Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Still alive, still watching basketball

And by "watching" I mean stacking games up on my dvr. More like paying attention to the gamecasts while tapping away like a fat pigeon on my thesis. I look forward to a time when I can return to the Big Ten Basketball conversation with stats and arguments and theoretical approaches.

I did get Michigan State correct (yay me!) as well as UNC and in one bracket even got UConn. But my bracket where anything was at stake had Pittsburgh and Memphis. I can still do okay given that I have UNC beating MSU for the championship, which I think looks like a pretty good scenario. But this was not a year that I was particularly well-informed about college basketball.

In IU news, I see Malik Story transferred. It's too bad, but maybe for the best. He provided a lot of depth for the Hoosiers this year, see action at all spots from point guard to power forward. He probably even played center at some point this season. And he was one of the few players who could really create plays and wasn't afraid to look for his shot. The downside of that was Story was a fairly poor shooter (36.5% FG overall, 24.6% on threes, and 58.9% on FTs), below average in every category even on *this* team. And he had a lot of turnovers. But I wish him well in his new school.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big Ten Tourney Time!

No need for a Power Poll this week, the teams have sorted out themselves... or have they? The difference between second-place Purdue and say, Northwestern, has proven to be pretty thin. And the tourney has proven to be pretty cruel to higher seeds. But I don't think this is going to be a problem for Michigan State, which is the deepest and best team in the tourney. They should win walking away.

The NCAA selection committee is probably rooting for the Hoosiers this afternoon so they can justify leaving out Penn State, which barring a really nice run, is probably what's going to happen to PSU. The Big Ten can get 7 teams in (the top 5 seeds should be a lock), but it would require at least two wins and another upset by PSU and/or Michigan. And Minnesota can't lose to Northwestern again, but if it does, NU needs to run the table to get the league all its bids.

My all-uninformed Big Ten selections (my HPER ratings are on hiatus until I get a good draft of my thesis handed in).

Big Ten Player Of the Year- All bloggers should take a moment to hail Spartans' Weblog's particular genius, 'cause I don't think anyone saw this coming, up until even maybe a month ago. But Kalin Lucas was picked the Big Ten POY because he was the best player on the best team. And Travis Walton got defensive honors for a similar reason.

...However, I slightly disagree on both counts. Don't get me wrong, no disrespect meant- they are worthy...Hoosiers should be so lucky to have such a backcourt. But there are other worthies as well. To wit, noone does steals and blocks like Minnesota's Damian Johnson. He averages 2.0 steals and 2.1 blocks per game, which is an amazing combination and top 30 nationally in each per-possession category (according to KenPom). He's the obvious defensive POY in my book.

For Player of the Year, the choices are tougher, as you've got a number of very good players who are incredibly valuable to their teams: OSU's Evan Turner, Purdue's Robbie Hummel, NU's Kevin Coble, Michigan's Manny Harris & DeShawn Sims. I would also add the oft-overlooked Goran Suton- just look at the difference in the Sparties before and after his return.
However, on intangibles, I gotta go with Talor Battle. The sophomore point showed some real leadership, ran his team well in conference play, and pulled a couple of really surprising upsets. Penn State should not, by all expectations, be in the NCAA at-large hunt. But thanks to the game-winner by Battle at home, the Lions nailed down a sweep of the Illini, and it's just one of many big shots he hit this year. Battle racks up assists while keeping turnovers quite low, he shoots a good percentage from behind the arc despite being the focus of the opponents' defense, and he gets to the free-throw line. There's not a lot of separation statistically between Lucas & Battle, Battle's a little better with the Assist/TO ratio and better at 2pt FG% but worse at threes & frees. But Battle was also probably "more valuable" to his team, and honestly, as I said above, the statistical intangibles tip it for me, especially those big shots.

All Big Ten
Talor Battle (PSU)
Manny Harris (UM)
Evan Turner (OSU)
Kevin Coble (NU)
DeShawn Sims (UM)

All Freshman
Delvon Roe (MSU)
Matt Gatens (Io)
William Buford (OSU)
BJ Mullens (OSU)
Verdell Jones (IU)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

1. Michigan State (13-3)
It's all over but the shouting. Congrats, Big Ten champs.

2. Purdue (11-5)
The Boilers should handle NU at home just fine to clinch at least a share of second place, but at MSU on Senior day in the final game is pretty daunting. All this settled now, the question for Boiler fans is: how far do these guys get without a healthy Hummel in the NCAA tourney?

3. Illinois (11-6)
Getting owned at home by Michigan State finally proved what I've been thinking about these guys all along- they just are not at a level of title contender. I've seen a lot of these kinds of teams at Indiana: they're a good team that plays well together (usually) and when they're hitting their threes they are a very formidable opponent indeed. But this is the end of road for Meachem, Frazier, and Brock, barring a great run in the postseason. The Illini have to win at PSU or they'll fall into that 4-5 bracket in the conference tourney.

4. Penn State (9-7)
The Nittany Lions have probably the weakest non-conference resume of all the Big Ten bubble teams, so they need to make sure that they beat Illinois at home on Senior Day, and then win at Iowa to clinch a top-three finish (heck, maybe even tie for second!) to ensure a NCAA bid. Drop one of those games, and PSU will have to make it up in the conference tourney. Drop both, and PSU will be headed back to the NIT.

5. Wisconsin (9-7)

The home win over Michigan, combined with a probable senior day win over Indiana, has just about secured Wisconsin's redemption. They've got a tough game (and probable loss) at Minnesota looming, but to finish with a winning record after that brutal in-conference six-game losing streak shows that old Bo Ryan dominance we've come to respect. Consider that outside that losing streak, Wisconsin has been 9-1 in conference this year, and the only loss was at Michigan State. Now, that streak does count, and Wisconsin needs to make sure that it takes care of business, but I suspect they'll be okay on Selection Sunday.

6. Minnesota (8-8)
Losing in Champaign is nothing to hang one's head about, but Minnesota also is firmly on the bubble and has two games left with teams who are on it as well. Minnesota faces Wisconsin and Michigan, and although they're at both at home, Michigan especially could bump Minnesota off the bubble if they engineer a sweep of the Gophers. Michigan has a better non-conference SOS and signature wins, so it is imperative for Tubby's NCAA chances that Minny fends off that other UM.

7. Ohio State (8-8)
The Buckeyes won a blowout over Penn State at home, but then got blown out by Purdue on the road. OSU is now firmly on the bubble, but the schedule is pretty good from here. As long as Matta can get his guys to win at Iowa and fend off Northwestern at home, a rematch with Iowa awaits in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Win those three games, and I think OSU will have done enough to get an at-large NCAA bid. Any slip-ups tho, and they don't deserve to get in.

8. Michigan (8-9)
This continues to be a two-step-forward/one-step-back year for Michigan. They notched a great home win over Purdue, but then lost a tough one at Wisconsin. Coach Beilien is a year ahead of where I thought he'd have this team, but it won't be good enough to make the NCAA tourney, unless Michigan wins at Minnesota and gets to the semi-finals of the Big Ten tourney... at least.

9. Northwestern (7-9)
The Wildcats have an overall winning season sewn up, and have tied for the second-highest ever win total for NU! A blowout win at Indiana and close home win over Iowa have left NU with a chance to pull in .500 in conference with two games left. However, those games are at Purdue and at Ohio State. It's not impossible to get both, but very unlikely, which leaves me thinking that Carmody's team is pretty much locked into a NIT berth.

10. Iowa (4-12)
The Hawkeyes, incredibly, looked competitive in both road games at MSU and NU. The bad news is that the Hawkeyes are now 0-9 in conference road games. They've got two home games to try to boost their overall record back over .500, and they've got Cyrus Tate back. However, point Jeff Peterson is unlikely to make it back this season, and that may create much of a difference in the final games against PSU & OSU.

11. Indiana (1-15)
All the remaining "reasonable" chances for wins have now gone by the wayside, so barring a huge upset, Indiana looks bound for 1-17 conference season. The Hoosiers could surprise somebody in the conference tourney, but as the #6 seed will still be trying to prove their worth to the NCAA selection committee, it seems pretty unlikely. It's been a year of survival, and faithful Hoosier fans who suffered through this season will be rewarded in the future.