don't we all
big ten basketball
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]
College basketball starts in earnest this week with a series of early-season holiday tournaments, where some Big Ten teams will face their staunchest tests so far this season. The destinations – Maui, NYC, Cancun, the Bahamas, Vegas – add an element of quirkiness that is singular to college basketball; fanbases from various corners of the country get to watch their teams play a few games in a unique environment over the span of a few days. It serves multiple purposes: teams get to go on vacation, often add quality opponents to their non-conference schedule, and practice quick turnarounds that they’ll later see in conference tournaments (and possibly the NCAA Tournament).
This week’s ten:
- First-round opponents
- Projecting second- and third-round opponents
- Five possible games I’d love to see
- James Blackmon, Jr. to the rescue
- Indiana wins a battle of extremes against SMU
- Tough opponents and expected losses
- Somebody rushes the court against Nebraska
- Penn State (barely) goes 2-1 in Charleston
- Chucker Watch
- Saluting Shannon Scott
* * *
1. First-round opponents
In an (admittedly arbitrary) order from most- to least-intriguing games. Rankings are via kenpom.com from late Sunday night.
- 17. Michigan vs. 30. Oregon (11-24, 9:30, ESPN3)
- 26. Maryland vs. 68. Arizona St. (11-24, 7:00, ESPNU)
- 38. Purdue vs. 55. Kansas St. (11-24, 2:30, ESPN2)
- 34. Minnesota vs. 47. St. John’s (11-26, 7:00, ESPNU)
- 40. Illinois vs. 144. Indiana St. (11-28, 5:00, FS1)
- 128. Rutgers vs. 86 Vanderbilt (11-28, 7:00, NBCSN)
- 101. Northwestern vs. 248 Miami (OH) (11-25, 9:30, CBSSN)
- 4. Wisconsin vs. 203. UAB (11-26, 7:00, AXS.tv)
- 14. Michigan St. vs. 198. Rider (11-28, 6:30, ESPN2)
Monday features some of the best early matchups, as Michigan, Maryland, and Purdue each face their first real tests of the season. The Boilermakers face former Illinois coach, Bruce Weber, and Kansas State to kick off the Maui invitational: the Wildcats are coming off of an upset loss at Long Beach State. Maryland draws Arizona St.; neither team has been seriously tested by weak schedules thus far and both teams are featuring plenty of new faces all over the court. Michigan plays the late game against Oregon – a team that’s replacing nearly everyone from last season.
2. Projecting second- and third-round opponents
By using Ken Pomeroy’s Pythagorean value for each of the teams in a log5 simulation, I found the probability that a given team would face a certain opponent in the second and third rounds of their tournaments.
3. Five possible games I’d love to see
- Michigan St. vs. Kansas – Even though this matchup would likely require both teams to win their first two games, there’s still a very good chance due to the overall weakness of the rest of the field (outside of perhaps Tennessee). Both teams lost in the Champions Classic this past week – MSU fell to Duke and Kansas was obliterated by Kentucky – and could use an early-season win over a blue-blood as a morale boost.
- Wisconsin vs. Florida – Wisconsin will almost certainly beat UAB, so a favored Florida team needs to beat Georgetown. This would be the third meeting in the past three years between the Badgers and the Gators: in the 2012 season, Florida ran Wisconsin out of the gym in Gainesville and Wisconsin replied with the boa-constrictor treatment on the return trip. This would be Wisconsin’s first big challenge of the young season.
- Michigan vs. Villanova – Regardless of the first-round outcomes in the Legends Classic, Michigan will find itself facing a formidable opponent the night after a contest with Oregon. Villanova gets the slight nod as a preferable opponent here because Michigan recently faced VCU (and the superb 2012 team dominated) and because Villanova lost just four games last year – two of which came in the form of blowouts at the hands of Creighton, a three-point happy team like Michigan.
- Illinois vs. Baylor – I’m high on the Illini and a matchup between backcourt transfers Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby against Baylor’s diminutive guard tandem would be fun. Illinois would need to prove that its presumably resurgent three-point shooting can hold up against Baylor’s bizarre sort of matchup zone that only makes sense to Scott Drew. Illinois would get open looks, and we’d see if they can hit them. Plus we get a rematch of this game.
- Purdue vs. Arizona – If nothing else, this would be an excellent measuring stick for A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas; Purdue’s big men – particularly the frustrating and inconsistent Hammons – could have a great chance to prove themselves against one of the nastiest frontcourts in college basketball. A loss here would be expected (and not at all harmful), while a win would be the type of resume-builder that could propel the Boilermakers into the tournament come March.
[AFTER THE JUMP: running down the week that was in the Big Ten]
Oh how the tide has turned for Indiana. What does mean for the B1G in general? Is the B1G beating up on itself hurting us? Is this good or bad for us(since we lost to IU), or WHO CARES 3 IN A ROW VS SPARTY!!?
You might recall a few weeks back when we addressed the four proposals that fans could vote for on Facebook and touched upon the one rods-and-cones-scarring possibility that the court would end up looking like this. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the least awful option was selected.
Below is sample illustrating how the stained floor will actually look upon completion:
That’s actually not too shabby. You know what? Democracy: sometimes, it actually works!
So with recent wins by Northwestern and Minnesota, there is the possibility that FIVE teams in the Big Ten will finish 9-9 in the conference. Each of these five teams has one game left in regular conference play. This will happen if:
- Michigan beats Minnesota
- Northwestern beats OSU
- Indiana beats Wisconsin
Obviously, the last one (Indiana over Wisconsin) is really unlikely to happen. But still, we could easily have Michigan, Minnesota, OSU and Northwestern all at 9-9. I know this affects seedings for the Big Ten Tournament, but can anyone hazard a guess at what the implications are for the NCAA tourney?
The good thing is that, if this scenario (four teams at 9-9) occurs, Michigan will have a head-to-head advantage over Northwestern and Minnesota (but not OSU). The bad thing is that, even if this happens, Michigan will still place 7th in the conference, not counting the Big Ten Tournament of course.
Apparently, the Big Ten is morphing into a high school basketball league:
Penn State 38, Illinois 33
Normally, I find that people who speak out about the weakness of Big Ten basketball to be stupid considering the number of final four teams we've produced over the last decade (9), which beats the Big 12 (6), the Big East (4, 6 if you count appearances by C-USA teams that have since defected), the Pac-10 (4), and the SEC (4), tying the ACC (9) for first. However, this is just ridiculous.