yesterday in an exhibition game in Columbus. Ron Lewis led the Buckeyes in shots and points (21), as five OSU players reached double figures. Mike Conley, Jr., recorded nine assists. (Box score.)

Indiana beat Division II North Dakota yesterday 95-50 in the Hoosiers' exhibition opener in Bloomington. Roderick Wilmont led IU in minutes, shots, and points (18), as six Indiana players reached double figures. The line of the night, however, belonged to freshman Armon Bassett who hit four of five threes and recorded six assists in 21 minutes. (Box score.)

Michigan beat Michigan Tech 85-50 yesterday in an exhibition game in Ann Arbor. Courtney Sims led the Wolverines in shots and points (21), as no Michigan player logged more than 24 minutes. (Box score.)

Michigan State beat Northern Michigan 74-63 yesterday in an exhibition game in East Lansing. Freshman Raymar Morgan led the Spartans in minutes, shots, and points (16). Travis Walton gave new meaning to the term "feast or famine," recording eight assists and seven turnovers in a statistically busy 24 minutes. (Box score.)

See also AP story from March 3, 1962: "Chamberlain held to 100"
Kudos to alert reader Jack M. for bringing this to my attention--from the AP writeup of last Thursday night's exhibition game between New Mexico and Division II Western New Mexico:

New Mexico, which expects to have one of its better 3-point shooting teams in recent years, didn't show it against the overmatched Mustangs. The Lobos were 11 of 26 from behind the arc.

A puny 42.3 percent? Bah! (I guess if you're at a game and you see someone on press row with a copy of The Fountainhead, that's probably the AP writer.)

Anonymous yet stern Professor Kingsfield-esque demander of perfection, Wonk salutes you!

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

Lance's chances of entranced glances enhances!
On Friday in the course of my Indiana preview, I chanced to remark that onetime who-dat and now newly-arrived Hoosier Lance Stemler was 1-of-12 on his threes at Bradley in 2004-05.

The readers respond!

Dear Mr. Wonk,

Your articles are always insightful with a bit of amusement stuck in. But I have to say you didn’t do enough research on Lance Stemler. This guy can shoot and score, beyond the three-point line and inside (baby hooks with either hand). He will start for IU this year - has one of the prettiest shots you have ever seen from a guy 6-8. Look at last seasons stats when he was a JC All-American. The dude made as many threes as the entire IU backcourt and he was the focus of the other teams' defense.

You are right to dismiss last season's Ratliff. He is a much better player and shooter than we saw last year.

Take care
Ken C.

Ken, it's fast becoming an annual tradition for me to denigrate the shooting prowess of a Hoosier in the Indiana preview--only to see that very same Hoosier go out that season and burn up the nets. See Marshall Strickland last year. In November I pointed out that IU's starting 2-guard was coming off a year in which he shot just 30.1 percent on his threes.

Come April, I hailed this same 2-guard as the most efficient scorer in the Big Ten.

Inescapable conclusion: Stemler should thank me! Now he'll be Big Ten POY for sure! (Greg who?)

Thanks, Ken.

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