Monday, February 12, 2007


Illinois almost got that one, but Indiana slipped away with a 65-61 victory by the skin of its teeth. In the end, Illinois' offense returned to normal, missing key shots down the stretch and turning the ball over, which they had not done all game.

For about 35 minutes, I recognized Illinois' defense, still giving IU fits (although maybe the Hoosiers could've pulled away if they'd quit running sets for Lance Stemler to get open shots) but Illinois' offense had ability that I hadn't seem them display since they were playing Savannah State (well, maybe Arizona). It looks like Chester Frazier and Brian Randle are healthy again, and if they stay that way, and Jamar Smith starts to get some confidence back in his shooting, this Illini squad could be a team that makes a surprise run to the Big Ten tourney title. Watch out.

That aside, Indiana didn't quit, so props to them for pulling this out, but the defense is starting to be a real concern. Sure, the Hoosier offense could make that all go away if they are hitting at an unconscious level again, but there's real problems at the four-spot. Xavier Keeling is a good kid, a strong & quick competitor, but he's no starter yet. When he was in, Illinois ran sets that resulted in lay-ups or open jumpers. The fact that he started is a testament to our weakness at that spot. I know Sampson came to the defense of Stemler, saying he does a lot of other things for the Hoosiers, but Stemler's not a guy who can defend quick power guys or particularly tall forwards. Stemler's more of a Brian Evans-type. You can play him at the 4-spot here and there, but really he belongs at the 3. It's worked for most of the year due to his ability to hit the three, and give IU the chance to run a 1-4 offensive set, but if he can't do it, IU's offense either has to change too a more traditional double-post offense, or Ben Allen has to be able to play some of those minutes. I lobbied for Ben Allen, but we'll see what Sampson does down the stretch.

As Ben & Ken reflect on the value of statistics, I've thought about my own obsession with them of late. I think my interest falls under that category that History, Science, Philosophy, Theology, Sociology, etc. all have fallen under as I've studied them: in search of truth. I think it is valuable to recognize that truth is not an absolute, but also that it's still worth using whatever processes you may to get as close as you can to it.

With that in mind, I've been trying to figure out how to evaluate defenses. I think that you have to look at how your opponents' offense operates. The points-per-possession would the quickest metric, but I'd also like to see how efficient those opponents' defenses are, with some adaptation of the HPER formula.
The goal here is to find how good a team is at limiting possessions and scoring of the other team. One thing that I feel must be addressed is Free-Throw defense. There isn't any. I think a defense should be punished (or the opposing offense should be rewarded) in any offensive efficiency statistical metric for every free throw taken.

My proposal:

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

I'll give it a shot, see if it makes sense.


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