Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Big Ten Preview notes

Espn's summer shootaround for the the Big Ten is up, and I have a few thoughts about it.

1) Their expected hierarchy of Big 10 teams this season is not surprising, while they believe in Minnesota a little less than I do and in Ohio State a lot more, but otherwise it looked pretty similar to my own thoughts on the subject.

2) Ohio State is thought to be a title contender, and a significant justification is that the loss of BJ Mullens will mean almost nothing. My own per-possession efficiency numbers saw Mullens as a significant contributor to the Buckeyes (in fact, one of the best in the Big 10). Furthermore, I would suggest that in fact the loss of a top-notch seven-footer without a significant replacement (count me as dubious about Sarkipoulos' ability to be a major impact in the conference) is going to *really* hurt the Buckeyes' balance on offense. A team that has only perimeter options on offense usually ends up in the NIT. There were plenty of conference games I saw where Mullens came in and made big plays, and unbalanced opposing defenses. It's great example of per-possession versus per-game impact. I do think the Buckeyes will squeak into the NCAA's, because the defense will be balanced enough due to the return of Lighty and Lauderdale ,and because Matta's a stellar coach. But they're a year away from title contention.

3) Part of the undervaluing of Minnesota is seen right there in Doug Gottlieb's surprise that forward Paul Carter could be an up-and-comer. Referring back to the per-possession stats again, Carter was actually second-best in the entire Big 10 during conference play. Gottlieb refers to Carter's 21% shooting, but that's actually just Carter's 3-point shooting, of which he thankfully didn't do too much. Carter's shooting percentage was still mediocre 38% on twos, but his FT% was a solid 77% and he made more free-throws than field goals. Carter wasn't a great passer, but his real value was in having a nice steal/block combo and his furious rebounding ability, getting 4.5 and an eye-opening 2 off. rebs/game despite playing only 16 min./game. Freshman Royce White will probably start for the Gophers, but that's a testament to how deep Tubby's squad is going to be this season. It's no surprise to me that Carter did well when given minutes this summer.


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