College BB Jack

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Yesterday worked out a lot like we thought it would, scroll down to see the preview. 

Purdue and Northwestern continue on with their preseason tournaments in Puerto Rico and Charleston, SC respectively.  

For Purdue, this is a game to keep a close eye on their defensive efficiency.  Plenty of commentators are writing and tweeting about Purdue’s uncharacteristically permissive defense so far on the season.  Temple will bring a more conventional lineup, and more conventional pace to its game today.  We’ll be watching to see if Purdue’s defense steps up to this challenge.  

Tulsa is exactly the kind of big, physical, great-on-the-glass team Northwestern needs figure out how to beat to make the NCAA tournament.  Tulsa looks to be the 2nd best team in Conference USA (behind Memphis) and will have a great shot at making the NCAA field this year, so a win here by the Wildcats will look attractive to the Selection Committee down the road.  This is a big one. 

In other action…

Ohio State hosts Jackson State, about the only thing worth watching here is to see if Thad Matta gets his Freshman bigs more time on the court next to Sullinger.  

Michigan State begins the soft portion of its non-conference schedule on the same day one national writer suggests that Izzo is masochistic for his difficult schedule.  I think the article overlooks a risk inherent in this non-conference schedule, namely that there aren’t enough winnable games against good but not great competition.  We’ll check back in on this subject before Michigan State hosts Florida State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. 

Last night was…

A great night for IU - Hoosier defense looks much improved and offensively, this team is just killing it right now.  

A good night for Wisconsin - Wisconsin completely dominated a far inferior Colgate team, ho hum. 

A good night for Penn State - PSU was very good other than the astronomical FTR LIU achieved, still some encouraging signs for new coach Patrick Chambers.

Today:

Purdue faces mid-major darling Iona in a game that shouldn’t be considered an upset should Iona pull off the win.  

Northwestern faces SEC laggard LSU who is looking to bounce back from an embarrassing defeat to Coastal Carolina.  LSU is offensively challenged which should play right into the hands of this Northwestern team. 

Minnesota hosts Fairfield in a game that might be closer than you would expect based on the names on the front of the jersey. 

The rest of the slate is chock full of record padding games.

Michigan hosts Western Illinois

Illinois hosts Lipscomb

Iowa hosts Northern Illinois. 

* Wisconsin is really good on offense and Colgate is really bad on Defense.  This one won’t be close and the most interesting thing will be to see how long Wisconsin goes into this game before committing a TO. 

* Penn State hosts Long Island. The Blackbirds are pretty good on Offense so we’ll be checknig in to see if Penn State’s early success on D holds.

* IU steps up in class as it visits Evansville in what could be a semi-hostile environment.  Regardless of how much the refs may have helped Evansville beat Butler, the fact is the Purple Aces handled the National Runner-ups in game one.  One thing evansville does well is get to the FT line which could prove to be a a big asset if IU’s nemesis from last season, fouls, shows up again.  

November and December are all about Perception in College Hoops.

The NCAA selection committee has tons of objective data to analyze and they also see a lot of games live, they claim “conferences don’t get bids”, but still perception matters when it comes to the last at-large teams selected and particularly when it comes to seeding.  

November and December are critical for perception and the Big Ten really needs a makeover this year.  With an excellent showing in November and December the Big Ten might well be perceived as the deepest league in the country.  On the other hand, should the Big Ten teams play poorly in November and December we’ll see the conference labeled as Ohio State and the 11 dwarfs.  

 Now, when it comes time to form perceptions, not all games are created equal.  Nobody much cares about the outcome of the Radford - Penn State game for instance but there are plenty of games throughout November and December that will become very important not only to the teams playing but for all the teams in the conference.  Tomorrow night could be one of those very important nights:

#7 Florida @ #3 Ohio State

#6 Duke v. Michigan State

It could go to Hoyle and not mean a whole lot.  OSU could hold serve hosting Florida while MSU could lose a reasonably close to Duke in MSG.

If not, perceptions could be changing.  We’ll keep track of the Perception moving games as November and December move along.

The Big Ten Geeks do an amazing job and they correctly point towards the big question regarding Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers.  

Where we differ I guess is on the severity of the problem.  The Big Ten Geeks have the Gophers penciled in for 7th in the league, I think shooting will be a much bigger problem and I have the Gophers in as the 11th place team.  

Early season games range from Top Ten clashes like we’ll see in Columbus on Tuesday to complete mismatches like we saw in West Lafayette or Madison over the weekend.  

It isn’t wise to put too much stock into any single outcome regardless but these early season games can be useful if you know what to look for.  Below are the statistics that we’ll be paying close attention to for each Big Ten team.

Illinois - Defensive Turnover% - Illinois was last in the conference last year in forcing TOs which prevented an otherwise excellent defense for putting together an outstanding year.  With the length and depth Bruce Weber has at his disposal he should be extending defense and applying as much pressure as possible this season.  If the Illini improve in their ability to turn their opponents over this defense should be excellent.  If the defense is excellent it will give Weber and his staff time to find their offense this season.  Illinois turned Loyola-IL over on 34% of its possessions in its opener, a good start.   

Indiana - Defensive FTR - Indiana was last in the conference and one of the worst teams nationally last season in affording its opponents opportunities at the Free Throw line.  If Tom Crean can solve this problem and just get to mediocre in this area the Hoosier defense will improve a great deal which should accompany pretty good improvement on offense and help foster what should be a pretty dramamtic turnaround for Tom Crean’s bunch. 

Iowa - Offensive TO% - Iowa’s TO% last year was the worst in the conference and it was the single biggest reason why Iowa ranked last in the conference in offensive efficiency.  Cutting down TOs would go a long way towards the Hawkeyes improving this season because the Hawks have already shown some life on the other side of the ball.  In their first game their TO rate was only 13%, they are off to a great start.

Michigan - Defensive Rebound% - Michigan has a ton of momentum coming into this season based on their on-court performance last year and their recruiting momentum off the court.  To take another step forward this year, the Wolverines are going to have to take a step up on the defensive end of the floor.  UM lost their most important offensive player in Darius Morris so expecting much improvement on that side of the ball seems like a stretch.  Defensively, the Wolverines were very mediocre last year but they don’t have glaring weaknesses.  Given their style of defense, the best bet for improvement which also fits the roster growth is on the defensive glass. 

Michigan State - 3FGA/FGA - After years and years and years of success following the same formula Tom Izzo tried to change things up to fit his talent last year.  It didn’t work, as the 2010-2011 Spartans produced the worst offensive team under Izzo over the last 9 seasons.  The problem was their shot mix.  They shot too many jump shots as evidenced by a low 2pt FG% and too many 3pt attempts (For an Izzo Team).  We’ll be watching to see if Izzo is back to his old ways of pounding the ball inside relentlessly.  

Minnesota - 3pt% - Minnesota ranked last in the conference in 3pt FG % last year, and making matters worse, they lost the only players on the team who shot better than 30% from the 3pt line.  I love Minnesota’s frontcourt, I love the way they play defense, I love the way they block shots and the way the grab offensive rebounds, but you cannot win in the Big Ten unless you can stretch defenses out with the 3pt shot.  Minnesota needs to find some guys who can knock down the outside shot to get back in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. 

Nebraska - We’ll be watching the efficiency stats (2ptFG%,3ptFG%, ARate, TO%) for Bo Spencer and Dylan Talley.  Nebraska was excellent on defense last year and they are very likely to once again be excellent on defense.  What is holding Nebraska back is offensive efficiency and Head Coach Doc Sadler recruited two veterans onto the roster this season to help address the offense.   

Northwestern - Defensive Efficiency - The different between a Northwestern team that is once again left out of the NCAA tournament and a Northwestern team that is selected by the all-powerful selection committee is defense.  Northwestern has a very good offense, if it can get its defense from terrible to merely mediocre, it stands a good chance of ending its NCAA drought.  The most likely route is an increase in defensive TO% but we don’t think it is wise to focus narrowly here because we think Coach Carmody will explore different options to help solve the problem.    

Ohio State - Defensive FTRate:Defensive TO% - We had to invent a stat for this one. Ohio State was the nation’s most efficient offense last year and most people knew the Buckeyes as the impossible to stop offensive juggernaut built around Sullinger and a bunch of great 3pt shooters.  What went largely unnoticed was how great Matta’s Buckeyes were on the defensive side of the ball. The two things that drove the Buckeyes on Defense was their ability to create TOs and the fact that they rarely gave up FTAs.  

Now, there are lots of teams who create a lot of TOs but these teams tend to put people at the FT line a lot.  On the other hand, there are lots of teams who rarely put their opponents on the FT line, but those teams rarely create TOs.  What Thad Matta’s Buckeyes did last season in creating TOs without fouling was remarkable.  

How remarkable was it?  Well, the Buckeyes ratio of Defensive FTRate: Defensive TO% was .88.  That doesn’t mean anything because I made up the statistic, but to give you an idea on how big of an outlier this is consider that not only did Ohio State rank #1 nationally in this ratio, but the next best ratio was 1.26 (North Carolina).  To give you a sense how big the spread is between the Buckeyes and that of the Tar Heels consider that the same spread (.38) over that of North Carolina’s you have to go all the way to 75th in the country (Texas).

So, we’ll be tracking this closely through the year to see if Matta can duplicate this ratio or if it ends up looking much more in line with the rest of the nation.  If it is more in line with the rest of the country OSU will have to make up for this in another area on defense or it could stand to fall back quite a ways in terms of defensive efficiency.  

 Penn State - Defensive Efficiency - The Nittany Lions are predicted to finish 12th in the conference in Patrick Chambers debut season.  The most important thing for Chambers is to create a defensive identity which is something he can do with the current roster.  

Purdue - Offensive FTR - Purdue is always good on defense, whether the team is able to overcome the losses from last year will depend on the offensive side of the ball.  We expect Purdue to take and make a lot of 3pt shots this season, the key will be to balance that out with plenty of plays at the rim, so we’ll be watching their Offensive FTR closely.  If the Boilermakers can attack the basket and get to the FT line to complement their work from deep they are going to be much better than most people realize. 

Wisconsin - Jordan Taylor - We know an awful lot about what to expect at Wisconsin this year.  We know they are going to rebound the ball well on the defensive end.  We know they aren’t going to give up much at the FT line.  We know they will have other complementary players besides Gasser and Bruesewitz step into their roles.  Yes, we also know that Jordan Taylor is going to be a very efficient PG for Bo Ryan’s team, but how efficient.  Taylor has all the leverage for this Wisconsin team, if he is once again one of the most efficient players in the country Wisconsin will be very, very good.  If he is merely GREAT this year, Wisconsin may not live up to the preseason hype.   

They have the Hoosiers 8th in the conference in their preview.

I think that is probably too low.  I think the Hoosiers are probably the 4th most talented team in the conference.  They took big steps forward last season on both sides of the ball: 

According to KenPom.com, IU went from the 188th rated offense in 2010 to the 64th rated offense in 2011.  Defensively, they jumped from 167th to 109th.  That is a pretty substantial improvement on both sides of the ball.  I would expect IU to make similar jumps this season.  

I think these Hoosiers might end up being a lot like last year’s Penn State team.  Not particularly good on defense, but good enough that they don’t get run out of the gym.  They’ll complement that mediocre defense with a pretty salty offense.  Penn State went from last place in the conference the year before to finish in a 4th place tie while sneaking into the NCAA tournament last year and so it will be with this season Indiana Hoosiers.  

Luke Winn is right at the top of the list as best analysts covering the CBB scene.  Here are his initial power rankings.  

I’ll be using this space to blog about Big Ten basketball and other topics