Checking in on the… Big TenPosted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2009
Josh & Mike of Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.
Michigan State all but clinched the conference crown with a win against Illinois in Champaign. All the Spartans need to do now is win at Indiana (they did). So short of a shocker for the ages, the Spartans have ended their seven year drought. But that doesn’t mean the season is over, as there is still plenty to play for. The race for 2nd place is wide open, with four teams having a shot of grabbing the #2 seed in the conference tournament (Illinois, Purdue, Penn State and Wisconsin). In fact, the only seeds that are “set” (assuming Michigan State beats Indiana), are #1, #10, and #11. Should make for an interesting scramble to the finish.
There’s also a lot of teams bouncing on the bubble right about now. Nine teams still have a shot at this point (assuming Northwestern can make a run in the conference tournament) but not that many will get to the Dance. A couple of teams find themselves up against the wall right about now – Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines have impressive non-conference wins against Duke and UCLA, but have been disappointing in conference play. A win against Purdue helped matters, but there’s still work to be done.
As for the Buckeyes, they’ve lost 4 out of their last 5 games, and now stand at 18-9 and 8-8 in conference play. At this point last year, they were 17-12, and 8-8. They won their last 2 games in the regular season (against Purdue and Michigan State no less), but were bounced in their first Big Ten Tournament game against the Spartans. The result? NIT.
It’s a shame that the Illini couldn’t take down the Spartans, because it took the air out of what would have been a pretty exciting finale between Michigan State and Purdue. Nonetheless, it should be a good game. There are also a lot of key games between teams jostling for position: Illinois/Penn State, Wisconsin/Minnesota, Michigan/Minnesota, Northwestern/Purdue, and Northwestern/Ohio State.
A Look at the Numbers
The Badgers’ offensive prowess isn’t recognized by the national pundits because of their slow pace, but this team can really score. The Badgers have averaged 1.07 points in conference play, ranking just behind Michigan State. Another reason they don’t get recognized for their offensive efforts might also be the way they go about it – by limiting turnovers. The Badgers cough it up on just 15.7% of their possessions, which is pretty impressive for a team that doesn’t jack up a ton of three pointers. Of course, “not turning it over” is not what people typically think of when they think “good offense.” In fact, the Badgers are probably the antithesis of conventional impressions of offensive prowess. Deliberate, so-so shooting, and, well, from the Big Ten. But this team will only go as far as its offense takes it in March.
In a way, the Badgers are a reflection of their senior leader, Marcus Landry. He shoots well, but not that well for a someone who spends so much time in the post (53.8 eFG in conference play). He doesn’t get to the line much (27.2 FT Rate), and he’s not a great offensive rebounder either. And he doesn’t set up his teammates. Frankly, if you absolutely need points on one possession, Marcus Landry isn’t your guy. But he never turns it over (10.9 TO Rate), and a big part of a successful offense is not throwing possessions away. Landry might not be the ideal candidate to convert points on a given possession, but he’s a great candidate over 60 possessions.