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Saturday, March 05, 2005
 
Road Trip!
There's nothing quite like a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment road trip. In this case, I'll be leaving in about 20 minutes to drive/ride to Ann Arbor. As such, no preview or recap of the Michigan on Saturday. Check back Sunday for a recap of the trip.

Go Hawks!
Thursday, March 03, 2005
 
Crashing the Boards
I've been looking at different rebounding stats lately in order to make a case for more playing time for Doug Thomas (as you may have noticed). My stat of choice was the simple but effective rebounds per 40 minutes, which is a clear step up from rebounds per game, but still has its biases. Teams that play at a fast pace, that miss a lot of shots, and force a lot of misses give their players more opportunities for rebounds, and a thus a higher rebounds per 40 minutes. So a player like James Augustine from Illinois might be adversely affected, as his team plays slow and shoots at a very high rate.

I checked around at some other analytical sites, and the rebounding stat of choice looks something like this -

Rebounding % = Rebounds / [(Team Rebounds + Opponent's Rebounds) x (Minutes / Team Minutes)]

It measures how many rebounds a players gets, based only on the rebounds that are available, and is adjusted for playing time. It's nothing new to most statheads, but it's an improvement from what I've been using. Let's take a look at the Big Ten leaderboard, using season stats. I only used players who played at least 25% of the team's minutes.

Player.......................................Reb%
Paul Davis, MSU......................18.0%
Aaron Johnson, PSU................17.6%
J'son Stamper, Minn................17.1%
James Augustine, Ill.................17.1%
Doug Thomas, Iowa................16.5%
Brent Petway, Mich..................15.7%
Pat Ewing Jr., Ind.....................15.3%
Greg Brunner, Iowa...............15.0%
Terence Dials, OSU.................14.7%
Carl Landry, Pur......................14.6%
Delco Rowley, MSU.................14.5%
Jeff Hagen, Minn......................14.5%
Courtney Sims, Mich...............14.3%
Mike Wilkinson, Wisc..............14.2%
Graham Brown, Mich..............14.1%
Alando Tucker, Wisc...............13.3%
Roger Powell Jr., Ill.................13.0%
Alan Anderson, MSU...............12.9%
Jack Ingram, Ill........................12.6%
Nick Smith, Ill...........................12.6%

Since players aren't equally adept at offensive and defensive rebounding, I'll list the leaders for those two as well.

Player............................................Oreb%
J'son Stamper, Minn....................15.0%
Aaron Johnson, PSU....................14.2%
Delco Rowley, MSU......................14.0%
Carl Landry, Pur...........................13.6%
James Augustine, Ill.....................13.4%
Pat Ewing Jr., Ind.........................12.7%
Doug Thomas, Iowa....................12.5%
Jack Ingram, Ill.............................11.6%
Geary Claxton, PSU......................11.5%
Brent Petway, Mich......................11.4%
Roger Powell Jr., Ill......................11.4%
Jeff Hagen, Minn...........................11.3%
Courtney Sims, Mich....................11.2%
Paul Davis, MSU...........................10.9%
Terence Dials, OSU......................10.5%
Mike Wilkinson, Wisc...................10.4%
Alan Anderson, MSU....................10.3%
Graham Brown, Mich.....................9.9%
Alando Tucker, Wisc......................9.8%
Greg Brunner, Iowa.....................9.6%

Player.............................................Dreb%
Paul Davis, MSU............................24.4%
Aaron Johnson, PSU.....................21.0%
James Augustine, Ill.......................20.5%
Doug Thomas, Iowa....................20.3%
Greg Brunner, Iowa....................20.0%
Zach Morley, Wisc........................19.6%
Brent Petway, Mich......................19.6%
J'son Stamper, Minn.....................19.3%
Terence Dials, OSU.....................18.9%
J.J. Sullinger, OSU.......................18.4%
Nick Smith, Ill.................................18.2%
Pat Ewing Jr., Ind..........................17.9%
Mike Wilkinson, Wisc....................17.9%
Graham Brown, Mich....................17.9%
Jeff Hagen, Minn............................17.6%
Courtney Sims, Mich.....................17.2%
Alando Tucker, Wisc.....................16.7%
Travis Parker, PSU.......................15.9%
Mohamed Hachad, NW................15.7%
Carl Landry, Pur...........................15.5%

Michigan State and Wisconsin currently rank 1-2 in defensive rebounding rate in the Big Ten, based mainly on the strength of guys like Paul Davis, Mike Wilkinson, Zach Morley and Alando Tucker. Iowa currently ranks 7th in this category. If Doug Thomas were to play, say 22-26 mpg, is there any doubt they'd climb up the chart rather quickly? If his increased playing time came at the expense of Erek Hansen, the offense surely wouldn't suffer (see stat chart here). Let the PT for DT campaign begin!

Some of you Hawk fans might be curious how Reggie Evans rated in these categories. Here are his rates from his senior season.

Reb%.............Oreb%..........Dreb%
19.1%..............12.6%............25.3%

Yeesh, and I thought Paul Davis's numbers were dominating. By the way, Evans is currently leading the NBA in overall rebound %. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted.
 
The Numbers Are In
The Stats Page for conference games has finally been updated again. Illinois continues to dominate in offensive efficiency and has moved ahead of Michigan State into second place in defensive efficiency. Minnesota finished their conference schedule, and barring a total collapse from Ohio State's offense this weekend, will finish with the Big Ten's best defense, by a wide margin. Also notable - Michigan State leads the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
 
Iowa 74, Ohio State 72
Iowa picked up its first two-game winning streak of the conference season in exciting fashion, beating Ohio State on a Jeff Horner jumper with just three seconds to go.

The Carver-Hawkeye crowd of 11,000+ was apathetic for most of the first half, as the Buckeyes scored the first 7 points of the game, and Iowa didn't catch up to Ohio State until about 10 minutes into the game. The crowd finally got excited on the last possession of the half, as Horner grabbed an offensive rebound, killed some time, then found Jack Brownlee in the corner, who buried a three as time expired. That shot (from Iowa's lone senior, on Senior Night) sent the Hawks to the locker room trailing by a point.

The second half was tight - neither team led by more than six, and they were tied at eight different scores. Things got especially exciting in the final minute. Horner split two defenders with a bounce pass to Doug Thomas on the baseline, who went up strong and threw down a powerful dunk. He also drew some contact, and the 65% free throw shooter made the extra shot to put Iowa up three. Not to be outdone, Terence Dials scored the old-fashioned three point play at the other end, and Iowa had the ball with 29 seconds to go.

Iowa called timeout, then dribbled the ball up to halfcourt and called another timeout. According to his post-game interview, Horner told the coaches that he wanted the last shot. He got his wish. Horner stood near halfcourt while the clock ticked inside of 10 seconds. Seth Gorney freed him up with a pick, and Jeff knocked down the shot from the left elbow with three seconds left. Ohio State got the ball inbounds but turned it over before they could get a shot off. Hawks win!

Let's take a quick look at some numbers from the box score -

Iowa - 53 FGA - 10 Oreb + 9 TO + (0.4 x 20 FTA) = 60 possessions
OSU - 52 FGA - 7 O reb + 11 TO + (0.4 x 14 FTA) = 61.6 possessions

Averaging those gives us a game with about 61 possessions.
(74 points / 61 poss) x 100 = 121 offensive rating
(72 points / 61 poss) x 100 = 118 defensive rating

Ohio State's defense had only been allowing 99 points per 100 possessions, so this was a fine performance by the Hawkeye offense. However, their defensive effort was as bad as the offense was good, since the Buckeyes were only scoring 102 points per 100 possessions. Oh well, a win is a win, and they haven't exactly been plentiful lately, so I'll just shut up and enjoy it.

Game Notes

- Horner joined Iowa's 1,000 point club in what was one of his best games of the season. He played all 40 minutes without a turnover, he passed for eight assists, including the big baskets by Brownlee and Thomas at the end of each half, he grabbed eight rebounds, and his game-winning shot gave him a team-high 25 points. Not too shabby. It's great to see him hitting the three again - he's made 8 of them in the last two games.

- It's a good thing Horner was hot, because Greg Brunner struggled to get anything going offensively (although he was a monster on the offensive glass, grabbing 5 boards on his end of the floor). Greg finished with his standard 10 rebounds, but for once he fell short on the scoring half of the double-double, as he scored only 4 points on 1-5 shooting. Defensively, he had the same struggles as he did at Northwestern - he couldn't effectively guard a guy who can shoot from outside, and Ivan Harris exploited him for three 3's.

- Adam Haluska = good. I really like watching this guy play - he's hitting his threes, he's posting up, he's scoring in transition, and he's even chipping in on the boards. Check out his last 6 games - 19.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 42-77 FG, 13-28 3pt, 18-21 FT. That's a 55 FG%, 63 adjFG%, 86 FT%, and 1.33 PPWS. Very impressive.

- On Tuesday I said, "What if [Doug] Thomas could cut his fouls in half? Would Alford let him off the bench?" and, "If someone could teach him to keep his feet and stop reaching, he'd deserve 25 mpg." Thomas came into the game averaging 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Wednesday he had 2 fouls in 21 minutes, or 3.8 fouls per 40 minutes. Eerie. Aside from that coincidence, Doug had another solid game (funny how that seems to happen when he's not on the bench). He hit a couple jump shots from the free throw line and had the monster dunk and free throw at the end to finish with 7 points. One you thing you notice when Doug plays is the change in the crowd - there's this constant buzz of anticipation, like everyone is waiting for a big play to happen at any second. There's a certain energy about his style of play that always spreads to his teammates and the crowd, and it's great to see in person. And besides, how many guys have their own theme song? The student section's recitation of ACDC's "Thunderstruck" upon each Thomas entrance has spread all the way to the megaphone-toting cheerleaders.

- Seth Gorney saw some decent PT again, and even played more than Erek Hansen (10 min to 9). He was one of the many Hawkeye post players who couldn't contain Terence Dials (29 points, 9 rebounds). He looked fine on the offensive end, chipping in five points and hitting three free throws. I hate to say it, but I think my depth chart now has three guys ahead of the one that Alford starts at center.

- Brownlee's final game at Carver-Hawkeye turned out to be a big one - he hit the clutch three in the first half and played a career-high 17 minutes without committing a turnover. He was the last remaining player from the 2001 squad that ran the table in the Big Ten tournament, so next year's team will likely have 0 NCAA tournament experience.

All in all, a good win for the Hawkeyes. It was nice to finally see them on the winning end of a close game. Their record stands at 18-10, 6-9. If they knock off Michigan on Saturday and Ohio State loses to Illinois, Iowa would finish 6th in the Big Ten and draw Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. A win there would pit them up against the three seed, which looks to be Wisconsin, who you'll recall Iowa led by double digits at the Kohl Center. Yes, they lost, but they definitely showed they could play with the Badgers. So while Iowa's chances are slim, this season isn't over yet. Crazier things have happened (and just four years ago).


 
Next Up - Ohio State
Ohio State (18-10, 7-7) at Iowa (17-10, 5-9)
7:05 pm CST
Carver-Hawkeye Arena

Stats Glossary

Team................Pts/Poss.....adjFG%.....TO/poss.....Oreb Rt.....FTA/FGA......3A/FGA
Ohio State............102...........0.495...........0.175..........0.255..........0.268.............0.406
Opponents.............99............0.481...........0.221..........0.319..........0.296.............0.280

Iowa......................102...........0.490...........0.221..........0.333..........0.366.............0.300
Opponents............101...........0.473...........0.224..........0.325..........0.419.............0.324

Big Ten Avg..........104...........0.505..........0.215...........0.319..........0.346.............0.340

Ohio State has performed fairly similarly to Iowa in their Big Ten games - a little below average on offense, a little below average on defense, but the two teams arrive at those performance levels by different paths.

Ohio State relies on the three pointer, as they've attempted more threes than any Big Ten team. Luckily for Iowa, the Buckeyes shoot a rather ho-hum 32.3% from long range. Their affection for the long-ball probably contributes to their hideous offensive rebound rate, despite the best efforts of Terence Dials. Only Northwestern rebounds fewer of their own misses. In some ways, Ohio State is a less effective version of Illinois - both teams shoot lots of threes, have a very low turnover rate, and neither they nor their opponents shoot many free throws. Stress the less effective part though, because Illinois scores 21 more points per 100 possessions, mainly because they hit a scalding 41% of their threes.

Individuals
Ohio State
Name.......................Mpg..........Floor%......O Rtg........%poss......Ppg......Rpg......Apg
Terence Dials..........32.4...........0.543.........107...........24.6%.....15.1.......7.6.......0.5
Tony Stockman.......26.1...........0.396............92...........26.0%....10.6.......1.6.......2.1
J.J. Sullinger............27.2..........0.504..........110...........18.4%.......8.8.......6.1.......1.3
Ivan Harris...............17.6...........0.403.........104...........16.5%.......5.1.......2.6.......0.6
Je'Kel Foster............27.6..........0.384............98...........16.7%.......6.7........3.0......2.7
Matt Sylvester..........23.3..........0.491...........111...........23.0%.......9.8.......2.5......1.9
Fuss-Cheatham.......21.4..........0.405............92...........17.4%.......4.8........2.1......2.4
Jamar Butler............19.9...........0.403............99...........13.5%.......3.5........1.8......2.0

Give Thad Matta credit for doing something Alford never tried - benching one of his main players. Tony Stockman averaged 32.3 mpg and 13 ppg in Ohio State's first six conference games. But by taking over 13 shots a game with a below average 46% adjFG%, he was dragging down Ohio State's offensive production (notice the %poss and O Rtg numbers - very PP-esque). Stockman has been coming off the bench for the last eight games, and his playing time dipped to 21.4 mpg in that span.

It should be interesting to see if Iowa can find anyone to slow down Terence Dials. He burned Iowa for 22 points and 8 rebounds last time, and Iowa hasn't exactly shut down any opposing post players this year.

Iowa
Name.......................Mpg..........Floor%......O Rtg........%poss......Ppg......Rpg......Apg
Greg Brunner..........33.8...........0.533..........110...........24.7%.....16.1......9.0........1.7
Adam Haluska.........30.9..........0.520...........119...........20.9%....14.5......4.0........1.2
Jeff Horner...............37.8..........0.435...........104...........20.0%....12.6......3.8........4.6
Erek Hansen............17.6..........0.443.............91............11.1%......2.4.......1.6........0.7
Doug Thomas..........15.6..........0.544...........107............16.0%......4.5......4.4........0.2
Mike Henderson.......21.1...........0.326............66.............16.7%......3.6......2.3........1.1
Carlton Reed............13.2..........0.361............83.............14.0%......2.2......1.2........1.2
Alex Thompson.......10.6..........0.451............93.............13.7%.......1.6......2.3........0.8
Seth Gorney..............5.4..........0.598...........123...............8.3%......0.9......1.6........0.0

Daily Pleading for more Doug Thomas PT - Yes, I realize Doug's own foul problems keep him off the court as much as Alford's decisions do, but I want to harp on his rebounding ability some more (because people remain unconvinced by it). Here are the Big Ten's leaders, among those playing 15 mpg, in rebounds per 40 minutes (I used season stats on this one to save time).

Player...............................Mpg.......Reb/40
Aaron Johnson, PSU.......32.6.........11.97
Doug Thomas, Iowa.........15.3.........11.69
Paul Davis, MSU..............25.6........11.34
J'son Stamper, Minn.......17.4.........10.92
James Augustine, Ill........26.1.........10.82
Greg Brunner, Iowa.........31.4........10.60
Brent Petway, Mich.........21.1...........9.82
Terence Dials, OSU........32.1...........9.78
Pat Ewing Jr., Ind............16.2...........9.76
Carl Landry, Purd............30.3..........9.41
Mike Wilkinson, Wisc......31.4...........9.36
Jeff Hagen, Minn..............26.3...........9.23

Aaron Johnson, Paul Davis, James Augustine, Greg Brunner.....I'd say that's a pretty good group to be included in, let alone being one spot from the top.

Well tip-off is about five hours away....I hope this post actually makes its way to a few of you before the game starts!
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
 
Does Iowa Miss Pierce?
Not as much as Pierce missed for Iowa....Ba-zing!

If you're one of the 5 or 10 Hawkeye fans still watching games (and reading this blog), you may have noticed a lack of posts for a few days - well I've been working on this, little by little. I probably should've broken it up into a few separate posts for easier reading, but here it is anyway.

With the completion of Iowa's game against Penn State, which was the Hawkeyes's 14th conference game, they have played seven games with and seven games without the 18 ppg and highly-praised defense of Pierre Pierce. Conventional wisdom said that Iowa would collapse without its "leader." At the time, I said I thought Iowa's offense would be fine (but drew no conclusions about the defense).

Let's start by looking at the game-by-game performance of the offense, as measured by points per 100 possessions. I'll list the opponent, Iowa's offensive rating for that game, and the opponent's defensive rating for all conference games through last weekend (2/27).

Opponent..........IA O Rtg.......Opp D Rtg
Michigan.................96......................110
Ohio State..............96........................99
Minnesota..............93........................96
Illinois.....................85........................98
Purdue...................119.....................107
Nwestern...............109.....................110
Indiana...................118.....................106
Average................102.3.................103.7

Michigan St...........100.....................100
Wisconsin..............116.....................103
Northwestern...........97......................110
Purdue.....................98......................107
Illinois....................103........................98
Minnesota................89.......................96
Penn State.............118......................118
Average...............103.0..................104.6

Well look at that - Iowa's offense didn't miss a beat after Pierce left the team. The average of the defenses they faced without him was slightly weaker, mainly because of the recent game with Penn State, but the differences are slight enough that it's safe to say Iowa's offense has been as efficient without Pierce as it was with him. (Notable note - despite playing in only half the games, Pierce still leads the team in turnovers for conference games.)

Was Iowa's offense signifcantly better or worse in any facet without its star? Here are some important team numbers to consider.
Stats Glossary

.........................Off Rtg.....Poss/G........adjFG%.........TO/poss.........Oreb %...........FTA/FGA
with PP..............102............68.1...........0.495...............0.229.............0.331..................0.391
w/o PP...............103............63.9...........0.484...............0.213.............0.338..................0.346

There's not much to see here - Iowa is shooting slightly fewer free throws, but makes up for it by turning the ball over slightly less often. The team's pace has changed a lot, as they're averaging over four fewer possessions per game. This could be for several different reasons - struggling to get a good shot without Pierce "creating" (read: forcing) one, not turning the ball over as often, not forcing the turnovers that lead to fast breaks, etc.

Well, if Pierce isn't around to score his 18 per game, where is the offense coming from, and how well are the replacements doing?

Let's start by simply examining who's getting the minutes now. I'll use a decimal to express what percentage of the minutes available that each player plays. The formula I used is simply

minutes / (team minutes / 5)

So if someone plays in all games and plays 30 mpg, he'd come in at 0.75, while someone who played 30 mpg but played in only half the games would be at 0.37. I would just use minutes per game but that doesn't account for guys who didn't play in every game, like Thomas and Reed.

Playing Time
Player.....................first 7 games.......last 7 games........change
Pierre Pierce................0.93.....................0.00..................-0.93
Jeff Horner...................0.91.....................0.95..................+0.04
Greg Brunner...............0.84.....................0.81..................-0.03
Adam Haluska.............0.63......................0.89.................+0.26
Erek Hansen................0.46......................0.41..................-0.05
Doug Thomas..............0.43......................0.28.................-0.15
Carlton Reed................0.30......................0.30...................0.00
Mike Henderson...........0.29......................0.76.................+0.47
Alex Thompson............0.15......................0.38.................+0.23
Seth Gorney.................0.06......................0.11.................+0.05
Jack Brownlee..............0.00......................0.09................+0.09
J.R. Angle......................0.00......................0.02................+0.02
Justin Wieck.................0.00......................0.01.................+0.01

Henderson and Haluska picked up most of Pierce's playing time, with Haluska going from 26.0 mpg to 35.7, and Henderson from 11.9 to *gasp* 30.4. Alex Thompson has seen plenty more minutes, but that was mainly due to Thomas missing a game and Brunner and Hansen's foul trouble, and has little to do with Pierce's absence.

OK, that tells us who's getting the extra minutes, but it doesn't say much about where the offense is coming from. For this next part I'll use some of Dean Oliver's tools to evaluate who's picking up Pierce's slack. Pierce used an enormous 30% of Iowa's possessions, so his departure opened the door for several other (more efficient) scorers to see the ball. Starting with the main contributors from the first seven games -

Player..................%poss...........Floor%.........Off Rtg
Pierre Pierce.........29.9.............0.451...............94
Greg Brunner.........22.4............0.539..............112
Adam Haluska.......19.9............0.437..............102
Jeff Horner.............16.9............0.462..............110

When the #2-#4 scorers are more efficient than the guy taking most of the shots, the top dog isn't irreplaceable, as I noted in my analysis a month ago (hope you don't mind the self-congratulations) -


Pierre Pierce was clearly the focal point of Iowa's offense through its first
seven conference games. Since he scored in such an inefficient fashion, his
absence in the offense probably won't be the crisis some are making it out to
be. The team going forward will be more balanced and made up of more efficient
scorers, so they should be able to pick up the slack from the fallen star.
Here's how the "Big Three" looks over the last seven games -

Player.....................%poss.......Floor%.........Off Rtg
Greg Brunner..........26.4..........0.536..............113
Jeff Horner..............23.3..........0.414...............101
Adam Haluska.........22.3..........0.583..............130

Greg Brunner, as always, is just solid. He was forced to pick up an extra 4% of the possessions, yet his floor percentage and offensive rating remain nearly identical. Add in his stellar rebounding and you've got a convincing case for Iowa's MVP.

Horner's offensive rating dropped with the increased offensive burden, but that's to be expected of a guy who doesn't effectively create his own shot. With Pierce out of the lineup, the opposing team's best perimiter defender now moves to either Horner or Haluska, and Iowa's stand-still offense often forces Horner into ill-advised shots, so a drop in efficiency is reasonable. Note though that he's still more efficient than Pierce was (101 to 94).

Adam Haluska. Wow. One of Iowa's all-time best high school players has flourished in his new role and developed into one of the Big Ten's best scorers (19 ppg in last 7 games). Here's a quick comparison of Adam's last seven games to some of the Big Ten's other scoring guards.


PlayerGPPGRPGAPGFTA/FGA3PA/FGAadjFG%PPWS%possFloor%O Rtg
Adam Haluska719.05.11.90.3670.3890.5941.2722.30.583130
Luther Head1416.63.82.60.3460.6280.6061.2922.30.531127
Dee Brown1414.32.44.20.2580.6480.6841.4019.70.558137
Vincent Grier1517.45.72.30.5070.1140.4311.0126.70.498102
Bracey Wright1119.25.33.30.4720.3740.4601.0732.50.490108


*PPWS is Points Per Weighted Shots, as explained by the venerable Big Ten Wonk.

With the exception of how many threes each guy shoots, and 3-pt%, Haluska compares very favorably to Luther Head from Illinois. I hinted as early as the third game of the season that I preferred Haluska to Pierce,

I guess the point I want to make is that I won't be devastated if Pierre isn't
able to play Wednesday....If Pierce is out of the lineup, I'm fine with
Haluska handling the ball more and taking the extra shots. He's got a better
outside shot, and I think some people would be surprised by his ability to
take his man off the dribble.
But I'll readily admit that I didn't expect the kind of production Adam has shown recently. He showed early flashes of excellence (think Iowa State and Texas Tech) but mixed that with enough 1-6 and 1-7 nights from three that most of us were not always sure what to expect.

To make a long story short, Iowa's offense has been just fine without Pierre Pierce.

Now let's take a look at the defense. We'll start the way we did with offense, by listing Iowa's game-by-game defensive rating with each opponent's offensive rating for all conference games.

Opponent..............IA D Rtg.........Opp O Rtg
Michigan......................99......................94
Ohio State.................113....................102
Minnesota...................84......................96
Illinois..........................92....................123
Purdue........................95....................103
Northwestern.............110...................102
Indiana.........................93....................108
Average....................98.0..................104.0

Michigan State.............118....................117
Wisconsin....................121....................109
Northwestern...............82.....................102
Purdue.........................103...................103
Illinois..........................118....................123
Minnesota...................102......................96
Penn State....................84......................93
Average....................104.0.................106.1

Iowa's defense fared worse without Pierce, both in absolute and relative terms. The post-Pierce team still held teams below their average (thanks mainly to the Northwestern and Penn State games), and that 104 mark is league average, but the Pierce-led defense was more successful. With Pierce, Iowa held opponents to 94% of their season average (98/104), and 98% without him.

Here's a breakdown of the defensive performance for each seven game stretch -

..............................Opp adjFG%.......Opp TO/poss......Opp Oreb%.......Opp FTA/FGA
with PP......................0.474.....................0.271...................0.369.....................0.396
w/o PP.......................0.471.....................0.174...................0.277.....................0.443

Iowa has forced significantly fewer turnovers without Pierce in the lineup. You might recall that he was leading the conference in steals and had a good chance at breaking Ryan Bowen's season steals record. The difference between Pierce's defense and fill-in Mike Henderson has been noticeable.

The change in defensive rebounding has been impressive, though little of that is probably attributable to Pierce. From a table listed earlier, recall that Erek Hansen's playing time dropped from 0.46 of available minutes to 0.41. That's not a huge drop, and I'm sure it doesn't explain all of the rebounding difference. Let's take a closer look at who's getting the job done on the boards.

With Alford's substitution patterns, you basically have Brunner, Hansen, Thomas, Thompson, and Gorney rotating through the two post spots, and the other regulars sharing three guard spots. Two lineup spots provide 560 minutes over 7 games (2 x 40 x 7), and the bigs combined for 565 and 555 minutes in the two 7 game stretches, so our assumption that these 5 guys get all the post playing time is pretty safe.

Using minutes / 560, here's a measure of each tree's playing time over each 7 game segment, as well as their defensive rebounds per 40 minutes of conference play.

Player...........first 7.........last 7.......d reb/40
Brunner..........0.44...........0.41..........7.44
Hansen...........0.24...........0.20..........1.63
Thomas..........0.23...........0.14..........7.09
Thompson......0.08..........0.19............4.86
Gorney...........0.03...........0.06...........7.35

I guess what I'm getting at is that by replacing Hansen with anybody makes for a significantly better rebounding team. His decrease in playing time was Iowa's gain in rebounding.

Also of note, Iowa's good defensive rebounding numbers in that second stretch of games is skewed somewhat by the 0 offensive boards Northwestern had. Still, even if you remove both Northwestern games, Iowa allowed a 0.388 offensive rebound rate with Pierce and 0.310 without him, which is a big improvement, and Iowa played better rebounding teams in the games without Pierce. Other than slightly decreased playing time for Hansen, I don't have a very good explanation.

***Related Rant*********************
If Doug Thomas could stay out of foul trouble (and if Alford didn't have him on such a short leash), Iowa could be playing a two-headed rebounding monster reminiscent of the Acie Earl - Chris Street tandem. Here's a listing of total rebounds per 40 minutes and fouls per 40 minutes.

Player..........reb/40.......foul/40
Brunner..........10.7............3.8
Thomas..........11.2............7.5
Thompson........8.6............5.9
Hansen.............3.7............8.8
Gorney............11.4............4.9

Make no mistake, Thomas is as good as a rebounder as Brunner, the Big Ten's leader. If someone could teach him to keep his feet and stop reaching, he'd deserve 25 mpg.
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In the end though, none of these stats matter as much as the numbers that show up in the win and loss columns. Plenty of sportswriters were quick to see Iowa's 2-5 record and declare that the loss of Pierce doomed the team. Iowa didn't exactly win with Pierce, going only 3-4 before he got canned, so going 2-5 without him isn't exactly a collapse. Nevermind the fact that the second 7 games basically included Michigan State and Wisconsin where Ohio State and Indiana had been in the first 7.

Verdict, Short Form
Pierce, as the focal point of Iowa's offense, was basically dead weight dragging down the team's potential efficiency, but the Hawks don't have the players to replace his defensive contributions.

What If...
- What if the coaches had recognized Pierce's offensive shortcomings and told/forced him to shoot less?
- What if they had realized Haluska's offensive capabilities at the start, giving him more minutes and more shots?
- What if Pierce was more of a pass-first point guard with Horner playing the traditional shooting guard role? This would've required less of a scoring mentality from Pierce, but the guy was averaging 4-5 ast a game even when he was taking 15 shots per. With Pierce's ability to penetrate and draw defenders, I could see him hitting 6-7 ast/game and Horner knocking down a lot of uncontested threes. Sure this is all moot speculation and wishful thinking, but it's been in the back of my mind for a long time.
- What if Thomas could cut his fouls in half? Would Alford let him off the bench? I have visions of Pierce deflecting passes they way he always did, then heading downcourt to hit a streaking Thomas for the flush or finding Horner on the wing for the easy three. That would've made for some fun at Carver. I should really stop torturing myself with all these scenarios. Seriously though, a lineup of Pierce, Horner, Haluska, Brunner and Thomas, if harnessed properly, would've been an offensive powerhouse. And with Pierce and Haluska shutting down perimeter players and Brunner and Thomas grabbing every rebound in sight, it would've been a solid defensive unit too. Argh.
- What if I went to bed? We have a winner!

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