Checking in on the… Big 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2008

Josh & Mike of Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

Looking Back

It was a fairly uneventful week for the Big Ten, as most member squads feasted on cupcakes while preparing for finals. There were, however, a few exceptions. Ohio State won a defensive struggle against previously-undefeated Butler, giving the Buckeyes their third straight win over a top 40 team (according to Pomeroy). Ohio State continues to look a lot better than we Geeks expected, and it’s all due to the nation’s best defense according to adjusted defensive efficiency. Dallas Lauderdale’s insane shotblocking rate has been a huge part of that effort.

Indiana got a somewhat surprising – if very sloppy – win over a decent Texas Christian squad by dominating the offensive glass and forcing TCU into even more turnovers than they themselves committed (which was already a lot). This latter feat isn’t unusual for the Hoosiers – they’re currently second in the nation in combined turnover rate (TO% plus Opponent’s TO%), trailing only Savannah State. Needless to say, this does not make for aesthetically pleasing games. Indiana kept this personality intact at Kentucky, winning the turnover battle but losing the game by 18 points.

Looking Ahead

Final exams are underway, so the marquee games will have to wait until Saturday, when three big matchups will occur on “neutral” floors (with varying degrees of neutrality). Purdue takes the short trip to Indianapolis and gets their last chance for an impressive nonconference victory as they face Davidson. Michigan State travels to Houston to face a tough Texas squad. Finally, Minnesota travels to Glendale, AZ, and puts their perfect record on the line against an excellent Louisville team.

On top of those great matchups, there’s some other interesting storylines for Saturday – Kentucky transfer Alex Legion should make his Illinois debut against Detroit, Arizona transfer Laval Lucas-Perry should make his Michigan debut against Oakland, Northwestern tries to get their best win to date at Stanford, and Iowa goes on the road to face last year’s MVC darling, Drake.

A Look at the Numbers

When Iowa and Michigan hired turnover-averse head coaches Todd Lickliter and John Beilein after the 2006-07 season – on the same day, no less – one could have reasonably predicted that a slight drop in the conference’s turnover rate was in store. It’s doubtful that anyone foresaw the drastic drop that has occurred conference-wide since (numbers through games of Dec. 14):
Each blue dot represents a Big Ten team; each pink dot represents the conference average for that season.
Iowa and Michigan aren’t even the best in the conference in this regard – Penn State and Purdue have the two lowest TO rates, with Michigan third. Iowa is actually eighth in the conference, yet is still in the top 100 nationally and has improved greatly from last season, dropping from 25.2 to 19.5. Michigan has also had a sizable improvement, going from 19.7 to 17.7, but the big surprise is Penn State, who has dropped from a respectable 19.2 to an excellent 16.5. The outstanding backcourt play of Talor Battle and Stanley Pringle has turned Penn State into a credible – if unlikely – at-large candidate, and their play going forward is something we’re interested in tracking as conference play begins in a couple weeks.

If you couldn’t guess, that horrid showing up above 29% is Indiana. The fact that the conference average has managed to drop while the Hoosiers cough it up constantly makes the feat even more impressive.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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