- AP: #13 (down from #9)
- Coaches: #14 (down from #9)
- Sagarin: #11 (down from #8)
- Kenpom: #21 (steady from last week)
- RPI: #5 (steady from last week)
- Bracketology: #3 seed (down from #3 seed)
- Crashing the Dance: #3 seed
Purdue is ranked one spot ahead of us in both the human polls, reflecting that we’re now basically back to being dead even with them. Kenpom currently projects a 13-5 conference finish for both teams, with Illinois (12-6) and Minnesota (11-7) also in the mix.
I’ve added Crashing the Dance to the list. As you’ll recall from last year, the site uses quantitative methods to try to predict the behavior of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee based on past results.
Monday Night Links
- Morgan out this week … probably
The news is not getting any better. Only upside: More PT for Mrs. SW’s fav, Austin Thornton. Isaiah Dahlman apparently out for a while with an ankle sprain.
- The hits keep comin’
Ugh. And Suton may have reaggrivated his right knee in practice today. CORRECTION: I misread the article. He injured his left knee, not the right one (which is the one he had surgery on in December).
- KNIGHT REPORT
Why do we need Bobby to return when his son is continuing the Knight legacy with such gusto?
- 3 thoughts on the offseason
With his time at the Marquette Mining Journal coming to a close, friend-of-the-blog (and occasional commenter) Kurt is back to blogging about the Tigers; check out his personal writing site, as well.
Conference Midseason Review: The Teams
Here’s your up-to-the-minute, conference-only tempo-free aerial:
I’ve used 1.03 points per possession–the conference average to date this season–as the midpoint for each axis. While the 10 non-IU teams have sorted themselves out a lot more neatly than they did in nonconference play, no team has grabbed the mantle of “solidly above average on both ends of the court.” MSU has the best offense in the league, but is basically average on defense. Purdue and Illinois have been the class of the league defensively, but mediocre on offense. Same deal, with a somewhat less stout defense, for Minnesota.
The simplest way to frame the conference race from a statistical standpoint is this: Which happens first in the second half of league play? MSU playing improved defense or Purdue scoring more efficiently? Can one (or both) of them move their dot into middle of the upper, right-hand quadrant?
The two big surprises relative to nonconference performance are:
- Ohio State, which has leapt from the good defense/bad offense quadrant to the good offense/bad defense quadrant (they’re currently exactly where Penn State is). The improvement in offense has been fueled by the development of freshmen B.J. Mullens and William Buford. On defense, opponents are making 38.2% of their three-point attempts–not good for a team that tries to force perimeter shots with its zone defense.
- Michigan, which has gone from the being best offensive Big Ten team in nonconference play, by a healthy margin, to hanging out in tempo-free land with the Hawkeyes and Wildcats in. (More on that below.)
Final note: While conference-only data are the analytical ideal, my sense is that the midseason data are less reliable than they might have been in years past. It used to be that you played nine different teams in your first nine games, as the conference employed an out-and-back scheduling scheme. For whatever reason, teams now regularly play the same oppnent twice in the first half of the schedule. MSU, for example, has already played Northwestern, Ohio State, and Penn State twice each–meaning they’ve played only 6 of 10 total conference opponents to date. Given that all three of those teams are below-average on defense, MSU’s offense may not be quite as dominant as the numbers currently indicate.
Conference Midseason Review: The Players
Here’s your Spartans Weblog Midseason All-Conference Team, based exclusively on in-conference stats/performance:
- Talor Battle (Penn State)
18.7 points/game, 39.0% 3pt%, 44.0% FT rate, 5.0 assists/game, 2.4 TOs/game
I don’t think anyone who saw Sunday’s game needs me to throw any more superlatives Battle’s way. The conference player of the year to date.
- Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
19.2 points/game, 38.2% 3pt%, 46.7% FT rate, 3.7 assista/game, 2.4 TOs/game
Assists are down, but scoring is way up since the nonconference season. Shooting a very good 46.2% on 2-pointer given the number of shots he takes late in the shot clock (well above the 40% threshold I set for him during his early-season slump).
- Lawrence Westbrook (Minnesota)
15.0 points/game, 57.8% eFG%, 88.9% FT%, 1.6 TOs/game
Westbrook has been a model on consistency for a Gophers team that was looking for a go-to player going into the conference season; he’s scored in double digits in every conference game.
- Goran Suton (Michigan State)
10.7 points/game, 60.0% eFG%, 9.9 rebounds/game, 13.8 OffReb%, 27.0% DefReb%
I’ll confess to a bit of homerism here. But Mr. Suton has been utterly dominant on the glass, ranking 2nd in the league in offensive rebounding percentage and first in defensive rebounding percentage.
- JaJuan Johnson (Purdue)
12.8 points/game, 53.8% 2pt%, 70.7% FT rate, 7.4 rebounds/game, 11.2% OffReb%, 10.1% Block%
The best all-around post player in the league, despite having to play surrouneded by four guards for large stretches of time.
Battle is the only returnee from my pre-conference season all-conference team, although you could make a pretty good case for Robbie Hummel (despite missed time due to his back issues) and Evan Turner. Battle, Lucas, and Johnson are the only first-team locks. Westbrook just edged out Northwestern’s Craig Moore (40.0% on a league-leading 82 three-point attempts).
As for the two other players on the pre-conference season version of the team, the numbers are not as pretty as they once were:
- Manny Harris: 14.0 points/game, 41.1% eFG%, 7.2 rebounds/game, 3.3 assists/game, 3.9 turnovers/game
- DeShawn Sims: 13.3 points/game, 48.3 eFG%, 5.9 rebounds/game, 8.6% OffReb%, 17.2% DefReb%
Harris has basically reverted to the freshman version of himself statistically (except for a big jump in rebounds). Sims’ production hasn’t plummeted quite as far, but his 2-point shooting percentage has dropped 9 points and he’s lost 2-3 percentage points on his rebounding percentages. Without these two guys playing at the stratospheric levels they achieved during nonconfernce play, Michigan’s offense has fallen to NIT-quality levels, if not below.
Coffee Talk: Who’s impressed you the most in conference play to date (teams or players)? Who did I miss on the all-conference team? Does anyone out there (besides his mother) love Goran Suton as much as I do?