Big Ten Wonk
Friday, December 29, 2006
Every rebound needs an adjective
We gather here today to pay our last respects to the term "rebounding."

True, "rebounding" had a good life. But its time has long since passed. For example....

In the wake of Florida's mauling of Ohio State last Saturday, it was said that the Buckeyes' "rebounding" has to improve. After all, Ohio State was outrebounded 43-25 in that game. Outrageous!

Only problem: you can't get any rebounds if the other team doesn't miss. The Gators made 20 of 28 shots after halftime.

And there's a corollary: your opponent's "rebounding" is going to look artificially good if your own shooting is terrible. Recall that Wisconsin's rebounding was also criticized last year after the Badgers' loss at home to North Dakota State. After all, Wisconsin was outrebounded 45-39 in that game. Outrageous!

Of course the Badgers were outrebounded in that game. They missed 56 shots. The Bison practically had rebounds forced on them.

So when I hear "rebounding," I'm puzzled. I don't know what "rebounding" is. There are only offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds.

And they may not be created equal.

Offensive rebounds are rare--and may be less important than defensive boards
Most rebounds in a game are defensive rebounds. Last year in "power"-conference play, 65.7 percent of all rebounds were defensive boards.

What's more, in these same major-conference games in 2006 there was a much stronger statistical correlation between defensive rebounding and good defense than there was between offensive rebounding and good offense. Which leads to our first new hypothesis in many a moon, the Rebounds Act Defensively Hypothesis:

Defensive rebounds are more important to defense than offensive rebounds are to offense.

And not for the "well, duh" reason, either. Obviously it's always better to make a shot than to record an offensive rebound. But what we're talking about are ratios and not sheer numbers: the possibility that it may be more important to gather in a higher percentage of the available defensive rebounds than it is to secure a higher proportion of the available offensive boards.

In a post at the beginning of the season I hazarded a view, based on the data from 594 major-conference regular-season games in 2006, that the key offensive variables are as follows (from most- to least-important):

1. Shooting (eFG pct.)
2. Turnover percentage
3. Offensive rebounding

But on defense the hierarchy of variables looks like this:

1. Opponent's shooting
2. Defensive rebounding
3. Opponent's TO pct.

Maybe there's a different "well, duh" reason that explains why getting the rebound would be more important on D. In effect, 100 percent of defensive rebounds accomplish what they're supposed to: they end an opponent's possession. (Obviously there are times when the ball's immediately stolen back. But that's a steal, not an offensive board by the opponent.)

But a smaller percentage of offensive rebounds accomplish what they're supposed to: scoring points on a given possession. Sometimes an offensive board leads directly to a put-back. But sometimes it leads to a fresh shot clock and an eventual defensive rebound by the opponent. And sometimes it's the prelude to a turnover.

Just a thought.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Indiana State beat Purdue 89-70 in Terre Haute last night. The Boilermakers actually played something close to their standard game on offense (Carl Landry: 22 points on 11 FGAs and seven FTAs) but suffered a total collapse on the defensive glass, allowing the Sycamores to rebound half of their own misses. Marico Stinson came off the bench to lead ISU with 24 points in 25 minutes. (Box score.)

Michigan beat Army 62-50 last night in Ann Arbor. Tommy Amaker started the bench or benched the starters, depending on your point of view. In any case, last night's starting five was: DeShawn Sims, Ekpe Udoh, Jerret Smith, Reed Baker, and Jevohn Shepherd. And it says here that the new-look starters "shined," which is certainly true for Udoh, who blocked nine shots in 29 minutes. Otherwise, "shined" may be a tad generous for a team that gave the ball away 22 times in a 66-possession game and made just 10-of-30 twos. But it's a win. Baker made 5-of-7 threes and led Michigan with 19 points. (Box score.)

Hoops tonight!
Illinois plays Xavier at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati (ESPN2, 9ET).

Hoops tomorrow!
Michigan plays Georgetown in Ann Arbor (ESPN2, noon ET).

Ohio State plays Coppin State in Columbus.

Michigan State plays Loyola College (MD) in East Lansing.

Indiana plays Ball State in Bloomington.

Purdue plays Southeast Missouri State in West Lafayette.

Penn State plays VMI in State College.

Iowa plays Cornell in Iowa City.

Minnesota plays Southeastern Louisiana in Minneapolis.

Hoops Sunday!
Wisconsin plays Georgia in Athens.

Northwestern plays Northwestern State in Evanston.

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

At some point, yesterday's post will be timely
UNLV beat Texas Tech 74-66 in Lubbock last night so Bob Knight did not pass Dean Smith in career wins. But I didn't know that yesterday so I wrote about Knight anyway. The readers respond!

Hey, John,

I get the feeling you have a lot more boiling under the surface that you'd like to unleash regarding Bob Knight. I say let 'er rip. There is no denying his accomplishments, but there's a difference between programs that operate on the love of the game and programs rooted in fear.

A lot of Big Ten coaches run tight ships (including my main man, Tom Izzo), but at the end of the day they know they must represent their schools with class and keep a solid relationship with their players.

Bottom line: I want a tough coach, but not someone who is going to embarrass himself and my school, leaving us all wondering what he's going to pull next. The Spartan nation went through this with John L. Smith, though he at least slapped himself rather than his players.

The positive press Knight is getting now for turning his players into "gentlemen" is absolutely ludicrous.

Spartanly Yours,
Bryan D.

Boiling under the surface? Moi? Au contraire! If I were really such a Stanley Kowalski-ish coil of tightly wound mephitic rage, I probably wouldn't fret too much about defensive rebound percentages. No, I just think Knight is a brilliant coach prone to moments of self-destructively myopic bullying egomania. Neither precludes the other.

And with that we bring 2006 to a close, y'all. See you in '07!

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