Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Big Ten Defense and NCAA hopes

I proposed yesterday to analyze Big Ten Basketball team's defense by looking at how effective the opponents' were able to run their offense. I suggested punishing the defense for all free-throws given, and the offense for missed field goals and (especially) turnovers. Then divide by total possessions for a tempo-free measurement.

Opponent's Pts + missed FT's + Offensive Rebounds -(2xTO's)-Missed FGs
all divided by total possessions.

through 2/11/07

1. Ohio State .2170
2. Illinois .2704
3. Michigan State .3789
4. Purdue .4108
5. Wisconsin .4282
6. Indiana .4290
7. Iowa .4694
8. Minnesota .4934
9. Michigan .4976
10. Penn State .6096
11. Northwestern .7282

Compare this to Big Ten Wonk's Opponent-points-per-possession:
1. Ohio State (0.93)
2. Wisconsin (0.94)
3. Illinois (0.96)
4. Michigan State (0.97)
5. Purdue (1.01)
6. Indiana (1.01)
7. Iowa (1.06)
8. Michigan (1.07)
9. Minnesota (1.07)
10. Northwestern (1.11)
11. Penn State (1.18)

What's interesting that Wisconsin drops from 2nd to 5th. It would suggest that although Wisconsin doesn't allow that many points, you can get to the line. In fact, Wisconsin's Big Ten opponents have shot a mere 64.5% from the FT line, missing out on a whopping 54 points. Also, while Michigan and Minnesota tie for Oppp, you can see that Minnesota is slightly better at disrupting their foes' offensive efficiency. Michigan remains in NCAA contention having just snapped four-game losing streak, including a home loss to Iowa. ESPN's Drive to 65 suggests that the Big Ten's NCAA invites have slid from 5 to possibly only 3. Joe Lunardi at Bracketology posits 9 teams from the ACC. And Yoni Cohen still thinks at least 7 teams from the Pac-10 could make it.

I think 5-6 teams are NCAA-worthy from the Big Ten, and 5 should go. Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Indiana are all locks. Illinois, barring any more meltdowns, should coast to NCAA bid. Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan all have NCAA hopes. But only one of them will probably get in. I bet Michigan collapses and limps to a 6-10 finish. They can't defend, and they barely got by Minnesota at home. This is a tough league, and Amaker's team just isn't tough. Iowa also will probably not make short of winning the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes are 6-5, playing well, and only have one more loss probable (at MSU) in their final 5 games, but I suspect their shooting will cool off somewhere, and they'll get bit. Purdue or Illinois at home could happen, but I think it's at Penn State. Also, I know Alford's team does well in the Big Ten tourney, but I don't see this club doing well. It just looks to much like last season's Minnesota club: on a nice little run, but not really as good as this stretch. Props to Adam Haluska, 'though, who is establishing himself as the top 2-guard in the conference.

That leaves Purdue v. Michigan State. Which one? Well, it will probably come down to the Big Ten tourney to decide that. I would bet that Purdue beats the Hoosiers tomorrow night, loses at Iowa but probably wins the final 3, leaving them at 9-7. I have in the past that Michigan State was overrated (I figured them for NIT pre-season), but now I think they're underrated and getting a lot of bad press for losing four straight, but three were on the road and the home game was vs. Ohio State. The only problem they are having is one of perception, and that's all due to the second half against Purdue. Now, that game was at Purdue, and the Sparties are weakest at Purdue does best at forcing: Turnovers. The result is not surprising, and I'd like to see such proposed NCAA squads like Washington, Georgia, and Maryland play at Purdue. Granted bubble squad Georgia Tech squished Purdue (at GT), but Purdue bounced back to beat "should be in" Virginia at home. Anyway, Michigan State has a brutal schedule down the stretch with winnable games at home v. Michigan & Iowa, then tough games at home v. Wisconsin and Indiana (if they don't get that Wisconsin game, look out Hoosiers), and then finish with games at Michigan and Wisconsin. That final Wisconsin game is a loss, but don't be surprised for MSU to win at least 4, if not all five of its next five games. They get 'em all and they're 9-7. More realistically, they finish 8-8 and have to win 2 tourney games to get into the NCAAs. Purdue probably has to win just 1 tourney game to get in, but I doubt there's room for them both. Purdue has better numbers right now, but give MSU a couple of games against Wisconsin, and that should change. MSU's better at defense, anyway.

I put together a cross-section of the computer numbers (CBS RPI, Sagarin, Blue Ribbon, and Pomeroy as well as Strength of Schedule: RPI & Sagarin) on Google docs. The Big Ten looks pretty solid overall. If your numbers need to be in the 40's to get in, the conference should have 6 teams in the NCAAs, no matter how you slice it.


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