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Thursday, December 23, 2004
 
More Fun With Numbers
My latest toy is a very simple stat I read about in Dean Oliver's stats definitions from his Journal of basketball studies. He gives the following definition

Credits = Pts + Reb + Ast + Stl + Blk - FG misses - FT missed - TO

and describes the resulting number as "[a]n integer estimate of a player's value, making no fine distinctions, but, rather, distinguishing easily between very good seasons, average seasons, and poor seasons."

Like he says, no distinctions are made between the value of each number, so one steal equals one rebound equals one point. The guys who do well in this stat are either the standard fantasy basketball player, who excels in numerous categories, or who do very strongly in one or two categories and can make up for deficiencies in other categories.

Credits are bound to be biased as a measure of individual value since the inputs are themselves biased. It makes no refinements for a team's tempo, or for the level of competition, or for the skill of one's teammates. Basically it's used to separate the clearly productive players from the clearly worthless ones.

I tried to make up for some of the bias by using credits per team possession. This will presumably raise the scores of guys from slower-paced teams like Northwestern and reduce the numbers of players from Iowa and Michigan State. The formula I ended up with looks like this

[(Credits / Team Possessions) x 100] / Games

See my stats glossary or the above Oliver link if you're not familiar with possessions. Here are the current Big Ten leaders.

Player, Team............................Credit Rating
Jeff Horner, Iowa..................................29.1
Aaron Johnson, Penn St......................28.7
Luther Head, Illinois..............................28.0
Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern............27.5
Carl Landry, Purdue.............................27.1
Dee Brown, Illinois...............................26.8
Vincent Grier, Minnesota......................25.5
Jeff Hagen, Minnesota..........................24.8
James Augustine, Illinois......................24.6
Roger Powell, Jr, Illinois.......................24.1
Greg Brunner, Iowa...............................23.5
Terence Dials, Ohio State.....................23.1
J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State.......................22.5
Paul Davis, Michigan State....................22.5
Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin...................22.4

Again, this formula shouldn't be used an a definitive answer to debates of who is better than whom, but it does a decent job of separating the men from the boys. If you were making out your all Big Ten team today, you could make a good case for any of the guys near the top of the list.

Jeff Horner - one of the league's best all-around players
Aaron Johnson - averaging a double-double, leading the league in rebounds
Luther Head - leading scorer for the first place team
Vedran Vukusic - token decent player from poor/average team
Carl Landry - 15.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg
Dee Brown - arguably the best player on the best team
Vincent Grier - conference's leading scorer

Non-Basketball News
Weather permitting, I'll be making my way back home on Thursday to see my parents before they leave for a short vacation. I plan to sit around for a couple days and soak up some DIRECTV and see some people I haven't seen in a long time, and then I leave for my own vacation on Saturday.

I'm flying to Oregon to spend some time with my sister and her fiancee. The agenda includes snowboarding, hiking, microbrew sampling, and if everything works out, the Portland-Oregon basketball game on the 28th. Needless to say I'm very excited.

Unfortunately, all this fun stuff means I'll be separated from my computer until after New Year's. I might be able to sneak in a post or two at my sister's place, but chances are I won't see either the Air Force or the St. Louis game, so there won't be much for me to write about.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great holiday season!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
Iowa 83, Texas Tech 53
If I've learned anything recently, it's that I'm wrong a lot more often than I like to be. To recap -

I was wrong in suggesting Texas Tech would score a lot and have few turnovers last night.
I was wrong in expecting Jeff Horner to be able to carry this team every night.
I was wrong in picking Adam Haluska to have a big game against Western Carolina.
I was wrong in suggesting, early in the season, that Doug Thomas should steal some of Erek Hansen's playing time.

All minor mistakes, mind you, and if you grant me the last one, all quite reasonable.

Texas Tech came into the game as one of the country's highest scoring teams, most efficient offenses, and turned the ball over as little as anyone. I was as surprised as anyone that Tech could only muster 53 points while gift-wrapping the ball 21 times against an Iowa defense that has been less than stellar.

Horner has played exceptionally against every quality team Iowa has played this year, as well as most of the rest. He repeatedly produces a pretty stat line and is exciting to watch. He finally had an off night last night, shooting 3-14 and 1-6 from the outside. Coach Alford commented (in QC Times) on the matter.

“A year ago, when Jeff starts slow like that, we struggle as a team,” Alford
said. “This year, other guys can pick us up and that makes a big difference."
Guys like. . . . .

Adam Haluska let me down with an average performance against Western Carolina, but he was huge against Texas Tech. For starters, he scored 21 points by shooting 7-9 FG, 3-3 3FG, and he had 6 rebounds and 2 steals, all in only 22 minutes. The rest of the team was not so pretty - without Haluska's numbers, Iowa shot 40.7 FG%, 15.4 3P%, and 60.0 FT%. The best part of the night for me was Adam's one minute rampage in the first half. In the style of one of my primary blogging influences, I'll let the game log speak for itself.

17:23 Adam Haluska defensive rebound
17:11 Greg Brunner misses two point layup
17:11 Adam Haluska offensive rebound
17:06 Adam Haluska made two point jumper
16:57 Curtis Marshall missed two point jumper
16:57 Adam Haluska defensive rebound
16:44 Adam Haluska made three point jumper
16:20 Adam Haluska made two point layup
16:20 Foul on Jarrius Jackson
16:20 Adam Haluska made free throw

For a one minute stretch in the game, Haluska was responsible for all eight points scored. The first was a little runner that he banked in. He came down on the next possession and hit the three, and came up with a steal and a three-point play on the Jackson foul after that. He also added another three pointer about two minutes after the eight point run. Iowa fans are no doubt excited about the continued emergence of yet another scoring threat to place alongside Horner, Pierre Pierce, and Greg Brunner.

Besides Horner and Haluska, no one else really stood out. Hansen didn't allow anything easy inside and swatted six shots, which is far from abnormal, but he did tie a season-high with 6 rebounds. His career high is 7, from last year's Northwestern game. Pierce had his standard 6-14 shooting night, complete with four turnovers and three missed free throws in six attempts. Brunner continues to grab anything near him, with 8 rebounds in only 22 minutes. Doug Thomas still seems out of sync with the rest of the team, but he did add 6 points and 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes, including a mid-range jumper that he seems to hit consistently. I'm hoping the winter break gives him enough time away from school to concentrate on basketball and start to gel with his teammates. Alex Thompson continues to look better every time he hits the floor. He had 4 points and 5 rebounds in only 11 minutes. He also knocked down a mid-range shot. I'm almost ready to pull a 180 and advocate Thompson taking some of Thunder Doug's minutes. Almost.

Random Stuff


 
Gone Fishing
I'm just getting home from some winter break socializing, and I'm a little sleepy, so I'll get my thoughts about the Texas Tech game posted around mid-day Wednesday. Sorry for the delay.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
 
Vincent Grier - Who Are You?
When I posted a list of the Big Ten's returning scorers back in November, I was expecting one of those players to step forward and lead the conference in scoring this season. Instead, Vincent Grier of Minnesota is currently the leader of the pack at 18.2 ppg (with Iowa's Jeff Horner and Pierre Pierce at #5 and #6). So of course the question popped into my head - who is Vincent Grier? In case any of you were as clueless as myself, here's a little of what I discovered after some brief research.

Grier went to Bonner Academy in Raleigh, NC, and was a top 100 national recruit. He averaged 23 points and 6 rebounds as a senior, and 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists as a junior. He originally signed with UNC-Charlotte of Conference USA, but would only play the 2002-03 season there. He spent last year at Dixie State Junior College in Utah, and established himself as an All-Scenic West Athletic Conference player. In the process of choosing Minnesota he also fielded recruiting offers from Oklahoma, Arizona, Penn State and Georgia.

For those who prefer numbers to letters -
TeamMpgPpgRpgApgSpgTOpgFG%3p%FT%
UNC-Cha18.25.23.41.41.11.0.520.333.489
Dixie State34.817.15.82.72.33.5.502.200.717
Minnesota36.718.25.02.01.43.0.519.400.806

I originally planned another table to show each stat per 40 minutes, but if you double the per game stats from Grier's freshman year, each season will have roughly the same mpg and will be loosely comparable.

A couple stats I do want to point out are Grier's 3PA/FGA and FTA/FGA.
Team3PA/FGAFTA/FGA
UNC-Cha
.024
.382
Dixie State
.138
.606
Minnesota
.144
.596


The Big 10 average for 3PA/FGA is .344, and for FTA/FGA it's .352. Grier is a guy who scores a lot without shooting many threes and while making "only" about half his shots. He's able to do this by shooting a ton of free throws. That .596 FTA/FGA currently ranks 7th in the Big 10 (most players in the top ten are post players), and his 7.52 FTA/40 min ranks 6th in the conference (again, among mostly big men).

I haven't seen Grier play yet, but based on numbers alone I would loosely compare him to Pierre Pierce. He's an athletic scorer who excels in transition and makes frequent trips to the free throw line (and can actually make more than half of them). He doesn't have Pierre's assist numbers, but some of that might be a lack of talented teammates. Another similarity is defensive play - UNC-Charlotte's coach stressed Grier's "potential to be a defensive stopper" when he was a freshman.



Monday, December 20, 2004
 
Poll Position

Current Rankings

TeamRecordAPCoachesPomeroy
Illinois10-0111
Iowa9-1171925
Michigan State6-2232016
Wisconsin6-2282939
Michigan6-5NV39120

Is there any justification for Michigan receiving a vote in the coaches' poll? No other team receiving a vote has more than two losses.


 
Next Up - Texas Tech

Teams: Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Site: United Center, Chicago
Time: 6:05 CST, Tuesday
TV: ESPN2

Numbers current through games of 12/18/04.
National ranking in parentheses, when available.
Stats Glossary

...............................Texas Tech................Iowa
Record......................5-2............................9-1
Pts/G........................87.0 (5)....................83.1 (20)
Pts All/G...................63.6..........................71.6
Poss/G...................75.1 (18)...................73.2 (32)
Off Efficiency.........115.8 (25).................113.5 (40)
Def Efficiency............84.7.........................97.8
FG%......................0.472 (72)................0.485 (45)
3FG%....................0.410 (30)................0.429 (14)
adjFG%.................0.507 (136)..............0.554 (38)
FT%......................0.770 (12)................0.688 (139)
FTA/FGA..............0.347 (183)...............0.442 (43)
3PA/FGA..............0.175 (328)...............0.325 (169)
A/TO.......................1.53 (5)......................1.27 (23)
TO/100 poss........16.73 (7)....................20.22 (63)
Pomeroy Rank...........36...............................24
Sagarin Rank.............32...............................20

This is a matchup that I've been excited about for awhile. It features two teams that use a lot of possessions and use them well, which results in them being two of the highest scoring teams in the country. They achieve their offensive efficiency in different ways. Iowa is a very good three-point shooting team - their effectiveness from long range allows them to average more points per possession than teams whose offenses are focused more inside. Texas Tech isn't as effective at shooting the ball from the field (see the very average adjFG%), but they make up for it by rarely turning the ball over, and by having one of the country's best free throw percentages . Part of that low adjFG% is the fact that their three point attempts per field goal attempt (3PA/FGA) is the fourth lowest such ratio in the country. Only two Tech players are even averaging 2 three point attempts per game.

Texas Tech has shown they can beat up the cupcakes, but has done little against tougher opponents. They lost by six to Ohio State last week, and lost by 15 at Texas Christian. Both Tech and Iowa have played Centenary, with TT beating them by 52, and Iowa beating them by 35.

Tech's team looks quite balanced - five players average double figure scoring, and looks fairly deep - seven players average at least 15 mpg, and 3 more are near 10 mpg.

A victory would make Iowa the Big Ten's second 10 win team, as Illinois got there Sunday.

The media focus will no doubt be the rematch of Coach Alford and his former coach Bob Knight. Don't let that distract you from what should otherwise be a great game between two evenly-matched teams.

Sunday, December 19, 2004
 
Iowa 88, Western Carolina 75
Since I paid about $11 per game for my basketball tickets, and since I question whether I got my money's worth after yesterday's game, I wonder how many fans were satisfied with their $20 and $26 dollar purchases. To an Iowa fan, or to anyone who enjoys clean, fundamentally sound basketball, this game was generally not pretty.

WCU shot 1-13 in getting into an early 22-3 hole. Several of those shots came in the paint and didn't even draw rim. Just ugly basketball. With Iowa leading 24-5 heading into the 8:00 TV timeout, I was starting to wonder if this box score would stick out from the sports page the way Oklahoma State's 81-29 victory over Washington State had earlier this year. It was brutal to watch their total ineptness on offense, and several Iowa student hecklers verbalized their displeasure in choosing this game over a couple extra hours downtown.

Things were different after that timeout. WCU went on to score 70 points in the remaining 28 minutes, a pace that projects to 100 points over a full 40 minutes. Iowa's offense, which had been centered on throwing a 3/4 court pass Pierre Pierce off of Catamount turnovers and missed shots, disappeared for the rest of the first half. WCU's aggressive mand to man defense gave the Hawkeyes fits, and their lead was trimmed to seven points. They took a 32-25 lead into half time.

At that point, while Iowa's "Golden Girl" performed her baton-twirling routine (which was very good, by the way), you had to figure Coach Alford was screaming himself hoarse in the locker room. He confirmed that suspicion in the post-game press conference (from DM Register) -

I did more than snap at Jeff and Pierre,'' Alford said. "I did not like the way
we played from the 8-minute mark on. A lot of it had to do with those two.
Sometimes you have to send that message, even to your best players.''
Iowa responded with a good run to start the second half, and their lead was never really challenged the rest of the way. The defense left a lot to be desired, though, as WCU was able to score 50 second half points. Some credit should go to WCU's perimiter shooting - despite only hitting 28% of their threes coming into the game, they were able to knock down 12 of 24 yesterday. All in all, it wasn't a great effort from Iowa, but I'm willing to chalk it up to the 8-day layoff and the finals week fatigue, forget about it, and move on to the big game against Texas Tech on Tuesday.

Game Notes




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