Monday, March 12, 2007

The Weekend, Stats, and the Big Dance

Indiana lost to Illinois in Overtime. Count me one of the many who's very happy to see the Big Ten Tourney moving away from the Illini's second home. If nothing else, just so the games won't be called so ugly. It's like watching the '92 Knicks-Pistons series. Don't get me wrong, the Hoosiers got a call or two, but the style of play definitely benefits Bruce Weber's club.

Some folks are angry and/or confused, thinking IU was clearly the better team and should've beat the Illini, but there's a couple of reasons why that didn't happen. The most important is that Illinois had more to play for in this single game than Indiana. This game got Illinois into the NCAA tourney. They lose this one, and Drexel or Syracuse is in. The second reason is IU's outside shots weren't falling. When they were, IU was winning. When they weren't, Illinois was grinding out a tough win. And the final reason was the basketball gods were just smiling on Illinois. The crowd was behind them, the rims were tight as could be, and I counted three crazy plays in the first 25 minutes alone that looked like they were going to be fast-breaks for the Hoosiers, and the ball bounced back into the hands of an Illinois player, resulting in easy looks or lay-ups for the Illini.

All that said (because as a Hoosier fan I would put money on IU in a best-of-7 against Illinois), at the beginning of the season I thought the only clubs who would finish above Indiana were Wisconsin, OSU, and Illinois. When Frazier and Randle are healthy, Illinois is a good defensive club. Pruitt and Carter are no slouches inside, Marcus Arnold is finally providing production off the bench (which is good now that frosh Brian Carlwell is out), and Meachem & Frazier are providing the outside shooting that's been missing for long stretches this year. Randle is a still a defensive terror, and Calvin Brock provides a lot of play-making ability off the bench, and while Rich McBride is having a tough senior year, but still passes well and noone's gonna leave him open. They've got a tough draw with Virginia Tech, but don't be surprised if they make the Hokies sweat.

I posted my Final Hper Stats (regular-season conference games only) on my other blog. I used Google Docs to list a spreadsheet (also viewable here, but I don't like the default view right now, and don't have time to mess with it. Still, the info is there.

It was an unshocking top-five in per-game production, with Oden, Conley, Haluska, Landry, and Tucker. Most surprising top-ten guy had to be Kevin Coble of NU, who is the best Big Ten freshman not in an OSU uniform, edging out Tyler Smith (in production, in per-possession, Coble trounces. Other top ten guys were Claxton, DJ White, and David Teague. Most surprising not-Top Ten is Drew Nietzel, who's on most All-Big Ten first teams. Nietzel's 13th in overall per-game production, and 37th in per-possession effectiveness. Tony Freeman of Iowa is the shocker in per-possession stats, coming in at 3rd, after just a month ago ranking 45th. That one had me re-checking my numbers a couple of times. Greg Stiemsma ranked 8th, but should be 7th if anomaly Kevin Gullikson is thrown out (with only 6.9 possessions per game). That would leave the top of per-possession effectiveness as Oden, Conley, Freeman, Landry, Coble, Othello Hunter, Stiemsma, Tucker, Brent Petway, and DJ White.

In the NCAA tourney news, IU faces Gonzaga in the first round, which is both good and bad. Bad because Gonzaga often plays well in the tourney, good because this isn't last year's Gonzaga team. Heck, this isn't this year's Gonzaga team. A likely second-round draw with UCLA isn't a terrible match-up either, as UCLA likes to play at a Big Ten pace, and is a perimeter oriented squad. IU isn't the "money" team to get to the Sweet 16, but they've got a decent shot, which is all anyone can ask.

Also, the Big Ten got six teams, which I thought was deserved, but on the other hand, will the inclusion of Purdue and Illinois be anything but an 0-2 anchor on the conference's record? We'll see!

Go Hoosiers!


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