Checking in on the… Big 10Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2008
Josh & Mike at Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.
The team that’s made the most noise in the Big Ten so far this season is Michigan. The Wolverines defeated UCLA 55-52 on their way to the Coaches vs. Cancer final, where Duke ran away in the second half. But it’s a long season, and we still can’t really say if Michigan is that good, or if UCLA is just that bad (probably a bit of both). What is encouraging, however, was the turnover situation for Beilein’s crew. The Wolverines have been forcing TOs while taking care of the ball on their end of the floor in this early part of the season, and what’s more, that trend continued against Duke, which is a difficult thing to do (last year, Duke was among the nation’s elite with respect to TOs on both sides of the ball). This was a staple of Beilein-ball when he was at West Virginia, so it’s more evidence that the players are adjusting to his system.
Oh, and Manny Harris has been unstoppable. He’s been taking about 29% of Michigan’s shots so far this season, and despite that high shot diet, he has maintained a superb efficiency (96 points on 49 shots). He’s also been rebounding like a SF and dishing assists like Mike Conley. He can’t, of course, keep this up. But the Big Ten is on notice – Manny is now MANNY.
Wisconsin has had a rough go of it early in the season. While they haven’t lost, they struggled more than they should have against Long Beach State, and Iona took them to overtime. There hasn’t been a glaring root cause, so this is probably not something to get too worked up over, but this is probably not a 30-win team.
Purdue and Michigan State have coasted in their early season schedules, but things will get more interesting soon.
Illinois posted a road win against Vanderbilt, and while the Commodores likely aren’t an NCAA team, the Illini weren’t exactly flush with road wins last season. One number that has been of great comfort to Illini fans is the 77% free throw shooting so far this season.
It’s Tournament Week in the Big 10!
You’re probably reading this on Tuesday, which means that Indiana opened play last night in the Maui Invitational against Notre Dame, and Wisconsin took on Connecticut in the final of the Paradise Jam tournament. Purdue tips off against Boston College in the Preseason NIT on Wednesday, and Michigan State takes on Maryland in the Old Spice Classic on Thursday. Illinois takes on Kent State in the South Padre Invitational, Penn State plays Rhode Island in the Philly Hoop Group Classic, and Iowa takes on West Virginia in the Las Vegas Invitational.
Penn State also has an intriguing matchup with Penn out of the Ivy League. Penn had a very bad year (for them) last season, so Quaker fans are anxious to see their team return back to its Ivy dominance. Penn State is a team hoping to reach the NCAA Tournament, and this game will provide a very good barometer as to whether or not that’s a reasonable goal this season. Talor Battle has been dominant thus far, averaging 20.5 points on 11 shots while running the show with aplomb (17 assists to just 3 turnovers).
A Look at the Numbers
Like the leaves turning from green to an autumn array of colors signals the beginning of the fall season, the start of the college basketball season is signaled by coaches making promises about tempo. The Big Ten has a well-deserved rap for being slow, and while there’s no objective evidence that should change this year, promising a faster pace is all the rage this season. So how have these coaches delivered on these promises so far in the season? Well, here are the pace numbers so far (in adjusted possessions per game):
- Illinois: 63.8
- Indiana: 70.2
- Iowa: 60.3
- Michigan: 60.3
- Michigan State: 59.1
- Minnesota: 66.6
- Northwestern: 55.5
- Ohio State: 60.4
- Penn State: 67.7
- Purdue: 71.5
- Wisconsin: 62.4
While Purdue and Indiana appear to be fast, at this point in the season, it’s too early to judge. A lot of that could just be the tendencies of these early season opponents. But this is something we’ll be looking at all season.
Oh, and the Big Ten is 35-1 so far on the season (as of this writing) – the best record of any conference in the country. Suck it, ACC! (Hey, only a few more weeks until the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. We have to brag while we can…)