Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Ten Power Poll 2009, Week 4

1. Michigan State (6-1)
The Sparties currently still look like the conference's best team, redeeming a terrible home loss to Northwestern with a crushing road win over Ohio State. It looks like Spartans' Weblog was right: just throw that NU loss out as a statistical aberration until any further evidence of weakness comes in.

2. Illinois (5-2)

The fightin' Illini had a lot to do with other teams bad weeks, as they put the dagger into both Ohio State and Wisconsin. Granted that both games were home games that Illinois should be winning, if you look at the earlier road win at Purdue, Illinois is definitely the second best team in the conference right now. And if comes down to the end of the season for the conference title, they host Michigan State in their last home game.

3. Purdue (4-2)

Slowly climbing back into this thing with a nice road win at Minnesota. If they can follow that up with a road win at Wisconsin, the Boilers are truly back in conference title contention. But they probably need to win at Illinois in a couple of weeks before they move any further up the rankings.

4. Minnesota (5-3)

A loss followed by a narrow win at Indiana. Honestly, if Indiana hits its free-throws, Minnesota's NCAA tourney chances would've taken a serious hit. But for now, they're coasting along despite the home loss to Purdue. And yet, with Wisconsin and Ohio State tanking, they might still lack a solid conference victory at this point.

5. Wisconsin (3-4)
Incredibly, a Bo Ryan team now has four conference straight losses. The Badgers have to rally in a home game against Purdue if they want to stay in the NCAA at-large bid conversation. The road loss to Illinois was perhaps to be expected, but that OT loss at Iowa really stings. I think Joe Krabbenhoft has to step up and ask for the ball a little more.

6. Ohio State (3-4)
OSU started conference play with a not-great week, then had a bad week, followed it with a really good week, and now have had another bad weekin getting both by MSU (at home) and at Illinois. Neither is really a bad loss, but neither was close either. Thad Matta has to get his guys to bounce back and start being competitive, because a good stretch in the schedule is approaching and they could put together a much-needed win streak.

7. Penn State (5-3)

The home wins over Michigan and Iowa don't do anything to move them up the standings. If they sweep their Michigan road trip they'll get a big bump up, but I don't see that happening. Jamelle Cornley is finally starting to play like the senior star he is, but the Nittany Lions' fortunes rise and fall with their three-point shooting.

8. Michigan (4-4)

The Wolverines snapped their losing streak with a nice win over Northwestern. But Michigan also absorbed a loss at PSU and is looking more and more like a NIT team than a NCAA contender. Manny Harris is still filling up the stat sheets, but the UM defense needs a bit of tightening, I think.

9. Northwestern (2-5)

Two straight wins over ranked teams wasn't be translated into any momentum as NU couldn't win at Michigan. But that win at MSU will remain one of the best wins the Wildcats have ever notched. When I watched the first game against the Spartans, I thought to myself "why is Coble shooting so often?" Now I know. Conference opponents have been warned.

10. Iowa (2-5)
Even though the Hawkeyes are stuck between the mediocre (PSU, NU, Michigan) and the really bad (Indiana), they seem to be coming on a little stronger as their finally getting so inside play from former reserves (first David Palmer, and Aaron Fuller vs. PSU). But as Lickliter's still getting little production out of their bench on any given game, and Cyrus Tate remains injured, the season's outlook still isn't bright for this club. The OT over Wisconsin was nice, though, even if the collapse at PSU took a little of the luster off.

11. Indiana (0-6)
Another close loss in the only game of the week, hosting Minnesota. The Hoosiers haven't given up, but they just aren't as good of a team as everyone else in the conference. The next week-and-a-half holds the very best chances for this club to notch a conference win: at Northwestern, home vs. a slumping Ohio State, and on Feb. 4th, a home match vs. Iowa.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What? The Mildcats win at MSU?

Crazy. I knew the Wildcats would be better, but this is a win that I doubt anyone else notches. Spartans Weblog chalks it to up to statistical aberration and says to let it go. It's why they play the games after all. But if NU is able to win at MSU, IU's chances of taking them down at home can be considered a diminishing.

In this great week of ours with this historic inauguration, I'd encourage Hoosier fans to read over Jared Jeffries' words here.

And in the good IU news column, after the Women's team pulled away from Purdue late at home, they're now alone in first place in the conference. At least someone in the Cream and Crimson is playing some good basketball!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Big Ten Power Poll 2009, Week 3

1. Michigan State (5-0)
Izzo's team is just continuing to win, despite a relatively narrow escape at home vs. Illinois and a close call at Penn State. The Spartans keep notching victories, which is what champions do. I'll mention how much better this team since getting Suton back and how deep this club is, but I think it's most noteworthy to Marquise Gray finally excelling. His outstanding performance against Illinois was almost certainly the difference in the game.

2. Illinois (3-2)
Actually, a narrow loss at Michigan State may be the serving of a notice to the rest of the conference that Illinois is a real title threat in the Big Ten this year. The Illini handily avenged their loss to Michigan, and only lost at MSU because their shooters (Meachem & McCamey) went cold- although I'm sure the Sparty defense had a little to do with that.

3. Minnesota (4-2)
I've been something of a skeptic of this club, despite its ranking, and last week did nothing to dispel any questions. The Gophers go and beat Wisconsin on the road in OT, and then lose at Northwestern. How good is a win at Wisconsin? Very good indeed, but how bad is a loss to Northwestern? For now, I'm guessing not that bad.

4. Wisconsin (3-2)
It's only one game, but the badgers lost in OT at home to Minnesota. I do still think this is a tough, well-balanced team, but I honestly expected a little more out of Joe Krabbenhoft in his senior year. I think that unlike the last few years, this UW club just looks beatable, which is a dangerous thing. If Krabbenhoft steps up and leads a little more by example on defense, the Badgers could get some of that swagger back.

5. Purdue (3-2)
The squeaker at Northwestern won't restore anyone's confidence, but the blowout win over Iowa should help boost the shooters (Grant, Moore) that the Boilers need to contend for the title. This week may hold the Boilers' ultimate destiny with road games at Minnesota & Wisconsin. If they can get both of these, Purdue is back, if neither, they're in trouble.

6. Ohio State (3-2)
Great week for OSU with a blowout win over Indiana, and then with their confidence back they go on the road and hold off a furious rally at Michigan. Nicola Kecman, after a nice debut vs. Houston Baptist, didn't play in either win, and David Lighty still isn't back, so the really good news is that the Buckeyes are figuring out how to win with the troops they have.

7. Penn State (3-3)
Actually, these Nittany Lions are looking like they are quite a bit better than last season's incarnation, but they've never had a guy like Talor Battle before. When Battle waved everyone off and swished a 25-footer at the shot-clock buzzer with a hand in his face to quell a second-half surge by the Hoosiers, that was confidence I'd never seen from PSU player before. And Stanley "lotion salesman" Pringle may actually be even more impressive in conference games so far, but I'll have to crunch the numbers on that in a couple more games. Still, challenging MSU, even in a home loss, is probably more impressive than a win at Bloomington this season.

8. Michigan (3-3)
Bad week. Michigan now looks like the weakest of the contenders after getting thumped by Illinois and losing at home to Ohio State. It's a good thing they've got those wins over UCLA & Duke in their back pocket, because that makes the Wolverines probably the only club that could finish 7th in the conference standings and get a NCAA tourney bid.

9. Northwestern (1-4)
A win! Just when I was starting to doubt whether the Mildcats really were better than last year, they get their first win over a ranked team. This week looks to be a little rough with two games road games in Michigan, but the schedule lightens up after that.

10. Iowa (1-4)
The chances of getting to any postseason are rapidly diminishing for the Hawkeyes. If Tate comes back fully ready to go by the end of the week and Iowa starts defending its homecourt, then they might be able to squeak into the NIT or CBI. And while we shouldn't get down on any conference club for two road losses, the Hawkeyes just seem a little less competitive then they were earlier this year.

11. Indiana (0-5)
The good news: the Hoosiers are more competitive at home and now have a favorable stretch in which they can notch their first conference win. The bad news: This just isn't that good of a team. There are some freshmen pieces here (Pritch, Williams, Jones) but not enough to stay tough against ten other conference teams all looking to get to the postseason.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'Nother beating

I didn't expect a win at OSU, they have the combo of shot-blockers and shooters that really expose this Hoosier team's shortcomings. But, I didn't expect Tom Pritchard to have a good game and for the Hoosiers still to lose so badly. They really have to start defending the three-point shot a lot better.

But a good stretch is now approaches for the IU team. I don't know that they'll get a win in the next five games, but it's certainly their best chance to notch a conference victory until they host Northwestern at the end of February. I remain confident that the Hoosiers will win at least one game. But it's going to continue to be a rough go on the road this year.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Big Ten Power Poll 2009, Week 2

1. Michigan State (3-0)
The Sparties are looking like the best conference team by far, and picking up a nice win over Kansas while Lucas is starting to get his shot falling results in a week that should have the other Big Ten teams nervous. Everyone seems to be playing better since Suton got back- he won't wow you with per-game stats, but he may be the best center in the conference.

2. Wisconsin (3-1)
The Badgers suffer their first loss at Purdue, but with Hummel's first game back from injury, that's really not a bad loss. Bo Ryan's got his club in good position for yet another title run. It seems strange to say, but I'm most concerned about the Badger defense.

3. Illinois (2-1)
Hopefully the Illini feel better about last season's losses to Indiana, because they played just about perfectly and crushed the walk-ons and freshmen that make up the Hoosier squad. Bruce Weber has assumed the mantle of the new Gene Keady in that he always looks like his team has never gotten a call, ever, even when they're up by 30.

4. Michigan (3-1)

It's a sweet-shooting scrappy club that Beilien has put together, but they're probably also a bit lucky not to be 2-2 after an OT win at Indiana, and the home victory over a Tate-less Iowa is unlikely to convince anyone that this isn't a middling conference team. But, hey, they're 3-1, and they can beat anybody.

5. Minnesota (2-1)

I'm still not really sold on these guys, despite the blowout win over PSU. They were barely able to win at Iowa, even after Cyrus Tate went down early. While I do think their pressure will spell big problems for IU, I don't see them as a real threat to Wisconsin or MSU yet.

6. Purdue (1-2)
The Boilers seem to have some sort of strange grip over Wisconsin. The home win was nice for a team just starting to come back and a healthy Hummel makes a big difference, too. Keaton Grant & E'Twuann Moore need to get back on track offensively if the Boilers are going to challenge MSU, tho.

7. Penn State (2-2)

Yes, I know the Lions just nipped Purdue last week. But, it was a home game for PSU while Purdue didn't have Robbie Hummel, so they didn't face the real Boilermakers. But give them credit, they are earning their wins and looked respectable in a loss at Wisconsin. If the game at Minnesota wasn't an aberration, then they might be in trouble, but I'd guess they're still a NIT-worthy team.

8. Ohio State (1-2)
Of all of the teams here, I think the Buckeyes are really the ones on the knife-edge. They're good enough to make the NCAA tournament, but they're also not good enough to overcome a really bad conference start, either. They've got to start taking care of business if they want to bounce back.

9. Northwestern (0-3)
The Wildcats start out with a tough schedule, so Carmody has to rally his troops so they don't get too down after a bad start. They'll get some wins, but if they want a post-season, NU has to scrape out a road win or two.

10. Iowa (1-3)
Losing Cyrus Tate in a narrow home loss to Minnesota hurts this thin club really badly. The rest of the month (@Pur, v. Wis., @PSU, v. MSU, @Ill.) looks like it could be pretty brutal. Good thing they eked out that narrow home victory against IU early.

11. Indiana (0-3)
I'm not giving up hope, even with Dumes injury. Dumes could create offense, but he also created a lot of opportunities for the other team as well. Any game could be where the Hoosiers could jump on somebody and spring the upset. Well, probably not at Ohio State, but Jones & Williams are starting to get more comfortable in the offense, which is good when not much else is.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


It's rough being a Hoosier this year, but I'm still watching. It's tough to see the OT loss to Michigan followed up by an absolute killing at Illinois (they didn't miss anything, it seemed: 3 threes from Keller?). But the silver lining is that I'm starting to see freshmen Verdell Jones and Nick Williams get comfortable in the offense. With Dumes out with a rolled ankle (he should be back before too long), Jones & Williams should have some practice time to start getting used to looking for their shots.

Up next is a game at OSU, which if they shoot threes like Illinois, could be another tough one for IU fans. But after that is a good five-game stretch where the young Hoosiers can compete, and hopefully notch their first conference win.

Keep working hard, Hoosiers. It'll pay off.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Big Ten Power Poll 2009, Week 1

1. Michigan State (2-0)
Two road games, two wins. One has to think that MSU has the inside track to a conference championship, but it's still very early. I've been impressed with the composure that this extremely athletic club exhibits, as long as they have a healthy Suton on the floor.

2. Wisconsin (2-0)
Never, ever count out the Badgers under Bo Ryan. However, teams 2-7 are all bunched in one strata, in my mind. Wisconsin deserves the "first among equals" status, not just for being one of two undefeated teams two games into conference play, but also for the nice win at Ann Arbor.

3. Illinois (1-1)
Illinois got a nice win that few others will get this season, a surprise victory at Mackey Arena. While it's hard to fault them for coming away from two road games with a split, you definitely can't put them above UW, who won where the Illini didn't.

4. Purdue (0-1)
This is probably the lowest that Boilers will get in the power rankings, barring a real let-down. I'm confident in Painter's squad bouncing back. However, I will say that this club is struggling forward, rather than taking another quantum jump like we saw happen last year.

5. Minnesota (1-1)
The Golden Gophers are still something of a mystery: sure, they lost at home to MSU, but that might prove to be a pretty common experience for conference teams; and they held serve at home vs. Ohio State, but OSU was probably at a low point in terms of personnel available. No worries, tho', because by the end of January we should know plenty about Tubby's team.

6. Michigan (1-1)
They couldn't beat Wisconsin at home, but they did snap back with a good win over Illinois. If the Wolverines can stay above .500 in conference play, they've got a good shot at the NCAA tourney, but they can't lose many more home games if that's the goal.

7. Ohio State (1-1)
They've lost David Lighty for at least the month of January, Anthony Crater transferred (but honestly won't be missed- PJ Hill seems to be picking up the slack just fine), and forward/center Kecman is now available. The latest word is not to expect Kecman to provide much more than Terwiliger used to, but even that'll help. The Buckeyes aren't looking like a conference title contender, but they aren't out of the running for an NCAA bid.

8. Penn State (1-1)
Was it PSU looking tough at Wisconsin, or was it just Wisconsin not putting away an inferior team? The Nittany Lions have done a pretty good job challenging at the end of games, which helped them avoid a home loss to Northwestern. Still, I'm not sure they should be this up this high- Northwestern may well prove to be the better team.

9. Northwestern (0-2)
The above caveat aside, NU's off to another bad start. You can't heap too much blame on Carmody for getting a loss on the road and a home loss to Michigan State, but the Wildcats have got to start winning conference games. It doesn't get any easier with a game at Wisconsin and home match vs. Purdue up next on the docket.

10. Iowa (1-1)
The Hawkeyes wasted an incredible three-point shooting display at OSU, going 14-28 from beyond the arc while getting few points otherwise in a narrow loss. The home game against Indiana couldn't have been reassuring to the Hawkeye faithful either. I don't know how much having Anthony Tucker will help, but it's got to help some. However, there's something funny going on between Tucker & Coach Lickliter, because Tucker's PT has gotten real funny. This is often what player stats look like right before a transfer is announced.

11. Indiana (0-1)
I've said plenty about Indiana. I suppose one could make an argument that in conference play, Indiana only has one narrow loss as opposed to Northwestern's multiple losses and therefore shouldn't be in last place, but who would I be fooling? Probably just myself. Nick Williams' play at Iowa was a nice surprise, tho, hopefully that continues.

Monday, January 05, 2009

IU-Iowa thoughts

I was actually pleased to see the Hoosiers pull back into this game and actually threaten an upset on the road. I was also disappointed to see perhaps IU's best opportunity to spring a stunner on the road slip away. But at least the turnover rate is slowly ticking down.

What I liked:
The hustle, the never-say-die hard work on defense, and the rebounding! Aside from a blown box-out here and there, it was surprisingly good work on the glass from this undersized club. Kyle Taber & Tom Pritchard deserve some credit for hanging in their despite foul trouble, even if they couldn't contain Cyrus Tate. Also, Nick Williams has some go-to ability to create his own shot, which was great to see when Dumes fouled out. If the Hoosiers continue to compete like this, they won't go defeated in conference play.

What I didn't:
The fouls (it is always a challenge to learn how to play tough D on the road without fouling). Daniel Moore stands out here for getting four fouls in 11 minutes. Taber fouled out in 17, but his final foul was absolutely the right thing to do (preventing a lay-up/dunk). The foul-shooting in the first-half made me sick, but the Hoosiers redeemed themselves in the second half. And while I liked Dumes' ability to create offense, he still plays a bit sloppy and has too short of a fuse. And ultimately, our biggest problem continues to be just relying on too many freshmen, as they just commit obvious freshman mistakes (blown lay-ups, silly fouls, pointless dribbling). There's nothing Crean can do about playing freshmen, but hopefully he can continue to educate them about the mistakes while keeping them motivated for the next game.

Go Hoosiers.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Big Ten pre-conference Player efficiency ratings

My preconference player efficiency per-game and per-possession ratings are posted.

The Big Ten season is off to an interesting start, but I've been scrolling through the old DVR'd games of IU getting blown out earlier this season. It makes for a depressing slog, and as I note in my "school reviews" section of the player ratings, the Hoosiers don't have a lot of options this season. I guess Steven Gambles getting eligible is good news, as he dominated the rebounding in exhibition games, but even if he's AJ Moye... well, actually, if he's the new AJ Moye that would be a lot better than what we have to work with right now, outside of Pritchard. But he's not. I hope IU can just jump on a sleeping Iowa team to get a win in early, but since they just lost a narrow one at Ohio State, it seems likely they'll be looking sharp in order to get their first win as well.