Assessing the KenPom B1G Preseason Ratings

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 29th, 2014

College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy released his preseason rankings a few days ago. These ratings are not your standard preseason website or magazine predictions because they are completely data-driven. To put it simply, Pomeroy is more than likely a great deal smarter than you or me. His tempo-free statistics remove some of the spin and fluff of the season in favor of measurable aspects like efficiency, schedule strength and luck. Uninformed pundits may talk about a team being great defensively because it gives up a very low number of points per game, but it’s wise to also evaluate the same notion through the prism of points per 100 possessions. That team may be great defensively as a matter of fact, but it also might just play at a really slow pace with fewer possessions (and hence, fewer opportunities for the opponent to score). Here are some observations about how the Big Ten fared in Pomeroy’s first list of ratings.

Tom Crean's Indiana squad starts the season just outside top 25 according to Ken Pomeroy. (AP).

Tom Crean’s Indiana squad starts the season just outside top 25 according to Ken Pomeroy. (AP).

  • Indiana Rates More Favorably Here Than With the Media. Pomeroy thinks that the Indiana offense will be much better after it finished 2013-14 ranked 127th in offensive efficiency. He also believes that the Hoosiers’ pace will quicken, from 106.5 points per 100 possessions to 110.9. For this to happen, the Hoosiers will have to cut down on their turnovers. They ranked last in the league in that metric last season, turning the ball over on 21.8 percent of the time. With Yogi Ferrell now having more help on the wings with freshman James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson coming into the program along with transfer Nick Zeisloft, Pomeroy thinks Tom Crean’s unit will be a good deal more efficient on the offensive end. The media picked Indiana ninth in its preseason poll, so it looks as though Pomeroy’s model values the Hoosiers a bit higher than the eye test.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Quality Performance Today in Indianapolis is a Must For Iowa

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 13th, 2014

You could make a case for any number of Big Ten teams really needing to show out at the Big Ten Tournament if they hope to make a run in the bigger March tournament. Minnesota is situated squarely on the bubble after finishing with a conference record of 8-10. Nebraska was inhabiting the same patch of bubble real estate until their win over Wisconsin. They should be in the field of 68 now, but another win would be nice for their collective peace of mind. Michigan State wants to prove that they are worthy of the preseason hype they generated with their team all back from their different injuries. Indiana and Illinois need to win four games in four days to get there. But Iowa has the most to prove out of anybody in the field. They’ve plummeted from a potential #3 or #4 seed, to a team that with an early loss, could be looking at double-digit territory. So how do the Hawkeyes fix things to get back on track?

Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Ogelsby need big games for Iowa to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. (John Schultz/Quad City Times)

Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Ogelsby need big games for Iowa to advance in the Big Ten Tournament. (John Schultz/Quad City Times)

  • Fix the Defense Immediately: Here’s a quick breakdown of what the Hawkeyes have given up in their last six games in terms of points per possession: 1.22, 1.32.1.12, 1.06, 1.26, and 1.12. Even in their lone victory in the bunch over Purdue, they still allowed the Boilermakers to shoot 49.1% from the field. On their KenPom page under defensive footprint, it says inconclusive. Nothing sums up their lack of a defensive identity better than that. They do a decent job blocking shots and Roy Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell do a pretty good job getting into the passing lanes and getting steals. But in their recent rough patch they’ve given up far too many easy baskets in the paint. Whether it means extending their zone press and getting more aggressive with it (which they have the depth to do), or just hanging back and sticking to either a man-to-man or a zone, Iowa needs to pick a style and go with it. I don’t know if their is confusion about what their responsibilities are, or that they just don’t care because they think they can outscore people. Either way, what they’re doing right now isn’t working, and hasn’t for a number of games. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Can Iowa Shore Up Its Shoddy Defense in Time?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on March 4th, 2014

After three seasons at the helm, Fran McCaffery will finally take Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament. That’s the good part about the Hawkeyes’ season. The next logical question is whether they can win more than one game there. With a 20-9 record and an RPI in the 30s, it is likely that the Hawkeyes will be on one of the top six seed lines, which could put them in a dreaded #5/#12 match-up against a decent team. Even if they get past that round, they’ll have to beat a Top 25 quality team that is likely to be offensively talented. At this late point in the season, it is still unclear if the Hawkeyes can defend well enough to beat a team that can run in a track meet with them. Over their last four games they have given up 1.21, 1.31, 1.12 and 1.06 points per possession, respectively, against Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue. Those numbers do not bode well for a team looking to make some noise as we head into March.

McCaffery's Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

Defense has been an issue for Iowa all season long, and a lack of it is the main reason they have been unable to close out many games.  Their record is a bit deceiving because they have won all of the games that they were supposed to, but they really only have two quality wins on the year: at Ohio State and vs. Michigan in Iowa City — even in both of those games, the Hawkeyes gave up more than a point per possession to the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. A win against Xavier, another NCAA Tournament team, is impressive, but an argument can be made that the absence of Musketeers’ star Semaj Christan during the second half helped the Hawkeyes. These observations are not intended to take anything away from Iowa’s resume this season, but merely to point out that its stay in March Madness could be a short one unless they find some answers on defense, and soon.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Weekend In Review: Things Just Keep Getting Weirder

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 4th, 2014

In the first half of the B1G slate, one team has proven to be more consistent that everyone else. While all of the puzzling final scores have rolled in, Michigan has been rolling over the competition, rising to #10 in the country and sitting at 8-0 in conference play. That of course all changed on Sunday when the Wolverines inexplicably lost to Indiana at Assembly Hall. With that result, there are now eight Big Ten teams within one game of each other (with five or six losses) in the conference standings. Here’s an attempt at summing up what turned out to be another batty weekend around the league.

Yogi Ferrell spearheaded another big home court win against Michigan. (Brian Spurlock, USAT)

Yogi Ferrell spearheaded another big home court win against Michigan. (Brian Spurlock, USAT)

Player of the Weekend: Yogi Ferrell: If you take a glance at the box score and see that Ferrell went for 27 points on 7-of-8 shooting from behind the arc, you would assume that’s the sole reason why he was the best player of the weekend. But he was also primarily responsible for holding fellow B1G POY candidate Nik Stauskas to only six points on Sunday. The Hoosiers game planned for Michigan’s best player brilliantly, placing Ferrell on him one-on-one and never leaving to help. Ferrell marked him all over the court, and while Stauskas wasn’t his normal aggressive self in Bloomington, the sophomore guard deserves a good deal of the credit for holding him in check. He topped off a tremendous game by grabbing a key rebound in the closing minutes when he simply outhustled everyone as the Wolverines were frantically clawing back. Ferrell put the Hoosiers on his back Sunday, and they earned a huge resume boost in large part because of his efforts.

Super Sub of the Weekend: Gabriel Olaseni: The British big man gets the nod for bench production for the second weekend in a row. He tallied a double-double again, doing so by dominating the offensive glass in Iowa’s survival of the Illini. The Hawkeyes have been going through a malady lately where they go for long stretches at a time without a field goal. During those dry spells, they survive by living at the free throw line. Olaseni was active and at the forefront of this trend in the first half, as he went to the line 10 times (making nine) on his way to an efficient 15 points. He also led the way with 12 rebounds in 26 minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Weekend in Review: Injuries Catch Up with Contenders

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 27th, 2014

It’s been enough of an ordeal for Michigan State to try to win B1G games and stay in the top five of the national polls without injured superstar Adreian Payne. The combination of Payne and Branden Dawson (broken hand) out of the lineup, coupled with a scorching hot Michigan team, led to the Spartans’ first conference loss on Saturday evening. Meanwhile Nebraska proved that it is going to be a tough out any time teams have to travel to Lincoln this season. The Cornhuskers moved to 9-1 at home with their Sunday night win over a Minnesota squad playing its first game without an injured Andre Hollins (ankle). Despite the loss, Malik Smith stepped in for Hollins and put up 29 points on 8-of-12 shooting from behind the arc. Here arethe rest of the peaks and valleys from weekend number four of Big Ten play.

Terran Petteway put up 35 points in Nebraska's upset win over Minnesota Sunday night. (AP)

Terran Petteway put up 35 points in Nebraska’s upset win over Minnesota Sunday night. (AP)

Player of the Weekend: Terran Petteway: The season Petteway is getting greatly overlooked due to Nebraska’s mediocre record. The transfer from Texas Tech has been getting buckets in a variety of ways all season long, and this was fully evident over the weekend against the Gophers. He went for a career-high 35 points, shooting 10-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three, six boards, three assists, a steal and a block. Minnesota had no answer for him, as he continually burned the Gophers from deep and by getting into the lane whenever he wanted. Nebraska has a nice core to build around for future years, and Petteway has the chance to be at the forefront of this renaissance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 13th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. It has been 26 years since there was a match-up of the two flagship programs in Iowa as members of the Top 25, but that’s exactly what we get tonight when #23 Iowa travels to take on rival and #17 Iowa State in Ames. These two programs were largely irrelevant five years ago, but the hiring of Fran McCaffery at Iowa and Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State has really changed everything in both programs. Each team has realistic expectations to make the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even go deep. Hopefully this intrastate rivalry continues to become must-see television each year (and kudos for the schedule makers for giving us this treat on an otherwise quiet Friday night).
  2. Speaking of the Hawkeyes, their bench play has been absolutely spectacular this year. Via @IowaHoops, the Hawkeyes’ bench is averaging 42.3 points, 24.9 rebounds and 4.2 blocks through 11 games. The two players fueling the bench are senior Zach McCabe and Gabriel Olaseni. McCabe is a tough-nosed forward who attacks rebounding fearlessly and can also knock down perimeter shots. Olaseni is seeing his first real playing time in his career and he is doing a great job protecting the rim for Iowa.
  3. Coming into the season, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross was expected to become the Buckeyes’ primary scoring threat this season. As the season got underway, though, Ross struggled by only averaging six points in his first five games. But it now looks like Ross could emerge into the type of scorer many had hoped he would become after Deshaun Thomas. Already Ross’ three-point and turnover percentage are better than that of Thomas, and Ohio State will need the gifted junior to take over offensively if the Buckeyes  and Thad Matta are to reach another Final Four.
  4. Michigan and Illinois are looking for their first big non-conference wins this year. Michigan gets #1 Arizona at the Crisler Center on Saturday, and the match-up to watch is in the backcourt. Arizona’s duo of TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson will go against a young tandem of Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. If Michigan’s guards allow Arizona’s guards to go wherever they want on the floor, it will be a long day for Michigan. Illinois heads to Portland to take on #15 Oregon as well on Saturday. The Illini lost to Georgia Tech in the last minute but then rebounded nicely by destroying Auburn. Oregon will represent a major test for the Illini, as the Ducks have excellent pieces at all positions that can really expose the Illinois’ lack of length.
  5. Bo Ryan and his fourth-ranked Wisconsin squad easily defeated in-state opponent Milwaukee earlier this week. The Badgers have been steamrolling everyone so far but their biggest upcoming challenge may be next month when they go to Bloomington to take on Indiana. There are four games between now and then and they should all be wins for the Badgers. The one game Bo Ryan’s team can’t overlook before the Indiana game is when Iowa visits on January 5. Iowa has the depth to stay with Wisconsin on the perimeter and multiple players who can guard Frank Kaminsky.
Share this story

Iowa’s Depth Gives Hawkeyes an Element Most Teams Don’t Have

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 19th, 2013

There isn’t going be a fancy disclaimer or anything at the beginning of this post talking about small sample size, lack of quality opponents or anything of that ilk. While it is true that Iowa hasn’t played anybody of note yet, 4-0 is still 4-0. They are off to a tremendous start in handily beating the teams that they are supposed to handily beat. One very large takeaway from their Hawkeyes’ four games so far is that they are getting contributions from essentially the whole roster. Iowa has headliners in Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, but Fran McCaffery has also put together a very deep bench that fits quite snugly with his system. Iowa’s bench players check all the boxes in terms of what you’d want from a reserve unit, and most importantly, have shown no drop-off in production whatsoever when they replace the starters.

Roy Devyn Marble is the headliner, but Iowa has been getting contributions from everyone in the midst of their 4-0 start. (Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Roy Devyn Marble is the headliner, but Iowa has been getting contributions from everyone in the midst of their 4-0 start. (Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

The numbers tell some of the story here, with the bench players this season accounting for 49.9 percent of Iowa’s total points, 49.5 percent of its rebounds, and 45.0 percent of its assists. Granted, a lot of this derives from three of Iowa’s four games have been blowouts, so simply taking those statistics at face value doesn’t tell you what you need to know. The combination of evaluating the numbers and using the good old-fashioned eye test instead illustrates the impact that the bench has made. Gabriel Olaseni, a blur running the court end-to-end, is averaging 2.5 blocks per game. Wisconsin transfer Jared Uthoff can score in the paint or from the outside and is also providing rebounding (10.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Zach McCabe is a big body at 6’7″ and 235 lbs who can knock down an open shot and  match up wherever you need him to. Anthony Clemmons can come in and give you solid point guard minutes without any kind of dropoff if Marble or Mike Gesell have to sit. He has a 13:4 assist-to-turnover ratio and knows how to run the team. Lastly, freshman Peter Jok has the tools to eventually become a superstar. Unlike fellow first-year players like those populating the rosters of Indiana, Illinois and Purdue, Jok really doesn’t have to do anything except be a role player on a team loaded up with experience. So far, he’s shown that he can score and defend on the wing, again dovetailing with the common theme of little to no dropoff when these bench players enter the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story