Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Introducing the Big Ten Geeks 1st Team All Big Ten!

The "real" teams were announced last night, but our ballots were not counted until this morning. Without further adieu, your 1st team All Big Ten:

Kalin Lucas:
ORtg: 110.2
Shot%: 28.6

Conference player of the year. What's interesting about Lucas is how he adapted his role over the course of the season. Early on in non-conference play, Lucas was a grade-A distributor, with an assist rate around 40.0. But when conference play came around, and Raymar Morgan got sick, and Chris Allen went cold, Lucas became Michigan State's primary scorer. His conference-only numbers make him look like a "shoot first" point guard. The other interesting thing about Lucas is how high his efficiency was despite his lackluster shooting. Lucas posted an effective field goal percentage of 46.1, thanks to a pretty lousy 42% mark from 2 point range. But he made up for it by consuming possessions without turnovers, and by getting to the line at a very healthy rate (where he is deadly). But our modest proposal for Lucas continues - Tom Izzo has a 6-0 player who hits nearly 40% of his three pointers - why is he shooting over 3 times as many 2s? Just imagine if Lucas' shot selection went all Dee Brown. Scary.

Marcus Landry
ORtg: 112.7
Shot%: 26.3

Landry is likely the most controversial guy on this team, but look at the facts:
  • Wisconsin is the best offensive team in the conference
  • Marcus Landry is Wisconsin's best offensive player
  • The tempo free numbers scream for his inclusion
Landry has shot the ball very well this season (54.5 eFG), and his outside game continues to improve bit by bit, but the reason why Landry is good is the same reason why Wisconsin is good. More than anyone else on this list, Landry is defined by what he doesn't do - turn it over. Of all the Wisconsin possessions that end with Marcus Landry, just 12.2% of them end because he turns it over. Not turning it over has been the key to the Badger offense as well (this is not too surprising, of course). I suspect that, in addition to Wisconsin's slow pace depressing his per game averages, that's why Landry is a controversial pick. If I had to pick one guy from a Big Ten team to create a score on just one possession, Landry isn't my guy. He might not even be in the top 10. But over 60 possessions, he's fantastic.

Evan Turner
ORtg: 108.3
Shot%: 25.3

It seems like every year at the end of the baseball season, there's the same argument about the MVP award (the same argument goes on with respect to the Heisman Trophy). The question is whether the best player should be picked, or whether the player "most important to his team" should be picked (and other variations on that theme). Frankly, I never understood the latter argument - should Alex Rodriguez really be a victim of his teammates' success - but if there was an award for "most important player to his team," then that hardware should go to Mr. Turner. I'm not sure there was a category he didn't lead his team in - points, rebounds, assists, steals, free throw makes/attempts - he did it all. And this was while playing out of position at point guard for most of the conference season. Yes, he turned it over too much for a point guard - but he isn't one. He's a wing player who had to fill in where the Buckeyes were weak. Judged on those standards, Turner's game is nearly flawless. It'll be interesting to watch the draft drama with him.

Kevin Coble
ORtg: 106.2
Shot%: 29.2

Before he's finished in Evanston, Coble will attempt nearly (or possibly more than) 1,300 shots in his career. That's usage. And his efficiency keeps climbing. This year it's high enough that you just can't ignore that usage number. Coble gobbling up those extra 9% of possessions means that other guys don't have to, and they can be more efficient with a lighter workload. As long as you're efficient, a high shot diet relieves the pressure on everyone else. Coble's game has undergone a startling transformation. In his freshman season, he saw 8.3 FTAs for every 100 FGAs. This year, that number is up to 28.1. For an 80% FT shooter, that's an extra 40 points or so in the conference slate, or another 2 PPG. That's the sign of a great player - one who squeezes all he can out of his opportunities.

DeShawn Sims
ORtg: 108.6
Shot%: 30.3

Sims was Michigan's MVP in the conference season. Manny gets the publicity, but Sims is the better player, at least right now. Interestingly, it's not in the ways you would expect. Manny is the better rebounder, and Manny gets to the line more, despite their relative sizes. But DeShawn makes more of his shots, by a very wide margin. Up until this year, DeShawn was the player who shot often, but with rare success. Finally, that efficiency is telling us what the shot percentage has been hinting at this whole time - DeShawn is good. Let this be a lesson to all the Illini fans currently frustrated with Alex Legion - there's a reason why guys shoot so much, and why their teammates keep passing them the ball even after they miss, almost as if they've seen them make bunches after bunches of shots in practice.

Also, in the interest in full disclosure, we had a heck of a time eliminating JaJuan Johnson off the first team. There was some talk of going 6-man, but ultimately we decided to make the tough decisions. I have no doubts that Mr. Johnson will be on this list next season, however.

Penn State fans who have read this far are probably wondering where Talor Battle is. Well, he's on our hypothetical 2nd team. Battle had a wonderful season, and even developed into more of a point guard this year. He also made some very clutch shots that allowed his team to vastly outperform their efficiency margin. But Talor just didn't shoot the ball very well this year. He was 30% from 3 point range and 44% from 2 point range. His relative inability to put the ball in the bucket held him back.

It was a similar story with Manny Harris, whose game took off in just about every way but shooting. Frankly, for a guy who is taller than the person guarding him on most nights, and who shoots about 85% from the FT line, we were expecting much more. Yes, he averaged 17 points per game, but that had more to do with Michigan not having any alternatives outside of DeShawn Sims more than anything else. When you play 80% of the minutes and shoot 28% of the shots for a team that averages over 60 possessions a game, you're going to score some points.

We look forward to your ire.

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