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Friday, April 01, 2005
 
Final Four Stats Roundup
With Final Four games tipping off just a day from now, I figured it was about time to post some stats for each of the remaining teams. The following tables list individual stats for the players of Illinois, Louisville, North Carolina, and Michigan State as compiled during their NCAA tournament games. Four games is certainly a small sample size for drawing conclusions about the overall ability of the players involved, but it does give us an idea of which players have been responsible for their team's success over the past two weeks.

I'm listing only players who played at least 15 mpg during the tournament.
Hawkeye Hoops Stats Glossary
All stats are from each team's four tournament games.
Again, if the table doesn't appear directly below this text, please reduce your text size.


Illinois

Player

MPG

O Rtg

%Poss

TS%

Reb%

Pass

TO/P

Stl%

FT/FG

FT Rt

3 Rt

Deron Williams

37.3

120

24.3%

0.63

4.7%

34.1

0.21

1.6%

0.36

7.1

1.3

Dee Brown

36.5

106

20.6%

0.65

4.8%

18.8

0.28

2.5%

0.20

4.2

2.9

Luther Head

36.0

104

22.4%

0.49

3.6%

18.7

0.09

3.0%

0.14

2.2

3.2

James Augustine

34.3

139

13.5%

0.73

17.4%

1.5

0.13

2.7%

1.18

10.1

0.0

Roger Powell Jr

26.8

109

18.8%

0.53

10.9%

3.8

0.12

2.9%

0.21

4.8

0.6

Jack Ingram

17.8

110

18.0%

0.57

9.0%

5.7

0.14

6.0%

0.09

0.7

0.5


Guards Dee Brown and Luther Head haven't been nearly as efficient as they were during the regular season, but Deron Williams and James Augustine are doing a good job of picking up the slack. Williams is leading the team with 16.5 ppg and 8.5 apg while Augustine is adding 12.3 ppg on 68% shooting to go with 10.3 rpg. The latter's performance should be no surprise to Hawkeye Hoops readers, as Augugstine was one of the better rebounders and most efficient scorers in the Big Ten this year, but was overlooked by many because he only played about 26 mpg in the regular season.

The Illini continue to limit their turnovers, with a solid 0.17 turnover/possession rate over the last four games. Team rebounding has not been their strong suit, as they're only rebounding 28% of their misses and letting their opponents get to 41% of theirs.

Louisville

Player

MPG

O Rtg

%Poss

TS%

Reb%

Pass

TO/P

Stl%

FT/FG

FT Rt

3 Rt

Francisco Garcia

37.0

131

25.9%

0.67

4.3%

19.0

0.19

0.4%

0.43

13.0

3.3

Larry O'Bannon

34.5

145

21.3%

0.71

9.1%

18.9

0.15

1.9%

0.64

14.0

1.9

Juan Diego Palacios

33.3

116

17.7%

0.61

11.8%

3.4

0.21

1.9%

0.48

4.1

0.8

Ellis Myles

31.8

99

22.3%

0.51

18.3%

20.5

0.33

2.5%

1.56

6.3

0.0

Taquan Dean

31.0

131

22.0%

0.62

12.2%

10.5

0.11

2.1%

0.16

2.5

6.0

Brandon Jenkins

16.5

106

8.0%

0.26

4.8%

17.3

0.00

3.9%

0.86

2.3

0.0

Otis George

16.3

150

9.8%

0.80

9.7%

3.4

0.10

0.0%

0.30

0.0

0.0


Louisville is scoring 82.5 ppg in the tourny on the shoulders of Garcia, Dean, and O'Bannon, who are each averaging at least 17 ppg. Myles has been solid on the glass, grabbing 9.3 rpg in just under 32 mpg. Garcia and O'Bannon have done an excellent job of getting to the line, combining to shoot 12 FT per game at a 90% clip.

Louisville is only team among the Final Four without what I might call a "designated ball distributor." Each of the other three teams has a point guard (or two) with a pass rating above 30 - the Cardinals rely on several above average passers instead of one excellent distributor.

If Illinois's weak rebounding should continue, Louisville could easily take advantage, as they've grabbed 40% of their misses and only allowed their opponents to get to 27% of their missed shots. Louisville has also gotten to the free throw line more frequently than any other Final Four team - 0.52 attempts per field goal attempt.


North Carolina

Player

MPG

O Rtg

%Poss

TS%

Reb%

Pass

TO/P

Stl%

FT/FG

FT Rt

3 Rt

Raymond Felton

32.0

116

23.5%

0.54

10.2%

35.1

0.21

1.8%

0.30

4.2

2.8

Sean May

30.3

138

27.7%

0.72

21.1%

7.0

0.16

1.9%

0.51

13.2

0.0

Rashad McCants

27.8

124

27.3%

0.63

5.4%

13.7

0.15

1.0%

0.42

8.8

5.0

Jackie Manuel

24.8

94

14.9%

0.55

5.5%

11.0

0.31

2.9%

0.56

1.8

0.0

Marvin Williams

23.5

139

22.1%

0.68

17.9%

3.7

0.08

4.3%

0.45

14.1

2.7

Jawad Williams

20.8

86

16.4%

0.37

6.5%

10.8

0.17

1.4%

0.23

0.2

0.2

Melvin Scott

15.8

163

11.0%

0.87

3.4%

29.7

0.17

0.9%

0.20

3.2

4.4

David Noel

15.8

78

6.3%

0.23

6.0%

17.1

0.29

2.7%

1.00

0.0

0.0


Sean May has probably been my favorite player to watch so far during the tournament. He's scoring 21.5 ppg on 68% shooting and grabbing 11.8 rpg in just over 30 mpg. I like the statistical outliers - I'm the kind of guy who cheers for Barry Bonds. Marvin Williams is hard to ignore, too - 15.5 ppg and 7.8 rpg in only 24 mpg will earn you that status.

UNC shot the best on their threes of the remaining teams, hitting 42%. Marvin Williams and Rashad McCants were both 50%, while Melvin Scott went 5-9.


Michigan State

Player

MPG

O Rtg

%Poss

TS%

Reb%

Pass

TO/P

Stl%

FT/FG

FT Rt

3 Rt

Paul Davis

33.5

112

24.3%

0.53

18.9%

3.1

0.17

0.9%

0.45

9.1

0.0

Maurice Ager

31.3

127

21.6%

0.59

9.4%

1.2

0.08

1.4%

0.44

11.0

1.2

Alan Anderson

29.8

131

19.0%

0.76

13.9%

8.2

0.25

3.0%

0.81

16.8

2.6

Shannon Brown

29.0

129

17.7%

0.70

6.6%

4.4

0.19

2.6%

0.47

9.7

3.0

Kelvin Torbert

22.5

119

20.0%

0.55

7.9%

7.3

0.09

1.3%

0.45

7.9

0.1

Chris Hill

20.8

81

20.1%

0.29

5.7%

30.8

0.17

4.4%

0.36

2.1

0.1

Drew Neitzel

18.8

106

19.1%

0.61

0.8%

31.2

0.32

1.6%

0.24

3.0

2.7


Like each of the other teams, MSU has one rebounder leading the way. In this case, it's Paul Davis getting 10.8 rpg. Like Augustine, Davis was often overlooked because of average RPG numbers, due to playing only 26 mpg, but few realize he led Big Ten starters in rebound %. Alan Anderson continues to be his uber-efficient self, hitting over half his shots while getting to the free throw line, where he's hit 21-22.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
 
Say My Name, B****
Here's a fun little comparison I came up with when I was updating some numbers today. I was surprised how similar these two guys's performances were this year, and maybe you will be too.

***If the table doesn't appear directly below this text, try shrinking your text size a little.***

Player

O Rt

%poss

adjFG%

TS%

FT/FG

FT%

Reb%

Pass

TO/p

B/40

Stl%

Player A

122

26.8%

0.598

0.677

0.78

0.80

15.3%

4.6

0.21

2.6

0.9%

Player B

120

28.0%

0.625

0.661

0.75

0.68

14.5%

4.5

0.19

1.0

1.7%


Note - when I use FT/FG in a table, I almost always use it as an abbreviation for FTA/FGA.
Stats Glossary

Both guys played over 30 mpg at power forward for major conference teams. Player A won his conference's Player of the Year Award, while Player B couldn't crack his conference's First Team (in fairness, Player B did miss 2 conference games, but the writers of Conference B clearly weren't concerned with playing time, as they selected a player who missed 3 games to the First Team) . Player A is foregoing his senior season to become a likely first round pick in the NBA draft, while Player B will be returning for his senior year without much fanfare. Player A played with three guys who shot at least 34% on threes, while Player B had no such fortune (among teammates who made at least 20 threes).

Player A's numbers probably look familiar because I just profiled him a few days ago. He's Arizona State's Ike Diogu. He won Player of the Year in the Pac 10 and has conditionally entered the NBA draft.

Player B is a guy much appreciated by myself and, from what I gather, the Big Ten Wonk. He's Carl Landry of Purdue. Did anyone besides John notice that Landry shot 62% this year while being Purdue's only legitimate offensive threat?

I'm not here to argue that Landry had a better season than Diogu; I just wanted to point out how similar the two players are. You could probably argue that Diogu is overrated and Landry is underrated; I lean more toward the latter. Some further observations -

- Landry shot better from the field, but Diogu was able to make up the gap with much better free throw shooting to finish with a similar true shot % (which measure scoring efficiency both field goals and free throws)

- Diogu played 36 mpg to Landry's 30, so his per game numbers tend to look more impressive, despite the two players' similar production outlined in the table above.

- Landry is a solid offensive rebounder but disappears at the defensive end, with a rebounding line of 13.4 / 15.6 / 14.5 (Oreb% / Dreb% / Reb%); Diogu is a decent defensive rebounder who is less than impressive at offensive rebounding. His line - 11.6 / 18.9 / 15.3.

Closing Thought
If Landry can add 5-10% to his FT%, he's my early favorite for next year's Big Ten Player of the Year.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
 
More Skinner Info
Nathan Skinner, a member of Iowa's incoming freshman class, was selected to play in the adidas All-Canadian Basketball Game on April 9th. The game will also include a Michigan State recruit, Maurice Joseph. Thanks to Jon of HawkeyeNation.com for the link.

This post would be far too brief if I stop now, so here's a copy/paste of the site's profile of Skinner -

Scouting Report: Exciting end-to-end player with his athleticism and power with
the ball. Finishes strong in traffic, sometimes way above the rim. Outside game
improved over the course of the year. Offence is so dominant that it overshadows
his strong defensive abilities. His body is solid and ready for the next level.
Competed for TAPS at the National Prep School Invitational in Rhode Island and
came away with All-Tournament Team recognition after scoring 28 ppg. Transferred from Bishop Loughlin in New York to West Hill this year and led the Warriors to the OFSAA AAAA Bronze Medal. A good student and tremendous athlete, he committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes in February.

Every scouting report regarding Skinner that I've seen (all three or so) makes prominent mention of his athleticism. The general reaction after Iowa's loss to Cincinnati was that the Hawks were unathletic, so a quick, powerful player with some size (6'5", 210) could be a big boost for this team. With Skinner and Tony Freeman coming in, and with Mike Henderson showing signs at the end of the season that maybe he isn't awful, in addition to definite starters Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska, it will be interesting to see how the backcourt minutes get divvied up next year.

I'm most excited about the hype surrounding Skinner's defense. I've written ad nauseam that Iowa's offense didn't regress after Pierre Pierce was kicked off the team, but I didn't spend nearly as much time covering defense. Iowa's defense fell off by several points per hundred possessions after Pierce's dismissal, and I think a similarly athletic wing defender would really help improve next year's squad.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
 
Brunner = Rebound Champ?
Penn State's Aaron Johnson decided to transfer, and the absence of the Big Ten's leading rebounder will give Greg Brunner an excellent opportunity to finally lead the league. Two years ago he finished second to NBA-bound Kris Humphries, and Johnson edged Brunner this year. Other possible candidates for next year's crown -

Brian Butch, Wisconsin - high rebound rate, departure of Wilkinson and Morley opens door for PT

James Augustine, Illinois - departure of Head and (maybe) Williams and (mayyyybe) Brown means plenty more missed shots and rebound opportunities

Paul Davis, Michigan State - great rebound rate, needs more minutes to contend (is he coming back?)

Doug Thomas, Iowa - a guy can dream, right? Has a better rebound % than Brunner but will never play the necessary minutes

Terence Dials, Ohio State - decent rebound %, will see a lot of minutes
 
Going Pro
With perhaps the best weekend of college basketball having just past, the biggest news Monday was created by two guys whose seasons are already over. Andrew Bogut of Utah and Ike Diogu of Arizona State each announced that they are eligible for this summer's NBA Draft. Diogu hasn't hired an agent and could return to ASU if he withdraws by June 21st. Bogut did hire an agent, so his NCAA days are definitely over.

What do these two guys do well that might interest NBA teams this summer? As always, I'll try to illustrate with data what I struggle to put into words.


Player________Age____Height____Weight
Andrew Bogut207' 0"245
Ike Diogu216' 8"250


Bogut is already one of the best post players in the country, and he won't be able to legally drink in this country until after Thanksgiving. That leaves plenty of years to improve and have a productive career. Diogu is slightly more than a year older.

***EDITOR'S NOTE - I don't know what I did to irritate Blogger now, but the table that fit here earlier now feels the need to force its way down the page. Please scroll down for the rest of the post. ***



Andrew Bogut, Utah

Season

%Min

PPG

RPG

O Rt

%Poss

TS%

FT/FG

FT%

Reb%

Pass

TO/p

B/40

Stl

03-04

0.76

12.5

9.9

113

25.1%

60.5

0.38

64.0

21.1%

11.8

0.23

1.8

0.9%

04-05

0.87

20.4

12.2

126

29.4%

65.7

0.46

69.2

24.2%

9.4

0.18

2.1

1.9%









Bogut is being talked about as the possible #1 overall pick in the draft, and he just might be the best rebounder in the country. So far, Sean May is the only player I've seen whose defensive and overall rebound rate are anywhere near Bogut's 31% and 24%. You probably have to downgrade his performance a little due to Utah's low strength of schedule (115th according to Mr. Pomeroy), but his numbers are still eye-catching.

Bogut started all 68 of Utah's games the past two seasons, and has shown solid improvement from his freshman year to now. He was already the focal point of Utah's offense last year, but every possession seemed to run through the big guy this year, as his 29% of team possessions rate makes evident. Even with the large jump in possessions, Bogut's offensive rating jumped from a solid 113 to a stellar 126. Getting to the free throw line more often, shooting better there, and grabbing more offensive rebounds were all big reasons for the improved rating.

My only knocks on Bogut might be his low FTA/FGA and blocks/40 rates. The free throw rate seems fairly pedestrian for a big-time post scorer, and I'd expect more blocks from a long-armed 7-footer in the NCAA.

Bogut has a reputation as a good passer, and his pass rating looks pretty solid for a center.


Ike Diogu, Arizona State

Season

%Min

PPG

RPG

Off Rtg

%Poss

TS%

FT/FG

FT%

Reb%

Pass

TO/p

B/40

Stl%

02-03

0.80

19.0

7.8

121

25.2%

0.672

0.71

0.735

14.2%

3.2

0.20

1.2

0.5%

03-04

0.91

22.8

8.9

120

27.4%

0.655

0.88

0.815

13.0%

5.0

0.21

1.9

0.8%

04-05

0.91

22.6

9.8

122

26.8%

0.677

0.78

0.797

15.3%

4.6

0.21

2.6

0.9%















Diogu also started every game of his career, and saw significant playing time from the get-go. He's been a great scorer his entire career, as he posted a points/40 rate of 23.6 as a freshman. Ike continues to be an excellent scorer, but he has hardly shown any development in three years of college ball. His scoring efficiency has been level, his passing and rebounding rates are both only slightly higher than his freshman year, and his (somewhat high) turnover rate remains the same.

As Ken Pomeroy often pointed out during the season, a major part of Diogu's scoring is his propensity for drawing fouls and making free throws. His high FTA/FGA and FT% numbers will be an asset to his future team.

A quick scan of the traditional numbers and traditional "experts" might suggest Diogu is a solid rebounder. His Reb/Game averages of 7.8, 8.9, and 9.8 suggest rebounding competence, as well as year-to-year improvement. One draft site had the following to say in its profile of Diogu-
He is a simply a beast on the glass, using his excellent combination of strength
(both upper and lower body), a terrific wingspan, fantastic anticipation
skills
and athletic ability to predict where the ball is headed and then
devour any
rebound that comes his way, on both the offensive and defensive
glass.
The numbers are misleading because he played a ton of minutes for a team whose pace ranked in the top 1/5 of NCAA teams. Take a look at the rebound % column - Diogu's rate would've had a hard time cracking the top ten in this year's Big Ten (yes, I realize I'm comparing his season totals to the other guys's conference totals). Given his size, Diogu would be expected to play PF in the NBA, so he needs to improve his board work to avoid being a one-dimensional player.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
 
Halftime Update
In last night's preview of the UNC-Wisconsin game, my figure for the free throw attemtps allowed by Wisconsin's defense (FTA/FGA) was way off. I accidentally used their offensive number.

Instead of 0.384, it should be 0.280, which is a huge swing, and draws a completely different picture of the Badger defense. As such, I have to retract my prediction that UNC would shoot a lot of free throws.

Wisconsin is tied at the half, 44-44! Consistent with a couple of my game keys, Wisconsin is making their threes (7/15) and limiting their turnovers. Does Tucker realize yet that he's not a shooter (all running 30-foot buzzer beaters aside)?

Keep it up, Badgers!
 
Shooting For Three - Part II
The Big Ten has some serious bragging rights to hold over its naysayers after Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin won their first three tournament games. The field gets cut in half again this weekend, and those left standing advance to the Final Four in Saint Louis.

Getting three Big Ten teams into the Elite Eight wasn't all that astounding, considering some of the teams that fell before they could face their Big Ten foe. Illinois faced UW-Milwaukee instead of Alabama or Boston College; Wisconsin should send Christmas cards to both Bucknell and NC State, as they allowed the Badgers to avoid Kansas and Connecticut; Vermont took care of Syracuse for Michigan State. With the exception of MSU's win over Duke on Friday, the highest seeded opponent any of these teams faced was #9 Nevada (Illinois).

So yes, the upsets definitely worked out in the Big Ten's favor. Not that I'm complaining.

Illinois rode a thrilling comeback into the Final Four, giving the Big Ten at least one team in Saint Louis. Here's a peek at the teams trying to join them.

Michigan State vs. Kentucky
I'm just going to use the same format I used for most of my recent previews of Iowa games.
Possessions per game and efficiency data are from Ken Pomeroy's Stats Page.

Team Offense
............................Poss/G....Off Eff.....adjFG%.....TO/poss.....Oreb Rt.....FTM/FGA....3A/FGA
Mich State.............68............119..........0.553.........0.207.........0.383...........0.290............0.323
Kentucky...............68............111..........0.521.........0.199.........0.356...........0.249............0.329

Michigan State and Kentucky actually get to the line at a nearly identical rate (on a per field goal attempt basis), but MSU kills them in FTM/FGA because they make so many more of their opportunities (78% to 66%). That could make a big difference in this game, as the offenses are fairly even otherwise. Michigan State, as I've said here often, is a good offensive rebounding team. Not quite North Carolina or Cincinnati good, but they get the job done nonetheless.

Edge : Michigan State

Team Defense
............................Def Eff........adjFG%......TO/poss......Dreb Rt......FTA/FGA......3Pt%
Mich State..............92...............0.484...........0.230..........0.716..........0.385.........0.355
Kentucky................86...............0.463...........0.262..........0.661..........0.312.........0.324

Kentucky's defense has been excellent this year - they're ranked third in Ken's points allowed per possession. They force a ton of turnovers (0.220 is average for turnovers per possession), led by steals machine Rajon Rondo, who gets a steal on over 6% of the possessions he plays, which is one of the better rates of anyone in the tournament. In addition, they don't give up a lot of points to free throws, which contrasts nicely with MSU's ability to get to the line.

You might remember my analysis of Michigan State's defense before Iowa played them in the BTT - I concluded that defensive rebounding was their only real strength. I'll stand by that now - while they excel at defensive rebounding, led in large part by Paul Davis, the rest of MSU's defense is right around average.

Edge : Kentucky

This makes for another exciting Regional Final matchup - one of the country's best offenses against one of its best defenses.

Individuals

Michigan State
Player..................MPG....Off Rt....%poss....Pass....FTA/FGA....TO/poss......Oreb%....Dreb%....Reb%
Alan Anderson......26.4.......132.......21.9%...11.3..........0.48..............0.17.........9.1%......16.5%....13.0%
Maurice Ager........25.8.......120.......23.8%...11.3..........0.41..............0.19.........5.4%......12.5%......9.1%
Paul Davis...........26.2........116.......23.4%...10.1..........0.41..............0.19.......12.8%......23.2%....18.3%
Shannon Brown...24.6.......110.......22.4%....12.3.........0.34...............0.19........6.0%......10.0%......8.1%
Kelvin Torbert......22.4.......126.......18.2%....11.5.........0.38...............0.17.........4.7%......11.1%......8.1%
Chris Hill..............24.2.......123.......20.1%....32.7.........0.19...............0.18.........1.9%........7.4%.....4.8%
Drew Neitzel........16.5........98........17.4%....35.0.........0.18...............0.30.........1.3%........3.7%.....2.6%
Delco Rowley......10.1........98........14.1%......5.8.........0.50...............0.31........13.4%.....16.1%....14.8%
Matt Trannon........11.2......107........12.5%......6.6.........0.83...............0.32........13.2%.....24.7%...19.2%

Kentucky
Player..................MPG....Off Rt....%poss....Pass....FTA/FGA....TO/poss......Oreb%....Dreb%....Reb%
K. Azubuike..........29.0.......116.......23.8%......7.3..........0.31............0.15..........6.9%.......12.1%....9.5%
Patrick Sparks......27.9.......111.......21.2%....21.2.........0.18.............0.19..........1.2%.........7.5%....4.4%
Chuck Hayes........29.1.......114.......21.2%....13.1.........0.41.............0.18........12.4%.......18.9%..15.7%
R'dolph Morris......19.3.......114.......21.7%......5.9..........0.71............0.14...........9.1%......16.3%...12.7%
Rajon Rondo........25.1.......107.......19.8%.....24.8.........0.52.............0.24..........2.6%......10.3%....6.5%
Ramel Bradley.....12.1.........97........24.0%....16.6.........0.31.............0.25...........4.7%......11.8%....8.3%
Ravi Moss............11.6........117........17.0%...11.9.........0.52.............0.22...........7.9%......10.6%....9.3%
Bobby Perry.........11.2.........99.........17.9%.....2.5.........0.23.............0.15...........9.8%......11.5%..10.7%
Joe Crawford.......11.0.........92.........17.7%.....5.1.........0.28.............0.21...........6.4%......11.9%....9.2%


I'm impressed with the job Chris Hill has done at PG for MSU this year - he's produced a very good pass rating while maintaining a very low turnover rate. Neitzel has been the starter for a while, but his turnover rate is a lot higher (though some of that is due to Hill shooting more than Neitzel). It should be interesting to see how Neitzel handles Kentucky's turnover-inducing pressure, and to see if Hill does a better job with it. I haven't seen a lot of MSU this year, but I'm guessing Neitzel must be very good at distributing the ball, because he provides little else. His shooting is poor, he's usually overmatched on defense, and he doesn't rebound (though that's basically irrelevant on this team). His pass rating seems to agree with that assessment.

Rajon Rondo is looking like a solid point guard this year, at least by the numbers. His 25 pass rating is solid, his TO/poss of 25% is very reasonable for a freshman point guard, he plays great defense (from what everyone says anyway), and he gets to the free throw line often. He'll be a great player when he learns to knock down those freebies, as he's only hitting 59% so far.

The one or two times I saw Patrick Sparks play this year, he had the big games where he hit 5-6 threes. Now I see that his overall numbers don't match up with the perception I have of him in my head. He's been inefficient (only 37% on threes), he doesn't get to the free throw line (0.18 FTA/FGA), and he's absent on the glass. At least he's a decent passer. Most of MSU's losses have come to teams that were hot from downtown, so Sparks's performance will go a long way toward determining Kentucky's fate.

As a Big Ten fan, I got a little annoyed by everyone labelling Paul Davis as "soft" because he only gets 7.7 rebounds a game. Here's the real story - Davis is very solid on the glass. Let's see how many rebounds anybody else would rack up playing only 26 mpg for a team that actually makes half its shots. Davis was the Big Ten's best rebounder, among guys with regular playing time, as evidenced by his 18.3 Reb%. His 23.2 Dreb% is impressive too.

Thoughts
I've compared Michigan State to Cincinnati in the past, as both teams get to the line a lot and rebound well. Kentucky handled Cincy in Round 2 by bottling up the post and forcing their guards to take shots (Maxiell and Hicks took 18 shots, while Williams and Muhammed took 29). A similar approach probably wouldn't work with MSU, because they have guards who can shoot the three, or get to the line if the shot isn't going.

Kentucky's defensive strength lies in forcing turnovers, but Michigan State's guards are all capable of taking care of the ball. With that out of the way, and assuming they can contain Sparks's shooting, MSU's strong edge in rebounding should give them the advantage they need to win this game. I like the Big Ten's chances to get two teams to the Final Four.

Props to KenPom and my buddy Chris - both guys picked MSU to get this far. I'll keep my fingers crossed that both were right in selecting the Spartans to travel to Saint Louis.
 
Shooting For Three - Part I
The Big Ten has some serious bragging rights to hold over its naysayers after Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin won their first three tournament games. The field gets cut in half again this weekend, and those left standing advance to the Final Four in Saint Louis.

Getting three Big Ten teams into the Elite Eight wasn't all that astounding, considering some of the teams that fell before they could face their Big Ten foe. Illinois faced UW-Milwaukee instead of Alabama or Boston College; Wisconsin should send Christmas cards to both Bucknell and NC State, as they allowed the Badgers to avoid Kansas and Connecticut; Vermont took care of Syracuse for Michigan State. With the exception of MSU's win over Duke on Friday, the highest seeded opponent any of these teams faced was #9 Nevada (Illinois).

So yes, the upsets definitely worked out in the Big Ten's favor. Not that I'm complaining.

Illinois rode a thrilling comeback into the Final Four, giving the Big Ten at least one team in Saint Louis. Here's a peek at the teams trying to join them.

Wisconsin vs. North Carolina
I'm just going to use the same format I used for most of my recent previews of Iowa games.
Possessions per game and efficiency data are from Ken Pomeroy's Stats Page.

Team Offense
.............................Poss/G.......Off Eff......adjFG%.....TO/poss.....Oreb Rt.....FTM/FGA.......3A/FGA
Wisconsin................64..............110..........0.508..........0.185..........0.309..........0.262.............0.356
N. Carolina................75..............122..........0.560..........0.221..........0.401.........0.331.............0.306

The most interesting thing about this game will be the contrast in team paces, as North Carolina is one of the most up-tempo teams in the country, while Wisconsin takes a lot more time with each possession. They like to pass the ball around and wait for a decent shot. It's worked so far.

Wisconsin is one of the better teams around at limiting turnovers, which is important since they don't get a ton of their own shots back (notice the very pedestrian Oreb Rt). UNC is a good defensive rebounding team, too, so the Badgers will have to avoid turnovers to keep this game close.

Evaluating North Carolina's offense is kind of fun because they're so good at several things. First, they shoot very well - they're 40% as a team from three, and only two of their regulars (Felton and Scott) shoot below 49% overall. Next, UNC is a great offensive rebounding team - at least one of the top 25 in the country. It'll be interesting to see how that matches up with Wisconsin's tough defensive rebounding (more on that in a minute). Finally, Carolina shoots a ton of free throws and makes 73% of them - their FTM/FGA rate ranks 8th nationally (using only regular season numbers). They're only at about the national average for TO/poss, but they perform so well at everything else that it doesn't matter much.

Team Defense
...............................Def Eff.......adjFG%.......TO/poss........Dreb Rt.........FTA/FGA
Wisconsin.................88.............0.469.............0.189............0.745...............0.280
N. Carolina.................87.............0.464.............0.246............0.690..............0.315

According to Ken's data, the two teams allowed just about the same level of points per possession. They also held opponents to about the same shooting percentage. The rest of the stats vary significantly. Wisconsin avoids going for steals and stays back in position. They might not force many turnovers this way, but they're in the right spot for defensive rebounds nearly 3/4 of the time (that's a lot!). I don't have defensive data for all teams, which would allow me to list Wisconsin's rank for Dreb%, but my list does show only 10 or so teams with an offensive rebound rate as low as 0.255 (1 - 0.745).

North Carolina, on the other hand, prevents its opponents from scoring by simply relieving them of the basketball. This strategy leads to plenty of easy scores, as evidenced by their shooting percentage. They also do a decent job with defensive rebounding, though clearly not as well as Wisconsin has done.

Note that I use FTA/FGA for defense, and FTM/FGA for offense. FTM/FGA works well for offense because it measures the team's ability to (1) get to the line and (2) make shots when they get there. Teams have little control over how their opponents shoot free throws, so I just measure how often they send them to the line (FTA/FGA).

Individuals

North Carolina
Player.....................MPG...O Rt....%poss.....Pass.....FTA/FGA....TO/poss.....Oreb%...Dreb%...Reb%
Sean May................26.3.....122......27.5%......7.8...........0.66.............0.19.........17.4%....27.2%...22.6%
Rashad McCants....25.5.....122......24.1%....14.1...........0.36.............0.17...........3.3%.....8.8%......6.2%
Jawad Williams.......24.2.....125......20.7%......9.8...........0.35.............0.17...........7.4%...10.2%......8.9%
Raymond Felton......31.5.....112......22.1%....33.0..........0.40.............0.28...........2.4%....11.7%......7.3%
Marvin Williams.......22.2.....127......20.5%......5.4..........0.70.............0.19...........9.7%...22.4%.....16.4%
Jackie Manuel..........22.1.....109......14.2%....13.8..........0.54 ............0.22...........8.1%.....6.2%......7.1%
Melvin Scott............16.5......113......14.1%....13.6..........0.12 ............0.16............2.5%....6.3%......4.5%
David Noel..............16.8......117......12.3%....18.7..........0.37.............0.24............6.3%..10.3%......8.4%

Wisconsin
Player...................MPG.....O Rt....%poss.....Pass.....FTA/FGA....TO/poss...Oreb%...Dreb%...Reb%
Mike Wilkinson......31.6.....118......23.9%......8.7...........0.44..............0.14.........9.6%....19.6%...14.6%
Alando Tucker.......31.7......112.....26.0%......7.8...........0.55..............0.16.........8.8%....15.8%....12.3%
Kammron Taylor...23.9.......94......22.7%....11.9...........0.53.............0.24.........1.4%....11.1%.......6.3%
Sharif Chambliss..24.6......106.....18.9%.....20.7..........0.22.............0.16..........0.6%...11.6%.......6.1%
Zach Morley...........22.8.....107.....20.0%.....14.0..........0.41.............0.23..........4.9%....21.3%.....13.1%
Clayton Hanson.....29.9.....117.....11.2%.....10.7..........0.19.............0.16..........2.0%......8.1%.......5.1%
Ray Nixon..............11.8......99.......14.1%......9.4...........0.10.............0.21...........3.6%.....8.6%.......6.1%
Andreas Helmigk....8.8.......89........22.0%.....7.8...........0.30.............0.22.........10.7%...16.3%....13.5%

Does any player have as big a split between his offensive and defensive rebounding numbers as Zach Morley does? None that I've seen yet. He likes to camp outside the arc and fire threes on offense, thus keeping his distance from the glass, but he's Wisconsin's best rebounder at the other end.

Sean May is an absolute beast on the glass. I haven't done a lot of work with rebound percentage yet, because of the data collection required, but Andrew Bogut is the only comparable guy I've seen to May when it comes to rebound %. I'm very curious to see if Wisconsin's excellent defensive rebounding work will be enough to keep May and his ridiculous 17.4% Oreb% from gathering a lot of UNC misses. And I'm amazed that the Tar Heels can grab over 40% of their misses with only one guy getting more than 10% of his offensive rebound opportunities. That's how much May controls the boards.

Marvin Williams will make a lot of money in the near future. He's already an efficient scorer (though it doesn't hurt to have other future pros sharing the scoring load) - his ability to frequently get to the line (and shoot 85% there) fuels his 66% true shot %, which seems really high for a post player. He's also an excellent defensive rebounder and is fairly tall, and managed to hit 46% of his threes. There's a lot to like.

Thoughts
I think the Badgers will need to be hitting from three to keep this one close.

Random Stuff
- If MSU beats Kentucky, Iowa will have played each of the Final Four participants (Illinois, Louisville, Michigan State, and either North Carolina or Wisconsin).

- If MSU and Wisconsin both win Sunday, Iowa will have fared very well against each of the Final Four teams (beat Louisville and MSU, lost to Illinois in OT, lost to Wisconsin twice by three points).

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