Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wisconsin-Indiana tonight!

I created a shoot-off blog, Hoosier Fun Ball Ratings, to contain my HPER ratings system (now complete through 1/28).

I watched the second half of the MSU-Illinois game. An ugly affair that Illinois prevailed despite their best efforts. What was with that cornerback blitz by Frazier on Travis Walton as Walton was trying to call a TO? Chester Frazier had a good game on the offensive end, but a terrible game on the defensive end, nearly being DQ'ed on stupid fouls. Illinois got a good RPI win, and will have an easy back-end schedule, but if they keep playing like this, they won't win a single road game.

Here's a good article here on Michigan basketball, the money quote:

"Yet, amazingly, Amaker's job security is probably stronger today than at any other point in his six years in Ann Arbor. That tells you all you need to know. Michigan considers basketball a waste of time."

Kyle Whelliston has a good preview of the Bracketbuster match-ups. I think that the most meaningful game for an at-large bid is probably Ohio at New Mexico State, but SIU at Butler will probably be the best game. Northern Iowa just got hosed, having to travel to Nevada to in-all-likelihood receive a non-conference pasting. Kyle gets bonus points for use of the word "laggard."

Wisconsin takes on Indiana tonight. This is the biggest game that Hoosier fans will see all year. It's gonna be tough. Sampson has built a Wisconsin-like team in Bloomington, but Bo Ryan has never had a better team.
A red-white match-up extraordinaire!

Indiana's been shooting threes pretty well, and that's one thing that can really bust the Badger's Defense, but IU's got to shut them down a little on the defensive end as well. We may see some zone again from the Hoosiers, in an attempt to try to get Ryan's time firing from the outside.

One guy noone talks about on the Badgers is point guard Michael Flowers. He's not the best point guard in the conference, but he's in the mix with Calloway and Travis Walton for second-best. On the other hand, noone is talking about the Big Ten season that AJ Ratliff is having, just unbelievable. We could really use him being on top of his game tonight.

Go Hoosiers.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Getting back to business

Indiana, despite being outscored 29-10 at the free-throw line at home, destroyed Michigan in Assembly Hall, 76-61, thanks to good defense, good offense (read 10-20 3pt. shooting), and really, the inability of Michigan being able to grow from being a decent team that kills bottom-feeders to a being a good team that competes. My pre-season unbelief in Tommy Amaker's ability seems vindicated.

Yoni Cohen notes that while Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, or UCLA are currently the only teams that reside in nation's top 15 in defensive & offensive efficiency, Indiana, along with Clemson, are in both in the top 25 in both areas.


I tweaked the HPER numbers in the last post to adjust Indiana's numbers so they were complete through 2/23. As I expected, even despite the horrible performance at Illinois, the Hoosier players dropped little in the rankings, if at all. Wilmont dropped a couple spots, AJ Ratliff dropped one spot, and the rest stayed the same. In fact, DJ White is still arguably every bit as effective as Greg Oden.

Armon Bassett's numbers look pretty bad, but they should rebound nicely after his good performance on Saturday. Rod Wilmont's numbers are lower than one might expect, partly because his best recent game (at UConn) isn't included. On the good side, AJ Ratliff is shooting a stellar 58.3% from beyond the arc in Big Ten games, rating a top 10 slot. Also, Mike White's performance lately is demanding more PT in IU's rotation. He had 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal in a mere 8 minutes, all decisive in killing Michigan's last chance.

Also, I tweaked the links sidebar to reflect the categories of IU sites, IU bloggers, other Big Ten bloggers, RPI/ratings sites, College Ball bloggers, Official School athletic sites, as well as standings & recruiting links.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Indiana's got to get it back & HPER rankings

This weekend versus Michigan. Indiana does not necessarily need to get back their three-point shooting to beat Michigan (tho sure, it wouldn't hurt) but they really have to shut Michigan down on the glass, and attack the shot-blockers Michigan has (and they have three good ones in Petway, Udoh, and Courtney Sims-if he ever cared).

Bold prediction:
Michigan and Michigan State's post-season hopes will come down to their game (at Michigan) on February 27th. Illinois is going to zoom past both of these teams in the standings with a ridiculously easy schedule from here out, and Michigan State and Michigan have a tough road to walk (both have to play OSU twice, and MSU has to play Wisconsin twice as well). Michigan might end up having to beat both MSU and OSU in their final two home games to get to the NCAAs. But I'm guessing that the Amaker era ends with a fizzle, and MSU gets the road victory to clinch that 5th Big Ten bid into the NCAAs. Does the Big Ten deserve 5 bids? The RPI says it's the 4th-best conference, so you'd think so, but honestly, I think it should probably just be 4 bids.

Conference-only HPER ratings:

New top 25 freshmen ranking (thru 1/23)

I've introduced my HPER rankings and said that I would do some number-crunching once we had some Big Ten only stats available. These are far from balanced (see below) but sure, why not?

#. School, Name (# of possessions per game they see on the floor) raw HPER total / HPER production per game = hpg / HPER production per possession = hpps

1. OSU, Mike Conley (50.1 pspg) 170.5 / 34.1 hpg / .6812 hpps
2. OSU, Greg Oden (49.1 pspg) 133 / 26.6 hpg/ .5414 hpps
3. Michigan, Ekpe Udoh (29.8 pspg) 78 / 15.6 hpg/ .5226 hpps
4. OSU, Daequan Cook (33.7 pspg) 75 / 15 hpg/ .4454 hpps
5. Iowa, Tyler Smith (56.8 pspg) 113.5 / 22.7 hpg/ .3999 hpps
6. MSU, Raymar Morgan (35.7 pspg) 53.5 / 13.4 hpg/ .3742 hpps
7. NU, Kevin Coble (38.1 pspg) 46 / 11.5 hpg/ .3019 hpps
8. Purdue, Chris Kramer (44.8 pspg) 76 / 12.7 hpg/ .2829 hpps
9. Indiana, Joey Shaw (23.5 pspg) 49.5 / 8.3 hpg / .3511 hpps
10. NU, Jeff Ryan (30.9 pspg) 62 / 10.3 hpg/ .3341 hpps
11. Indiana, Armon Bassett (43.9 pspg) 47 / 7.8 hpg/ .1783 hpps
12. Illinois, Brian Carlwell (10.3 pspg) 28.5 / 4.1 hpg/ .3965 hpps
13. NU, Jeremy Nash (13.9 pspg) 28 / 4.7 hpg/ .3369 hpps
14. Wisconsin, Trevon Hughes (6.6 pspg) 10 / 3.3 hpg/ .5031 hpps
15. Michigan, DeShawn Sims (13.9 pspg) 19 / 3.8 hpg/ .2740 hpps
16. PU, David Vandervieren (11.4 pspg) 15.5 / 3.1 hpg/ .2729 hpps
17. Indiana, Xavier Keeling (14.9 pspg) 14 / 3.5 hpg/ .2324 hpps
18. Wisconsin, Jason Bohannon (9.4 pspg) 5.5 / 1.8 hpg/ .1950 hpps
19. Purdue, Keaton Grant (32.5 pspg) 31 / 5.2 hpg / .1591 hpps
20. Minnesota, Bryce Webster (19.7 pspg) 17 / 3.4 hpg/ .1722 hpps
21. Minnesota, Kevin Payton (28.1 pspg) 21.5 / 4.3 hpg/ .1532 hpps
22. Michigan, Reed Baker (18.7 pspg) 15 / 3 hpg/ .1605 hpps
23. Purdue, Jonathan Uchendu (6.9 pspg) 1 / 0.5 hpg / .0724 hpps
24. Minnesota, Damian Johnson (5.9 pspg) 1.5 / .4 hpg/ .0512 hpps
25. OSU, David Lighty (20.1 pspg) 1 / 0.2 hpg/ .0099 hpps

Not ranked were Isaiah Dahlman (MSU) and Lawrence Westbrook (Minn.) who both got a zero (or less) in the stats.


This system favors assists more than any other action you can take on the floor,
(excepting hitting a three-pointer or completing a 3-point play). I feel even better than before about using this stat to tell you what kind of player, and how effective that player is to his team's production. I think a good case in point is the one at the top, Mike Conley Jr. Greg Oden is fantastic, but he gets a lot of his points off of Dunks (or free-throws)created by Conley running the offense and/or magnificent dribble penetration. Also, Conley as a freshman has supplanted what was arguably the Big Ten's best point guard (Jamar Butler). Butler's good. Conley's better. And the numbers back it up.

Also, I like that a large part of this system penalizes the possessions lost, through turnovers, bad shooting, or bad free-throw shooting. Points are important. But gaining or even keeping possessions are every bit as important. I had to hand-crunch Northwestern's conference only stats, so there's a greater margin of error in those stats. And the schedule is far from balanced at this point, so we won't see appropriately balanced stats until the end of the season.

Overall Big Ten top 30 players ranking:

1. OSU, Mike Conley (50.1 pspg) 170.5 / 34.1 hpg / .6812 hpps
2. OSU, Greg Oden (49.1 pspg) 133 / 26.6 hpg/ .5414 hpps
3. Indiana, DJ White (48.5 pspg) 158.5 / 26.4 hpg/ .5443 hpps
4. Indiana, Earl Calloway (47.8 pspg) 128 / 21.3 hpg/ .4467 hpps
5. Penn State, Geary Claxton (51.2 pspg) 114 / 22.8 hpg/ .4452 hpps
6. Purdue, Carl Landry (49.6 pspg) 131.5 / 21.9 hpg/ .4416 hpps
7. MSU, Drew Nietzel (55.7 pspg) 104.5 / 20.9 hpg/ .3755 hpps
8. PSU, Jamelle Cornley (56.5 pspg) 104.5 / 20.9 hpg/ .3702 hpps
9. Michigan, Ekpe Udoh (29.8 pspg) 78 / 15.6 hpg/ .5226 hpps
10. Indiana, AJ Ratliff (28.7 pspg) 59.5 / 14.9 hpg/ .5177 hpps
11. Wisconsin, Michael Flowers (48 pspg) 98 / 19.7 hpg/ .4080 hpps
12. OSU, Daequan Cook (33.7 pspg) 75 / 15 hpg/ .4454 hpps
13. Iowa, Tyler Smith (56.8 pspg) 113.5 / 22.7 hpg/ .3999 hpps
14. Michigan, Dion Harris (50.4 pspg) 93.5 / 18.7 hpg/ .3714 hpps
15. Purdue, David Teague (49.9 pspg) 109 / 18.2 hpg/ .3642 hpps
16. Illinois, Warren Carter (52.2 pspg) 132 / 18.9 hpg/ .3611 hpps
17. Minnesota, Dan Coleman (56.1 pspg) 96 / 19.2 hpg/ .3420 hpps
18. Wisconsin, Alando Tucker (54 pspg) 88 / 17.6 hpg/ .3259 hpps
19. PSU, Danny Morrissey (43.8 pspg) 87 / 17.4 hpg/ .3972 hpps
20. OSU, Othello Hunter (28.1 pspg) 77.5 / 13.5 hpg/ .5157 hpps
21. MSU, Marquise Gray (35.1 pspg) 78 / 15.6 hpg/ .4450 hpps
22. MSU, Goran Suton (41.8 pspg) 83 / 16.6 hpg/ .3969 hpps
23. Michigan, Brent Petway (36.8 pspg) 73.5 / 14.7 hpg/ .3996 hpps
24. Michigan, Lester Abram (47.3 pspg) 90 / 18 hpg/ .3803 hpps
25. Northwestern, Tim Doyle (46.6 pspg) 91.5 / 15.3 hpg/ .3271 hpps
26. Iowa, Adam Haluska (55.8 pspg) 82 / 16.6 hpg/ .2973 hpps
27. Wisconsin, Marcus Landry (29.8 pspg) 70.5/ 12.1 hpg/ .4727 hpps
28. Indiana, Rod Wilmont (44.2 pspg) 83 / 14.9 hpg/ .3131 hpps
29. Illinois, Shaun Pruitt (43.5 pspg) 98 / 14 hpg/ .3216 hpps
30. Illinois, Chester Frazier (40.9 pspg) 79.5 / 13.3 hpg/ .3241 hpps

Again, an anomaly easy to spot is AJ Ratliff, who only played 4 games, but is due for a "return to the mean" in his unbelievable shooting. Also, look for Tucker and Haluska to rise as the season continues.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Returning to the mean

No, I didn't watch the IU game last night, and I'm inclined to just go ahead and toss that VHS tape in the trash-bin after checking in a couple of times in the second half. There's certainly nothing I want to see in terms of the Hoosier's shooting performance or ball-handling abilities (12 turnovers in a very slow game).

Yesterday, I was trying to not get too high on the highs, and after Indiana's 51-43 loss to Illinois, I'll try not to get too low. But kudos to Illinois, Shaun Pruitt was ready to play (10 pts, 13 rebounds), Warren Carter looked good down the stretch, and they seemed energized on defense on the few plays I did see. That's what playing at home in a Big Ten venue should be like. Illinois very smartly slowed the pace, and came out of the locker-room in the second half with an 8-0 tear that ended up being the difference in the game.

All that said, this was a game that was there for the taking, and IU didn't take it. (Some have described their performance as "listless"). It would have never been easy, but all the pub that IU has gotten and in getting ranked (and frankly, earning it the hard way) I think took the chip off the shoulders of the players. And there's not much good here, although it looks like Mike White is continuing to play better.

As I wrote yesterday, with Brian Randle out, and with Jamar Smith and Chester Frazier at less then 100%, this was a chance for IU to steal one on the road. Imagine how ugly this game would've been if Pruitt hadn't played?
While letting this get away after the lovely win at UConn is understandable (Illinois needed a quality win bad), as the Hoosiers were not coming into a game feeling under-appreciated for the first time, Sampson has to get some mileage out of this one. If he can use this to get IU fired up for the next two home games (Michigan & Wisconsin), we'll be alright.

I had this game circled as a loss since the schedule was released. If IU can beat Michigan and Wisconsin (and the UW game is a big if), the Hoosiers will be right back in the Conference Championship hunt, albeit with 5 road games left.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No time to rest on your laurels

Not if your the Hoosier basketball team going into the hornet's nest that has been Illinois' Assembly Hall. Not with a crowd ready to boo for as long as they have breath. Not with the Illini desperately needing a quality to revive their flagging hopes.

Indiana has gotten some love, and deservedly so after a nice 9-1 stretch where their only loss was a close one at Ohio State. Indiana's ranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls, for the first time this season. DJ White garnered a conference Player of the Week award, and even Big Ten Wonk has a "who are these guys?" rundown.

But here's the rub, that all can go away pretty quickly with a loss at Illinois.

Now, Bruce Weber will probably try to get his guys fired up, but the Illini are hurting.
Brian Randle will not play, and Shaun Pruitt may very well not play either. Jamar Smith and Chester Frazier are hurting, so I hope Calloway and Bassett are aggressive tonight in trying to make them move and finding the gaps.

But besides that, these Illini fought very hard in close loss to Wisconsin, but haven't had a lot to show for this season so far. If Pruitt is out, they are in trouble. It'll be a tough game, but like the UConn game, Indiana needs to go in, execute, and take their best shot while trying to come out with a win.

Go Hoosiers!

Monday, January 22, 2007


What a weekend to be an Indiana Alum living in the Chicago area. But, the NFL in just a minute.

First, Indiana gets out of Hartford with a nice road win. I think it was also needed, as IU had a very good non-conference schedule, but lacked any quality wins outside of Assembly Hall (and yes, I do think SIU was a quality win). It was touch and go, but there were some things to really appreciate in the 77-73 victory.

1) Execution
Coming out of the gate, IU ran their offense, hit their shots, and scored 24 points in their first 12 possessions. Coming out of the half, Rod Wilmont scored the first 5 points, making Calhoun call a timeout. And at the end of the game, although I wouldn't call Rod's heroics "execution" exactly, IU played the last minute exactly right, not turning the ball over, only fouling once, and getting the ball to the guy who was hitting free-throws (Armon Bassett).

2) Endurance
Even during UConn's big run to erase IU's 28-14 lead (which you knew was coming), the Hoosiers looked calm the whole way. They ran the offense, got open shots (a couple of good looks at three that didn't go down), and slowly but surely rebuilt a lead that Uconn managed to erase with a leaning three at the halftime buzzer.

3) Aggressive Defense
Yeah, the Hoosiers payed the price in rebounding, but they really got in the faces of the Huskies, not allowing open shots or passes, and running to help cut off the lanes. Mike White in particular was tough inside, which is what we've been looking for all season. I'll take the odds of an overly-aggressive defense, as long as Kelvin Sampson can find someone to grab those weakside rebounds.

UConn is going to be very good (although maybe not this year, but maybe so), and Stanley Robinson is a future NBA lottery pick. That guy's got it all, and putting him on the floor with Thabeet and Adrien makes for a very fearsome frontline. The Huskies' guards are starting to figure it out, especially in terms of getting the ball up the floor in a hurry. Wow. That sideline passing gets the ball from end to end before most of the defense is back, and IU has pretty decent transition defense.
(although I can't say I'm a big fan of Jerome Dyson, who eats up crappy teams but can't seem to beat good ones).

Part of our rebounding problem was the strategy on both sides. Sampson went large stretches of the game with a zone defense, the weakness that everyone knows giving up outside shots, but the lessor-known one is giving up offensive rebounds. Calhoun recognized that Sampson was going zone, and rather than having his guys shoot threes (which they aren't good at, and outside of that halftime leaner, they went 1-4), he had them drive and throw up shots that weren't likely to connect, but which drew the defense to them, and the rest of the Huskies went to the glass for putbacks.
The Fab Five had a similar offense, move the defense and allow your talented bigs to eat up the missed shots.

But the Hoosiers need DJ to get more than 3 rebounds, and hopefully AJ gets heatlthy sometime and decides to come help on the glass. When AJ & Rod are coming to help DJ and Mike White on the defensive glass, we can look pretty tough. But that combo doesn't happen very often. But I bet Sampson starts making it happen.

The NFL:

Are you kidding me? Colts and Bears in the Superbowl! Talk about your dream match-up.
Famed Offense vs. Notorious Defense, Peyton Manning vs. the kid from the Bloomington, the Magnificent Midwestern Melee in Miami! (tm).

I didn't watch the Bears game except for a little at the end of the first half and at the end of the game, in which I saw a sloppy, loosey-goosey game that Bears had control of.

I did watch the a lot of the Colts game, rather in spite of myself, because every time in the first half that I turned it on, something awful was happening to the Colts. I turned it back on to see the Colts get within 8, and then tie it up. Maybe the best pass Peyton threw all night was the 2-point conversion to Harrison. Patriots fans are all abuzz with the dropped passes, but Harrison flat-out missed one too. Just because you've got good receivers doesn't mean they won't miss a pass in a game of this magnitude.

Btw, what is with replays always showing you the play right after the part your looking for? When every Colts' fan in the world is looking to see if Gaffney was out-of-bounds before he caught the pass (& incidentally the part the announcers are talking about as well), why keep on showing the part where Gaffney's in the air?

But I guess I'm more of a Colts fan than a Bears fan, because I couldn't stop watching the Colts. No matter who wins the Superbowl, it's all gravy. But if I have to root for one team, I guess it's the Colts.

Still, I'll end with this:

Go Bolts!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Can IU win at UConn?

Well, yes. That's why they play the games. But it is a hard place to win. But this is one of the weakest Huskie teams to take the court, maybe the weakest in the last 15 years.

UConn: the good

They're 13-4 overall, with a 11-1 nonconference record.
They were ranked 22nd & 24th in the polls until this week, and are still well ahead of IU in the Also-Receiving Votes count.
Jim Calhoun is one of the most consistent winnners in college basketball today, and he's got a lot of very good young talent, notably frosh guards Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins, as well as shot-blocking freak 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet. Also, he's got a feel-good story with AJ Price returning after blood-clot problems in his brain(!) threatened his career and life.

Looks like a pretty tall order for IU to win at their place. But...

UConn: the bad.
Calhoun pretty much only has freshmen and sophomores who didn't see very much PT last year to work with. In fact, there are no non-walk-on active juniors or seniors on this squad, and no starters return from last season.

Also, by the numbers from mid-majority, UConn plays much faster than IU, but turns the ball over at a higher rate, and is less effective scoring (largely due to IU's better three-point and Free-throw shooting, UConn has a very slight edge in 2ptFG%).

But UConn is surprisingly pretty sound defensively at .801 points-per-opponents'
possession (IU's stellar defense that has critics raving is .892). Interior defense is one key to this, but also really good rebounding is another. 6-6 soph Jeff Adrien is a terror on the boards at 9.4, and may be difficult for Stemler to contain as he is quick and big. We may see Keeling and Mike White get a fair amount of PT.

All-in-all, it should be a fairly good, scrappy game, unlike last year's snooze-fest where Rudy Gay gunned UConn to a big lead, and Marcus Williams and Josh Boone shredded IU's defense for high percentage shots and dunks.

We all are familiar with UConn's run-and-gun style, and transition attack, so we may be sure that Sampson is drilling his guys to deal with UConn's pressure in order to cut down on turnovers that feed UConn's offense.

What do the computers & stat-crunchers say?

Sagarin has UConn ranked at #48 (IU is #20)
Cbs Sportsline rpi has them at #70 (IU is #16)
Blue ribbon Poll; UConn #49 (IU is #8)
Pomeroy RPI puts them at the #68 spot (IU is #21)
But Pomeroy Ratings put them at #16 (IU is #9)

Basically, all the above just reflects the conventional wisdom that UConn had a really soft non-conference schedule that featured a lot of home games against teams from one-NCAA-bid conferences and then hasn't been doing so well in conference play. Although, honestly, they've not been all that bad, dropping their only home loss to Marquette by four, losing at LSU, WVU, and then at Pitt just 54-63.

Indiana losses have all been good, ratings wise, and they've played those teams close. Unsurprisingly, IU has walloped Big Ten squads who came into Assembly still looking for their Identity (Purdue, MSU).

I think IU's got a really good shot to take this game, and will probably get some points back in transition as well, as UConn has guard problems, and may be shuffling their line-up.
Coach Calhoun says "we're missing shots and sometimes not taking great shots. That's really where our problems lie."
If Calhoun is saying that they are not taking great shots, their shot selection must be truly terrible. I didn't know Calhoun even had a "yellow light" for his players.

And defensively, if I were coaching (which thankfully I'm not), I would probably try to pack the lane, maybe even go zone (like WVU did) and dare the Huskies to beat me from outside. The only real threats are Doug Wiggins, Craig Austrie, and Stanley Robinson, none of whom play more than 18 minutes a game. Don't let their guys shoot without pressure, but concede the open jumper rather than the post-up. A zone would force them to pass it more as well, which honestly they aren't very good at. Also, a zone defense might help keep DJ out of ticky-tack foul trouble, and we need him on the floor, hopefully going right at Thabeet and trying to get him in foul trouble like he did with Oden.

Of course, last year, I said to let Rudy Gay shoot, and he hit his first three 3-pt. shots.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

An interesting question

Big Ten Wonk posed a question worth pondering about the nature of "good basketball" and shot selection.
Sometimes I wonder if the Norman Dale presumption is really just a stylistic preference masquerading as an iron law of basketball. I wonder--but I don't know. First I'd need answers to two questions, one ethical and one empirical.

The ethical question: Is it OK to take a three early in the clock if it meets all the other criteria for a "good" shot (you know, open look, ability "to step into your shot," shoulders square, etc.)?

The empirical question: What would the graph look like if we plotted 3FG pct. by number of seconds remaining on the shot clock? Would accuracy really steadily increase as shot-clock time remaining decreases? Or would something more random emerge?
The responses were interesting enough:

Ethical answers basically said that you should know your personnel,

Ultimately, an uncontested three in the hands of a good shooter is a good option but it's not better than an uncontested layup or dunk in the hands of a reliable big man.


we're not passing the ball around to pass the time. We're doing it to get an open shot. When you see one, take it....
And the empirical answer was, well, inconclusive. The only real statistical crunching available was from the NBA stats machine 82games, and their nifty touches/possession/results breakdown. Big Ten Wonk sums up.

"...while there appeared to be no relationship between the mere number of touches and offensive production, there did appear to be a correlation between offense and the speed of the touches: "the more touches per second the higher the points per possession (along with FG%)"

I would respond that speeding up the passes in college is very good, if you can do it. The problem is that you have a lot of kids playing who are still learning the fundamentals, so you're going to naturally have a lot of problems with turnovers if you make this a point of emphasis. If you are a Duke or North Carolina who wants to speed up the tempo because you have better athletes than everyone else, and you can absorb the cost of the turnovers, then you do probably want to really zip the ball around. If you are, say, Indiana, it's going to be much better to make sure that your players are making the right pass rather zipping one to the Iowa bench, as Lance Stemler did in the first half.

And back to the basic question of whether it is okay to shoot a three early in the clock or not, I think that it isn't necessarily okay (and usually isn't for IU this season), but for some clubs, it really can be a good thing.

the unusual, if exemplar case:

Illinois, 2005
If you have a lot of good 3-point shooters, and aren't afraid (and in fact, may actively desire) to increase the number of possessions per game, and your post players are not terribly intimidating offensively, then the answer should always be "yes" when confronted with such an opportunity.

Also similar: Indiana, 2002

the more likely scenario:

Wisconsin, 2000

You are a decent club with reasonable balance, but have won most of your games by taking the air out of the ball, and then defending very well. You have at least one decent shooter (Jon Bryant), who you green-light your only transition opportunities for, having him spot up behind the arc. You shock #1 seed Arizona by producing points in this manner, and ride it to the Final Four.

Also similar: Michigan State 1994

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A win is a win, right?

The 71-64 victory was just not a very satisfying game. IU was overwhelming Iowa so much for the first 32 minutes, it was getting kind of boring (don't get me wrong, I like). But the whole time, I knew Iowa would close the gap, this Hawkeye club seems to make pulling a close loss out from a blowout their trademark. And Iowa was so furious in their comeback, I was actually pretty surprised at the level of intensity they brought out of nowhere. Until the last 5 minutes, it seemed like Haluska was all on his own, fighting to get his club a little closer. But then they all were attacking, and surprisingly killed IU on the boards in the last 8 minutes (16-5). The turnovers and fouls I understood, but them owning us on the glass, I did not. Of course, Indiana helped them out with stupid fouls in the last couple of minutes, and got some slippery hands, but you can bet Sampson will have them working on that today. I hope Rod's twisted arm doesn't bother him much, as Wilmont was really coming on offensively. Btw, I love Rod and AJ's pump-fake-three, step-into-a-open 15-footer shot. I believe that was Cal Cheaney's signature move, and I've missed it.

I don't want delve too deeply into the first two dullest topics of blogging, but what is up with Brent Musburger? He seems to get more insane and more out of touch with each broadcast. When Steve Lavin's nasal whining is the voice you are preferring to listen to, something's wrong. And also what is up with officiating at Assembly Hall this season? I understand Iowa was behind the whole game, and maybe the refs didn't want it to seem like they were hosing Steve's squad, but every game it seems like a shot-clock violation call is just plain blown, and at least one charging call that's very obvious not only on the replay, but to all sitting in the building, goes the visitors' way. On the other hand, maybe it's just the refs balancing Suhr's Karma for calls that went his way earlier this season.

But kudos to DJ for an impressive all-around performance, and let's hope the guys around him snap out of this turnover-funk (granted, only 13, but it seemed like more) by Saturday's game at UConn. Connecticut is vulnerable, and a road win there would really shoot Indiana up the Bracket rankings. If IU can get back to its rebounding and turnover-free ways, the Hoosiers could be really troublesome for the Huskies.

For all the Statwonks out there:

Big Ten Wonk has posted the season's first conference tempo-free stats.

Kyle Whelliston's Mid-Majority report is required reading, especially the stat breakdowns.

And it would be ridiculous not to mention Ken Pomeroy's Stats page, as well as his RPI and "Pomeroy ratings."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Road Wins!

Indiana Hoosiers pick up a big one at Penn State, which won't be an easy place for other Big Ten clubs to sneak out with a win. Rod Wilmont's getting a lot of love for his 25 pt.-12 rebound performance, and he should, but 17 threes attempted? Yow. Rod and Bracey Wright were friends, and it looks like Rod has held on to Bracey's shooting metric ("yeah... I can miss from anywhere on the court") . But when you need someone with cojones who will come right back after the opponents have just hit a big three, and go into a cross-over pull-up for three and take all the air out of a hostile arena, Rod's your guy.

But I'll say this for Rod, he is undaunted, he's active defensively, and he cleans the glass so, so well. With him and DJ, I'm finally not cringing when an opponent misses a free throw. And AJ Ratliff and Armon Bassett are coming back nicely from their injuries, and Earl Calloway continues his relatively solid play at point.

IU has moved up to #8 in the Blue-Ribbon poll, really the only one I respect. Awesome. I wouldn't necessarily vote them that high, but these Hoosiers really ought to be getting at least some ARV love in the polls.
Speaking of polls, there's been some very silly talk about the Pac-10 getting 7 or 8 bids in the NCAA tourney. Ridiculous. I do respect Yoni Cohen & suspect that he's just being provocative, but still. The Pac-10 should rebound from recent trends of getting a max of 3-4 bids, but we are talking 5 bids. No way the Pac-10 gets more bids than the ACC or even the Big East. I don't know who thinks California (11-6) is a legit contender, or that Washington's 1-5 conference record (11-6 overall) deserves any sort of consideration. UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona appear to be the locks, with Washington State, Stanford, and Southern California fighting it out for the last couple of spots. Stanford looks pretty strong at the moment, but they've got a brutal 8-game stretch coming up where they could play pretty well indeed and still come out with a 2-6 record (dropping them to 4-8 in-conference). Their Rpi/sagarin rankings were already pretty shaky, so I doubt they make it. Washington State looks like a fairly safe bet for fourth for the time being, but they need to get some more road wins to cement an at-large berth. I think the USC probably gets the final spot, but they let a golden opportunity for a marquee win slip away with 1-point home loss to UCLA.

NFL Playoffs
Also, my dream of a Bears-Colts Superbowl is still alive, despite Rex Grossman & Peyton Manning's best efforts. What happened to these guys, anyway? Does anybody remember in November when these were two of the best in the league.

To credit Peyton, though, he's getting third down completions when his team needs it, and he also seems to have gotten the idea of ball-control killing the opponents defense and keeping the other team from scoring points. Still, let's hope his completion % and TD/INT ratio dramatically improve next week.

But the game ball again goes to Tony Dungy, who was both lucky and good in re-creating his defense right when the playoffs began. The late-season insertion of Rob Morris at strongside linebacker has surprised foes looking to exploit the formerly weak run defense, and has allowed Dwight Freeney and newly returned safety Bob Sanders (that's the lucky part) to make the big plays. Now, they've got to face a scrappy New England team, this time at home, and see if they can't finally get to the Superbowl. Everything has fallen out right for the Colts, they've just got to capitalize and execute.

Chicago toughed out an OT win. Who knows with these guys? They just aren't consistent enough to make any predictions. They had some bad luck (Devin Hester had a 63-yd punt return) and some good luck, and made good use of an 18-yard punt by Seattle to get position and kick the game-winner. They play the Saints at home. If I have to pick as to which team gets upset, I'm afraid I gotta say the Bears. They should beat the Saints, but New Orleans have that special post-Katrina underdog mojo still working for them, and the Bears are saying all the wrong things.

But I hope I'm wrong, and it's the Bears & Colts in the Superbowl!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Purdue gets waxed

By the hometown Hoosiers, 85-58. Yikes.

I Wish I could've seen it. Thanks, ESPNU!

But it looks like Coach Sampson is the guy we want at the helm. This Hoosier club appears to really be coming together and figuring out their roles. DJ's ability to get shots off seems to come and go, but his defense and passing have gotten pretty good.

And when Joey Shaw, AJ Ratliff, and Armon Bassett are hitting threes like that, IU's going to be pretty tough to beat at home.

A couple of notes of concern:

1) DJ's rebounding
He only got 3 rebounds again. I don't know if he's clearing the way for other guys to "go get it," or if it's a result of his shot-blocking, but he's being kept off the boards. We'll have to keep an eye on his rebounding in non-blowouts.

2) Joey Shaw fouls out again

Shaw does a great job of drawing fouls, he clearly has a great offensive game, and ability on the defensive end. Maybe because he's a freshmen he's getting picked on by the zebras, but as he gets better, we need him not to be in foul trouble every game.

3) Armon Bassett's hip

Bassett sat out most of the second half. Hopefully it doesn't hinder him too much, as he had really been coming on lately. It doesn't seem like much, but nagging injuries put an end to the effectiveness of both Damon Bailey and Tom Coverdale in their senior years.

But overall, I'm very happy. I'm glad Indiana is thumping Purdue in Assembly Hall, a Purdue team that has real postseason aspirations, even.

I just wish I could've seen it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Nicely done, Hoosiers!

Last night's contest was one that turned the meta-narrative (that has been developed of the MSU-IU games) squarely on its head. Over the last 10+ years, the final Bob Knight squads and the Mike Davis squads would play Michigan State tough in Assembly Hall by simply out-shooting Tom Izzo's squads, while Tom Izzo's squads would "pwn" Indiana in the rebounding and overall defense categories. Also, generally the refs pay attention to MSU's key players, and a Paul Davis-type would get some significant foul trouble at the end of the game.

The refereeing just didn't figure in this one (if anything, they let 'em play), and Tom Izzo just had no answer for IU's tough defense. We knew that Michigan State hadn't really proven all that much outside of a nice win over Texas, that Maurice Joseph and Raymar Morgan would be rusty in their first game back from injuries, and that MSU turns the ball over WAAAY too much for starting two point guards. I thought that IU would make some Kentucky-style runs on MSU, feasting on Spartan turnovers, but what I really did not expect is the way that Indiana, particularly Lance Stemler in guarding Goran Suton, would kick MSU's ass in rebounding. Izzo's going to be showing this tape to Goran and rest of the Sparties, for sure.

But what I'm really happy about (especially after the sweet-shooting in the loss at OSU) is the way Indiana executed in every aspect of the game and beat a decent team while only shooting 3-17 from behind the arc. If Stemler and IU in general had hit at their normal rate, this would've been at least 30-point blowout going into the final minute, instead of the 20-point thrashing that it was. The shooting will come and go, but tough defense, holding on to the ball, and good rebounding will keep you in many a game.

What was surprising in IU's tough defense/rebounding performance was that DJ White only had three rebounds. He & Wilmont have been our rock in that department, and that's been one of the bulwarks of DJ's productive efficiency. Also, he recorded zero assists, but that was mostly due to Stemler's poor perimeter shooting. So while DJ's scoring was up (which is a very good thing), his overall effective productivity was down, but even that would've been fixed by Stemler hitting a couple of threes. Let's hope that Lance is saving those for Purdue, if not for a crucial road game down the stretch.

Running my new Hper ratings this weekend across the conference board, DJ is surprisingly good per possession, coming in over .5000 with just a few players. Ohio State dominates the group with Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Othello Hunter (!), but Brian Butch also surfaces as exceedingly efficient. Wolverine frosh Ekpe Udoh was also frightening efficient, and if he sticks around for a couple of years, he could be a pretty good player. Again, I don't want to make too much of these stats until a few conference games are available for dissection (due to strength of schedule variables), but Ohio State's personnel does look pretty great. I'm not sure if it's due to a fairly weak schedule, flaws in my rating system, or just plain ol' awesomeness, but I'll be keeping an eye on it as the season progresses.


Running my numbers through after this last week's conference games, Landry had a couple of amazingly efficient games (28.8hpg, and a .5311 hpps), and DJ's games were considerably less so (19.3 hpg, .4007). So right now, Landry does have better numbers than DJ (.5131 to .4427: Big reversal!). However, IU faced arguably 2 of the conference's top 3 teams, and Purdue faced arguably two of the conference's worst. And both teams came out with a 1-1 record.
But I've made my case for DJ White's inclusion for All-Big 10 based on the preconference numbers, and we'll see how it holds up in Big 10 play.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Well, who expected a win at OSU anyway?

Realistically, I sure didn't. And I was happy to see IU compete, go toe-to-toe with the most hyped Big Ten team and not blink. Sampson has these guys playing unafraid, and I really like that. I was still a little mad with the late-game turnovers that killed IU's chances, but they competed, and that's all I can ask. Coach Sampson can certainly ask more, tho.

Ohio State is going to suffer some losses in conference play. There were a couple of calls that went missing (like the key play when the Buckeyes wrapped their arms around DJ and threw him to the ground on a dunk attempt, which ended up in open three on the other end), and a little bit of gamesmanship by Matta that probably wouldn't stand up on a neutral floor, let alone on the road. But Big Ten foes, unlike the Hoosiers, will likely not hit 12 of 22 threes or go perfect at the FT line.

I liked Ohio State's constant attempts to get the rim, to use their athleticism to sure points from dunks or free-throws. Good execution, great guard play. And while Greg Oden is the real deal, he did get in foul trouble at home. He's going to see some serious foul trouble as season goes on and the Buckeyes leave the nest a little more. Mike Conley was truly amazing, tho. 9 points, 10 assists, ZERO turnovers, and a couple of short stretches where he terrorized IU's backcourt.

The freshmen I came away being really impressed with (besides Oden & Conley, due deference there) were Indiana's. Joey Shaw and Armon Bassett didn't back down at all, and I like the way they look to hit the open perimeter shot, use pump-fakes to get open, and drive to draw fouls.

So, with this in mind, I ran down some quick stats to unveil my Big Ten freshmen top 25 rankings. I used Big Ten Wonk's team possession per-game method, and his individual-possession calculation method, but I'll trot the strict math out more when I'm doing conference-games only, as the difference in opponent scheduling still skews the scales. Of course, I'm using my HPER productivity rating, in which I use the box scores to tell me how valuable a player is in getting possessions for his team, taking possessions from the other team, and helping to convert those possessions into points. I've tweaked it slightly so that Assists are multiplied by 2.5 to reflect 3-pointers and free-throws. Not entirely scientific, but better than a flat factor of 2.

So, the new HPER formula is:

Points + Rebounds + Offensive Rebounds + [2 x(Steals+Blocks)] + (2.5 x Assists)
- [Missed FGs + (2 x Turnovers) + (Missed FTs/2)]

Divide by game for per-game rating (hpg), and divide by individual possession for per-possession rating (hpps).

#. School, Name (# of possessions per game they see on the floor) raw HPER total / HPER production per game / HPER production per possession

1. OSU, Greg Oden (47.2 pspg) 220.5 /31.5 hpg/ .6674 hpps
2. OSU, Mike Conley (48.6 pspg) 390/ 27.9 hpg / .5732 hpps
3. OSU, Daequan Cook (40.2 pspg) 255.5/18.3 hpg/ .4539 hpps
4. NU, Kevin Coble (41.5 pspg) 251.5/18 hpg/ .4329 hpps
5. Iowa, Tyler Smith (53.5 pspg) 281.5/ 20.1 hpg/.3758 hpps
6. Michigan, Ekpe Udoh (31.5 pspg) 227.5/15.2 hpg/ .5322 hpps
7. Purdue, Chris Kramer (40.1 pspg) 155/ 15.5 hpg/ .3865 hpps
8. MSU, Isaiah Dahlman (30.1 pspg) 173/ 12.4 hpg/ .4105 hpps
9. MSU, Raymar Morgan (40.1 pspg) 108.5/12.1 hpg/.3006 hpps
10. Indiana, Armon Bassett (40.6 pspg) 156/ 12hpg/ .2956 hpps
11. Minnesota, Damian Johnson (18.9 pspg) 93/ 7.8 hpg/ .4101 hpps
12. Michigan, DeShawn Sims (16.7pspg) 80.5/6.2 hpg/ .3708 hpps
13. Indiana, Joey Shaw (24.1 pspg) 104/ 8 hpg / .3319 hpps
14. Wisconsin, Jason Bohannon (26 pspg) 116/ 8.3 hpg/ .3187 hpps
15. Purdue, Keaton Grant (37.9 pspg) 171.5 / 11.4 hpg / .3017 hpps
16. Minnesota, Kevin Payton (32 pspg) 116/ 8.3 hpg/ .2589 hpps
17. Illinois, Brian Carlwell (11.8 pspg) 65.5/ 4.4 hpg/ .3701 hpps
18. Indiana, Xavier Keeling (13.4pspg) 39/ 4.9 hpg/ .3639 hpps
19. Purdue, Jonathan Uchendu (13.1pspg) 65/ 4.6 hpg / .3571 hpps
20. NU, Jeff Ryan (21 pspg) 65.5/ 5 hpg/ .2399 hpps
21. NU, Jeremy Nash (12.8 pspg) 49/ 3.5 hpg/ .2734 hpps
22. Purdue, David Vandervieren (10.3 pspg) 40 /3.1 hpg/ .2987 hpps
23. OSU, David Lighty (36.8 pspg) 121.5/ 8.7 hpg/ .2019 hpps
24. Michigan, Reed Baker (15.6 pspg) 25/ 2.1 hpg/ .1335 hpps
25. Wisconsin, Trevon Hughes (14.7 pspg) 25.5 /1.8 hpg/ .1239 hpps
25. Minnesota, Lawrence Westbrook (16.9 pspg) 20 /1.8 hpg/ .1076 hpps

Some quick notes.

In ranking, I didn't strictly go by the per-game productivity or the per-possession, but the per-possession did have a lot more consideration. Some cases are easy to spot for anomolies, like Isaiah Dahlmann, who's playing time will drop when Maurice Joseph and Raymar Morgan come back, and productivity will suffer as opponent strength increases.
Also interesting, it looks like David Lighty of OSU is one of the worst per-possession producers, and my guess is that he only gets as much playing time as he does due to OSU's lack of backcourt depth.
Disclaimer: I didn't do every Big Ten freshman. But I did all the ones that I thought could be fairly assessed. I think I only missed 9 non-walk-on, active true freshmen (Bryce Webster & Engen Nurumbi-Minn., K'lon Morris and Kendrick Price-Michigan, Matt Steger-NU, DJ Jackson-PSU, Brett Wessels & Josh Crawford-Iowa, & CJ Jackson-Illinois).

And a final btw, last night Iowa unsurprisingly beat MSU at home, keeping Big Ten home teams undefeated.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Big Ten Begins! Power poll, stats

Conference play 2007 finally kicks off with a great match-up tonight, the Hoosiers at the Buckeyes. It's gonna be tough for IU, but they've played well on the road so far, but just not really winning any games. If I were Kelvin Sampson, I'd probably take the air out of the ball, slowing it down to decrease the amount of possessions to try to stay close and then make a run at the end. Not turning the ball over will be very important, as the Buckeyes have a great transition attack. Also, I'd probably play man-to-man, but double Oden at every opportunity, trying to make the Buckeye freshmen pass as much as possible, and hope it leads to some miscues.

Also, my latest HPer/possession calculations indicate that Xavier Keeling (.4742) is second only to DJ White (.4899) in production per possession. Keeling had a great game against Ball State, but we'll see if he can bring it against tougher competition. Earl Calloway (.4197), Rod Wilmont (.3860), and Joey Shaw (.3255) round out the top five, but I'd still probably go with a starting five of DJ, Stemler (.2751), Wilmont, Calloway, and Bassett (.3054) due to Buckeye's trapping defense. I'd also look for Suhr (.1698, 11th on the team) to get some time due to his calming influence on the team.

Good luck, Hoosiers!

Final pre-conference power poll!

1. Wisconsin (14-1)
They just win. The most consistent team, the deepest team, the best player (Alando Tucker) and the best coach. Pretty simple pick it would seem except for...

2. Ohio State (11-2)
The most talented team, for sure, but freshmen inconsistency will probably wreck their Big Ten title hopes. Also, figuring out how to compete on the road, not that Florida isn't a really great team (they are), but the Buckeyes didn't challenge at all.

3. Michigan State (13-2)
Haven't been tested lately, and they need Raymar Morgan and Maurice Joseph back and playing at their best if the Sparties are to hope for a top three finish.

4. Indiana (9-3)
If IU can pull an upset tonight at OSU, they might just be on a title track. A forgiving schedule, if there is such a thing in the Big Ten, will help IU through the conference.

5. Illinois (12-3)
Not great, but getting better. As McBride, Smith, and Randle get back into playing shape, they'll get better and better.

6. Purdue (11-3)
Still fighting for a NCAA spot, but their hopes took a big hit when they got stomped by Indiana State. The road could be pretty ugly for Matt Painter's squad.

7. Northwestern (10-3)

Bill Carmody can coach, and Kevin Coble is a pretty good player. I wasn't sure if NU would get to 10 wins the entire season, but now they've got a decent shot at the NIT.

8. Michigan (12-3)
Every bit as bad as I thought they were. Tommy Amaker has got to go, how he outlasted Dan Monson and Mike Davis, I'll never know.

9. Iowa (8-6)
Not gonna scare anyone, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them beat Michigan State. Really, the difference between teams #3-#10 I don't see being bigger than homecourt advantage.

10. Penn State (9-4)
Good wins over Maine and VMI, but still haven't proved that they're back at last year's level.

11. Minnesota (6-8)
Small turnaround since Dan Monson left, but a long year awaits.

Some pre-conference stats for tonight's game:

1.08 pts/pspg
0.87 opp. pts/pspg

1.17 pts/pspg
0.91 opp. pts/pspg

Congratulations, Coach Knight.

I started watching basketball late in high school (very late indeed for a boy growing up in Bloomington, but I had other athletic interests), and it wasn't my high school team I started rooting for, but Indiana University.

I was no fan of the antics of Bobby Knight, who seemed like a bully who couldn't take a joke. But I fell in love with his teams. The team-first mentality, the absence of any recruiting scandals or even of spoiled behavior on the part of his players were all lures. The players were good citizens, and if they weren't, they were gone.

But even more than that was the motion offense, help-side defense, and passing. IU players never had too gaudy of stats at least in terms of rebounding, blocks, and assists, because they did what they were supposed to do, which was help each other out. Cal Cheaney did set the Big Ten Scoring record, but that again was pure Knight: get the guy who can shoot to take the shots. Also, guys like Cheaney and Henderson were consistent throughout their career, which was how they got records. Knight favored consistency over spectacular highlights, which is why he has the most wins of any head coach ever.

Knight also has 3 championships, a 6-2 record in the Final Four, and is just a few bad breaks/injuries from having up to 5 more championships ('73, '75, '83, '92, '93). And I gotta say, I love the way Knight teams play. And I like what Knight does for Libraries, the priority he puts on education, and the priority he puts on making sure his players come out of his program as good citizens with a future. I also like that he knows that it is important to coach with both passion and a sense of humor, even if it gets in him into trouble.

So here's to you, Coach Knight. I hope you get your due recognition from Indiana, (and I hope you allow it to happen without lawsuits or grandstanding) and I hope you have many more years on the bench, wherever you are. I've only got coffee to hoist right now, but it seems fitting enough.

Good on ya.