A statistical reason for hope, if you needed any, for basketball next season.
When Caris LeVert & Derrick Walton went down, Michigan was suddenly down 85.4% of their scoring from last season. Only Zak Irvin (15.4 minutes per game), Spike Albrecht (14.7 minutes per game), and Max Bielfeldt (4.7 minutes per game) even played meaningful minutes in 2013-2014.
Next year if LeVert comes back, Michigan will return 92.9% of their scoring from this year while adding Duncan Robinson. Consider the fact that DJ Wilson will be back, as well as the fact that he is one of 6 freshmen, and at least some of them will likely improve going into their sophomore seasons (as some of them have already shown growth) and this team will be downright dangerous next year.
I know hopes are already high for next season for most people but I was pretty surprised by numbers. Aaaaaaaand Harbaugh for football. 2015-2016 will be a good year.
From Part I of this brief mini-series:
After a while, I decided to focus on ten of the most intriguing, good, talented, enigmatic, compelling, or otherwise notable players in the Big Ten and write about, well, what I think of them, what I think when I watch them play, and (to a certain extent) what they mean to me and the conference at-large. Basketball can be boiled down to numbers, but it should be an affective experience as well. So here’s that side of things. Don’t read it if you’re blinded by hatred for the enemy; don’t read it if you’re just gonna skim for Michigan players because there aren’t any (though Caris would be on here if he wasn’t hurt and oh, the sadness, it’s back).
The first five players – Branden Dawson, Melo Trimble, Denzel Valentine, D.J. Newbill, and Frank Kaminsky – are in the post linked above. Here are the next five (again, in no particular order):
Champion: “a knight who fought in single combat on behalf of the monarch.”
Back in the day (as far as I know), armies lined up across each other from far away, sent out their best fighter, and watched as the two fought in lieu of a full-blown battle. My best versus your best, and the gods will decide who’s better. In that way, I visualize Nebraska’s offensive strategy as an attempt to rekindle that ancient strategy; they send out Terran Petteway holding a sword and a shield, decked out in armor, to battle the opponent.
It’s an old – read: obsolete – basketball strategy too: get this guy the ball, the rest of you just play defense and rebound. Allen Iverson’s 76ers took this to its logical extreme and, with efficiency prized as a valuable stat, it’s hard to believe that giving a guy 20 or more field goal attempts in a game to get maybe 25 points from him is a sound strategy… unless you’re Nebraska!
“Terran, go do something” is the Huskers’ modus operandi offensively (unless Shavon Shields wants in on the action every so often), and, unsurprisingly, Petteway has the highest usage rate in the league this season. He’s put up some gaudy point numbers; he’s put up a ton of shots. A few nights ago, he put up 21 points against Wisconsin on 27.5 shot equivalents. With Nebraska in catch-up mode – due to their stagnant offense early on – and the offense devolved into hoping that Petteway would do something (which, to be fair, sort of worked better than their regular offense did).
It’s a high variance strategy; sometimes he pours in an efficient 32 (like he did against Michigan State), sometimes he puts up 18 shots and only makes five (like he did against Rhode Island). It’s a nightly adventure – is Petteway on or not? To be clear, he gets buckets – if sometimes inefficiently – and he’s a good basketball player on the whole: Petteway does have an eye for distributing the ball; he’s great attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line; he’s a passable outside shooter, especially since a lot of his attempts are of the pull-up variety; and the most underrated part of his game is that, like every other Husker, he’s a very good defender.
Sending Terran Petteway, Champion of Nebraska, Noble Warrior of the Corn to fight mano a mano with the other team’s champion simply isn’t feasible. The rules of engagement have changed. Still, he gets buckets. For that reason and that reason alone, he’s always compelling – good, bad or neutral. And since he’s going to put up a ton of points one way or another, he’ll be rewarded with a spot on the First- or Second-Team All-Big Ten team.
[after the jump: odes to Hammons, Rod Williams, Yogi, and Russell]
The passing of former North Carolina coach Dean Smith was noted on the board the other day, but I had seen nothing here that underlined what a powerful figure he was, including in his contributions to both civil rights and the evolution of the game itself.
I found this wonderful appreciation of Smith at CBS Sports, an easy and pleasurable read with lots of links and a great interview of him and John Thompson, and thought I'd share it. Note that Smith's coaching tree pretty much takes in everyone, going back to Phog Allen and the game's inventor, James Naismith. Even more than John Wooden--who himself called Smith the greatest coach ever--Smith may well be the single most towering figure in the history of the sport. The appreciations of him by the likes of Michael Jordan and Duke's Coach K are pretty touching:
This team fought their butts off today and I'm proud of them. No excuses and no points for moral victories, but we have something special brewing.