Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One last post before the Holiday break

Here's today's Big 10 power poll:

1.Wisconsin (11-1)
Great win against Pittsburgh, and even better news is the awakening of Brian Butch. Alando Tucker may be Big 10 POY, but the most critical player may end up being Butch.

2. Ohio State (10-1)
Sooo much talent. And Oden is very good. But Conley, Cook, Lewis, & Hunter are pretty darn good, too. And that's not even counting last year's best conference point guard, Jamar Butler, or the newly productive PF Ivan Harris.

3. Michigan St. (11-2)
Cutting these guys a break because they're missing two starters. But they are really playing well, and that turnover problem could really hurt them in Big 10 play. Ready to drop.

4.Purdue (11-2)
They lost at Butler, but so did Indiana, so the Boilers hang on to the #4 spot. Barely.

5.Indiana (6-3)
Good home win against SIU has them not only looking like a NCAA team, but also like a very good defensive team.

6.Illinois (11-2)

They beat Missouri, but just barely, and with everyone healthy. The Illini will have to play better than that to get a NCAA bid.

7.Michigan (11-1)
Creampuff schedule starts to draw to a close with a visit to #1 UCLA. It will likely be a rude awakening.

8.Northwestern (7-3)

That Kevin Coble kid is starting to look really good. But their last two wins have been against non D-I opponents.

9. Iowa (5-6)

Not good, but they handled Iowa St. by 18, who just got beat by OSU by 19.

10. Minnesota (5-7)

Still probably the worst team, but they've had a competitive stretch after the firing of Monson, and should be recognized.

11. Penn State (7-4)

I know, it's a big drop, but they've got Claxton back and aren't playing any better. The only thing they have to show for themselves besides a home win against St. Joseph's is a close loss at Georgia Tech. Maybe last year was a fluke.

IU's current ranking:

Blue Ribbon Ranking=19

IU opponents' record (not including the IU outcomes, but including tonight's game against Western Michigan)
58-33 (.637)

And to practice what I preach, here's some tempo-free notes about this Hoosier squad going into tonight's game.
(through 9 games)

IU points per possession: 1.053
IU's Opponents' points per: 0.865

IU's total possessions=605
IU possessions per game (pspg): 67.2
IU's opp. pspg: 66.6


So, IU's running about 67 possessions per game, which is on the slow side given that pre-conference games are generally played at a faster rate than conference games, which average around 68. On the other hand, the Big 10 is one of the slower conferences due to the deliberate coaching styles. So this may be about the speed we see for the season.

Western Michigan, on the other hand:

total possessions: 706

pspg= 70.6

WMU Opp.'s pspg=712
WMU Opspg= 71.2

average= 70.9= ~71

WMU ppp= .999
WMU Opp. ppp= 1.046

Western Michigan's Opponents records (not including the IU outcome, but including tonight's game):

69-31 (.690)

What does it all mean? Well, WMU may have a slightly tougher schedule, but they're considerably less apt defensively than Indiana, and just a little less offensively.
What does it all mean? Well, basically, at home, it's a game that IU's defense should win, even if the Hoosiers haven't regained their shooting touch.

But probably any idiot off the street could've told you that.

[Bonus Individual possessions calculations example]

DJ White has played 267 minutes, out of 360 possible.

267/360 x 605=449.

DJ White has had 449 possessions or 49.7 pspg that he is on the floor of IU's ~67 pspg.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What's with the hype for OSU now?

I mean, I know Greg Oden is finally playing (and playing well), but getting excited because they beat Cincinnati by 22. Cincy? That's nothing to get excited about. I know Cincy just came off a nice win over Xavier, but this is the same Cincy club who lost to Wofford at home, who lost to UAB at home, and was to finish 13th in the Big East by the coaches this year. Meanwhile, Wisconsin, as Ryan G. adeptly points out, crushes the preseason Big East #1 pick and Brian Butch shows up the preseason Big East player of the year Aaron Gray. Why is everybody getting in a fuss about Ohio State? Well, Wisconsin may be the better team, but there's no doubt Ohio State has more guys that will be playing the NBA. And the media is built for highlights and searching for the next big star as much as winning games, if not moreso.

Ryan also pointed out something really sad, but true. I mention this not to jump whole-heartedly on the Sampson bandwagon (let's wait a couple of years before really assessing his true value), but something that evidently has become evident to both me& Ryan, who were both Davis supporters longer than we should've been:

...the Mike Davis hire looks worse and worse with every game Sampson coaches...and I was a Davis supporter.

Amen, brother. Sheesh. I'd nearly forgotten what an in-game adjustment looked like. And did anyone else see Kelvin, immediately after a made FG, jumping up and down and hollering at his players to get in the correct defense? Actual coaching.

Kudos to Hoosierball's SIU pre-game breakdown using tempo-free stats. I'd love to see that catching on in the blogging community even moreso, and perhaps forcing actual change in the ESPMSM. I think I have to include that in my player rankings somehow, as Big Ten games involving Northwestern are going to have a lot less possessions than ones involving Ohio State, which creates a statistical bias in favor of Ohio State players (like they need it).
Also, I may have to tweak my formula to count each Assist as 3 points, because counting it for 2 does not take into account 3-pointers or 3-point plays, and certainly doesn't account for free-throws. I remember one game where Marshall Strickland was having a particularly good game at point guard, and had 3 or 4 assists for the game, but his passes caused at least an equal number of fouls from the opponents (so as not to give up the easy lay-up), which gave the team points but didn't show up in the box score.

Go Hoosiers, and to all of you who are traveling for the Holidays, best wishes for a safe journey!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Big win, ugly game.

The SIU match was a must-have for Indiana if they wanted to make a case for NCAA inclusion. And they got it, and surprisingly in the second half, looked like the better defensive team. I thought IU would hit some three-balls, open things up, and look like the better defensive squad, but no go.

Both teams were drowning offensively, but shining defensively. And it's an ugly stat-sheet. Noone comes out looking very good, although it's good to see AJ put aside problems of confidence and just play. And it looked like he learned from earlier contests (Indiana State comes to mind) where opponents would just tear the ball out of his hands, when got he got a good steal doing the same thing to a SIU player in the second half.
Rod Wilmont ended up being probably the most effective player on the floor, again thanks to some stellar rebounding and late play, but it's really looking like you can't have him and Joey Shaw on the floor at the same time. Too bad, because although Joey didn't have a good stat line, he drew a lot of fouls from the Salukis, I think 5 in the first half.

Now the Hoosiers can just work on taking care of business over the next 3 games until they go to Ohio State on Jan. 2nd. I tell you, after breaking down the non-conference HPER stats, that's not a game I'm looking forward to. With Oden in, the Buckeyes have 5 players in the top 20 of most effective Big Ten players. The Buckeyes haven't played a particularly vicious schedule or anything (and due to scheduling, I'll only post in-conference HPER ratings), but man alive, the trend is incredible.

We'll see if having a star line-up or having really good depth captures the conference crown when Wisconsin and Ohio State finally clash. I think this is the most intriguing 1-2 match-up since the '93 season when it was Indiana and Michigan's sophomore Fab Five vying for the Big Ten.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Looking ahead to Southern Illinois

Who will be the best team that IU will face in its pre-conference schedule, in my estimation (yes, better than Duke and Kentucky). However, it will also be the only really tough game they'll play at home.

SIU is not very tall or deep, but is experienced (no freshmen) and mirrors IU pretty well as basing their identity on defense. The Salukis shoot the 3-ball a little better, while still getting to the line a couple more times a game (and shooting significantly better once they are there).

However, IU has a shot-blocking presence in DJ White that the Salukis just don't have, rebounds better, and has about the same assist/turnover ratio. I suspect IU will shoot better at home than at Kentucky, and will be able to generate more offensive opportunities against SIU due to their superior rebounding. Especially coming off a maddening loss, I think Sampson will get his guys up to get a valuable win. It won't be easy, tho.

I should plug this poll, as it looks like the best one out there. Quick glance, Butler is #1, Duke is #6, and Kentucky is #19. Correspondingly, IU is #28. They rank SIU as #16.

Should be a good game.
Go Hoosiers!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Losing to Kentucky/ Power Poll

Like the Duke game, this was a tough effort that ended up in a "L." It is understandable given that we were playing on the road, but neither Kentucky nor Duke are at a very high level this year. It would've been nice to be able to get wins on their floors when we could.

Ben Allen was out with Mono (wonder how long he'll be out?) and Stemler could've used someone to play his role 'cause he was OFF. Just about everybody except DJ was, but playing at Kentucky will do that to you.

Good bright sides in the loss, only 11 turnovers, great offensive rebounding, solid defense, staying out of foul trouble, but it 's not a lot of comfort right now. IU needs to get some solid wins in if they want an at-large bid. And so far, they haven't really got any. They've got their first chance with SIU coming to town, who is pretty darn good. With this home game, we can see if this Indiana team is just a lovable NIT team, or a scrappy NCAA club who'll get more dangerous as the year goes on.

Big Ten Power Poll:

1. Wisconsin (9-1)
The Badgers were looking shaky, but a solid win at Marquette shows an ability to beat a good team in their own arena. A prerequisite for any Big Ten champ.

2. Ohio State (8-1)
Oden's back and the Buckeyes are looking really dangerous, but there's a lot that needs to be proven here in terms of solid Wins. The schedule tightens up for them from here on, culminating with a big game at Florida. We'll know more after that game.

3. Michigan State (9-2)
The already short-handed Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan and Maurice Joseph for the rest of the month, but a cupcake schedule should insulate them from any more losses during that time. Still can't figure out how they broke into the top 25 with a loss to Boston College.

4. Purdue (8-1)
The Boilers are shooting up the ranks. I'm still skeptical about them being good enough to get an at-large NCAA bid, but recent wins over Loyola and Missouri have probably cemented their status as a contender.

5. Illinois (9-2)

I watched them lose at Arizona, who they should've beat, except for their inability to operate their offense. I don't know if that will get better as they get healthier or not. Still waiting to see with this group.

6. Indiana (5-3)
I think they've got the right things going for them, but they just aren't winning the close ones.

7. Michigan (10-1)
Good record, but they looked horrible against the only decent opponent they've faced.
I'd say they're a lock for the NIT, but I'm still guessing they finish the Big Ten at .500 or worse.

8. Penn State (6-3)
Loss at cold-shooting Seton Hall seems to say that they're at the NIT level, not a NCAA tourney-bid level.

9. Northwestern (5-2)
Better than expected, but you still gotta expect them to waxed in conference road games.

10. Iowa (5-5)
Not good. Home loss to Northern Iowa means these Hawkeyes will probably be contending for the conference cellar.

11. Minnesota (4-7)
I'd said it was Monson's last year and within hours he resigned. I'd better watch my predictions about people's jobs in the future.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Couple more Wins in the book

IU has a couple solid home wins, and seems to start to be getting its offense together. When a quick shooter like Stemler is in, your offense really starts to free up. Also, Stemler's ability to pass out of traps may be crucial going against Kentucky. It'd be nice if Sampson could play him more at the 3-spot, but that may come in conference play.

Talking about the wins... IU got a nice home win over Charlotte (74-57), but Charlotte's talent has fallen off the last couple of years. I think Bobby Lutz's club is a borderline NIT team... just a donut of a club.

IU had a pretty amazing blowout (92-40) last night of Western Illinois, who last year's more talented Hoosier team beat 102-79 (albeit, on the road). WIU is a terrible team that only got 7 wins last season, and will probably do roughly the same this year. Not that IU should feel too awesome about the win, but the Hoosiers did only turn the ball over 3 times against a trapping defense in a moderately-paced game. I also liked the soft press Sampson was using, which came up with a turnover or two, but mostly just slowed the WIU offense down.

Notes from the Box Scores:

I like AJ's reappearance as much as anyone, but he still only grabbed 3 rebounds over two games. When he comes back to get the ball, offensive rebounds will be rare for Hoosier opponents, as IU's rebounding is pretty good overall. But he almost never comes back. Also, for the 31 points AJ has scored, he took 19 threes (hitting just 6: or 31.5%), and he's still only hit 8 of 12 FTs for the year. I know you can shoot the three, but 1) hit the glass, and 2) drive the ball. Take a page out of Joey Shaw's book, who's shot 6 more FTs that FGA.

Speaking of which, Shaw looks impressive. For a guy who was supposed to help out with outside shooting, he abuses guys on the pump-fake and then draws contact. It's gotten him some turnovers and foul trouble, but just imagine him in a year or two when he's earned some respect. I don't think we've had an athlete like him since Charlie Miller, and nobody at that spot as aggressive since... geez, Greg Graham? Now, before we go wild with the comparisons, he's going to get into a lot of foul trouble come conference play, and his turnovers will hurt the team, but you gotta like the way this kid plays.

Rod Wilmont jumps out at you the most... when's he on, he's so effective. But he's showing great effort on the boards (10 each of the last two games), and even when he wasn't hitting against Charlotte. AJ Ratliff, are you listening?

Armon Bassett has crazy handles. At one point late in the first half, he nearly broke a WIU defender's ankles, making the guy fall down, and Bassett was just pulling the break up to reset the offense. Also, his criss-cross-over move for the pull-up and 2-pointer at the end of the Charlotte game shows an offensive ability that should keep IU from shot-clock violations.

DJ was fine, Mike White can rebound and play some defense, which is nice to see. Big Ben is getting some ideas of how to play inside, but he's still a project. Allen could be a pretty good center, if he can put it all together, tho.

Calloway's so talented, but also seems sort of deferential. When he gets turned loose (usually when IU's losing), he is such a threat, but he's either got to play under control or just decide to go for it, because the sort of indecisive middle gear he plays at(which is his teammates' high gear) still gets him into trouble. Gotta admire the 7 assists and 0 turnovers last night, tho. Suhr, well, he's Suhr. He's shown some nice driving plays this year that I didn't know he was capable of.

Looking at Kentucky:

Geez, I dunno. If each team had played the other's schedule, they'd probably have the exact same record. Each team has a nice center to revolve the offense and defense around (DJ v. Randolph Morris), each team has a couple of good gunners (Wilmont & Stemler v. Ramel Bradley & Bobby Perry), both teams have a ten-man rotation, problems with turnovers, mediocre free-throw shooting, but good defenses. Interestingly, IU is a little more felonious, recording about a 1.5 more steals a game, and gets about 3 more offensive rebounds a game, two areas that Kentucky has historically had the edge.

If this were a neutral-site game, I imagine that Indiana would win, as Morris & White would probably shut each other down, and IU would ride their outside shooting and Calloway/Bassett's playmaking to the win. But it's at Kentucky this year, and I think IU will get much worse treatment from the Refs than they did at Duke. DJ White probably spends the day in foul trouble, and Randolph Morris freely operates inside, and I doubt IU shoots well enough to carry the day. But they've certainly got a chance, and I do believe that IU is the better team.

Go Hoosiers.