Thursday, November 12, 2009

This space is on hiatus

You can find us here, however.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

But I Can't Work in Fast Food All My Life

We told you we were moving, and here's the scoop: we're going to be blogging for the BigTenNetwork.com this season (and hopefully, beyond). We hope this is the beginning of a great partnership. But we understand there might be concerns, so here's our best attempts to answer those:

  • Why the Change? Well, the expectation is that we'll get more readers this way. We're proud of the loyal audience that we have here, but you still have to dig a bit into the tempo-free blogosphere in order to find us. We're hoping that won't be the case once we make the move. We're also secretly hoping we can get Gene Keady to mention "turnover percentage."
  • Will the Content Change? Heavens no! As a condition for making this change, Mike & I made sure that we weren't going to be mouthpieces for a corporation, and that we could still write what we wanted to about college basketball. If Ohio State doesn't play defense this season, we're going to write about it. And Thad Matta will just have to deal.
  • What about next year? We don't know yet. I think both sides of this are feeling things out, so think of this season as a trial period. If it doesn't work out, we'll just come back here to bigtengeeks.com. As a sidenote, we'll keep this site up and alive in case you need anything.
  • So, what do we, the readers, get out of this? There are some things that we're hoping come to fruition as a result of this partnership. For example, we're hoping we can bring some live coverage, highlights, and maybe even get some dialogue out of the BTN.com analysts. And though not related to the partnership, we have some new ideas for the season that we think you'll enjoy. We always want to be improving.
  • You guys are sellouts. We didn't sell out, we bought in. Seriously though, we genuinely appreciate all of the readers and support we've received. We honestly thought it would just be our friends, and probably not even half of them, that would read this blog. We're truly humbled by the feedback, and we want to especially thank all of those blogs (most of which appear in the sidebar) and major media outlets (thanks, Luke Winn!) that gave us a look, and a link. We won't forget it.

Starting tomorrow, you can find us here. We'll kick off with our predictions on the season. See you then.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And Boom Goes the Dynamite

Evan Turner became the second player in Ohio State history to record a triple double in the Buckeyes' 100-60 win over Alcorn State. As Mike alluded to yesterday, it's hard to take anything away from early season games like this. That said, OSU posted an offensive efficiency (1.39) that was higher than any figure in any game they played last year. Then again, you knew the Buckeyes were probably going to be good offensively. While we're telling you things you already knew, take note that these Buckeyes can shoot (63.0 eFG last night). Turner's performance (14/17/10) is indeed praiseworthy, but how about Jon Diebler? 22 points on 10 shots (in 24 minutes) - not bad. Box score.

And if you haven't heard, there's a book out that you should buy. I can't quibble with the predictions much. In fact, I expect Gasaway's Indiana Prediction Accuracy Index to improve quite a bit this season.

Monday, November 9, 2009

2009-10 Season Begins - Ohio State vs. Alcorn State

Amazingly, the 2009-10 regular season is upon us, as the Ohio State Buckeyes prepare to take the floor tonight against the Alcorn State Braves (7pm, Big Ten Network). This game is part of the Coaches vs. Cancer event, which will see the Buckeyes head to New York next week for some marquee match-ups (North Carolina and California/Syracuse). Tonight’s game, however, figures to be little more than a tuneup for Ohio State, as Alcorn was among the worst teams in the nation last season (340th in Pomeroy rank) and will be forced to give significant minutes to true freshmen (8 of the 15 players on the roster are frosh). Indeed, Alcorn has already lost an exhibition game to NAIA Tougaloo College – by 23 points!

Alcorn’s best returning players are 6’3’’ sharpshooter Jonathan Boyd (103.6 ORtg, 21.6 Shot%, 40.3% from downtown) and 6’8’’ 255 rebounder JaMarkus Holt (80.9 ORtg, 20.7 Shot%, 8.8/16.5 OR/DR). The Braves played very fast last season (6th nationally in adjusted tempo), and it appears from their exhibition games that new head coach Larry Smith is not changing that approach. This could potentially be the highest scoring game of the season for the Buckeyes, rust aside.

So what numbers should we be watching for from Ohio State? Well, considering the competition level, we won’t be able to divine much from this one game – remember that last year’s early 59-22 shellacking of Samford ranked Ohio State as an elite defensive team for much of the first month, and they only ended up at 65th nationally in defensive efficiency. David Lighty’s injury had something to do with this, but most of it was simply small sample size. So, with that in mind, we’ll try to view the numbers in an overarching “early season tea leaves” sense, and say that turnovers and rebounds are the Ohio State numbers to watch. These were big weaknesses for the Buckeyes on both ends of the court last season, and improvement in these areas is mandatory if Ohio State hopes to contend for the title in a deep and improved Big Ten. And maybe the biggest reason to watch is to see if Matta is going to make good on his promise to play more man-to-man this season.

All analysis aside, let’s all take a deep breath and appreciate one simple fact – college basketball is back. Hallelujah.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fun with Rosters!

With the season fast approaching, we thought we'd utilize the updated 2009-10 rosters (along with a few of last year's conference numbers) for some interesting lists. So, without further ado...

Mixing it up with the trees (best defensive rebounders below 6'3''):



























PlayerHeightDR%
Talor Battle6-015.4
Devan Dumes6-211.9
Jason Bohannon6-210.8
Trevon Hughes6-110.5
Al Nolen6-110.3


Talor Battle's rebounding is awfully impressive and puts him among the best "little man" rebounders in the nation. Among the top 200 Pomeroy teams from last season, only three players under 6'3'' posted a better DR% than Battle while playing significant minutes - Jared Quayle (Utah State), Alex Renfroe (Belmont), and Lester Hudson (Tennessee Martin). With Renfroe graduated and Hudson in the NBA, Battle could be the best rebounding little man in the nation.

If only I had his height... (worst defensive rebounders above 6'7''):




























PlayerHeightDR%
Keaton Nankivil6-88.9
Kyle Rowley7-010.8
Mike Tisdale7-111.4
Andrew Brommer6-911.7
Dallas Lauderdale6-811.9


When really tall guys struggle, whether it be in the NCAA Tournament or at the YMCA, men of normal stature (or less) love to speculate as to how dominant they would be with those extra inches. Nevermind that increased height brings its own set of challenges, especially for those still developing their game. Case in point - the only player on this list that is over 20 years old is Lauderdale, who just recently turned 21. It's tough to play a big man with a DR% below 12, but there's still time for these gentlemen to get their mitts on a larger share of caroms.

The slimmest of frames (pounds per 6 feet of height, excluding walk-ons):
































































PlayerTeamHeightWeightLbs/6Ft

Tim Frazier

Penn State6-1160158
P.J. HillOhio State6-1165163
Jeremie SimmonsOhio State6-2170165
Rob WilsonWisconsin6-4175166
Talor BattlePenn State6-0170

170

Matt VogrichMichigan6-4180171
Darius MorrisMichigan6-4180

171

Ryne SmithPurdue6-3178171
Verdell JonesIndiana6-5183171


It can be difficult for us normal-sized humans to put a player's weight in perspective. After all, our best frame of reference is our body, which for most of the population measures less than 6 foot in length. So, to give that improved perspective, we've prorated each player's weight into a 6-foot frame. It appears that Penn State and Ohio State have cornered the market on slight-of-frame guards, and I don't think either team would complain (especially Penn State!).

The beefiest of the beefy (pounds per 6 feet of height, excluding walk-ons):











































































PlayerTeamHeightWeightLbs/6Ft
Derrick NixMichigan State6-8280252
Kyle RowleyNorthwestern7-0280240
Sandi MarciusPurdue6-9261232
Dallas LauderdaleOhio State6-8255230
Ian MarkolfWisconsin7-1270229
Jarryd ColeIowa6-7250228
Ben CroninMichigan7-0265227
Brennan CougillIowa6-9255227
Colton IversonMinnesota6-10258227
Zisis SarikopoulosOhio State7-1265224
Royce WhiteMinnesota6-8249224


The same method was used here, pro-rating each player's weight onto a 6-foot frame. The takeaway here: Derrick Nix is a BIG BOY. All that bulk didn't stop Nix from having a successful exhibition debut, scoring 13 points on 6 shots and grabbing 5 boards in 13 minutes. Notice that 7 of the 11 bulkiest players are newcomers to conference play (I'm including Markolf and Cronin) - the Big Ten is getting a lot Bigger this season.

Home States of Big Ten Players (2009-10 official rosters):
We used the home state listed on the online rosters as gospel, so there's no accounting here for players that moved around a lot (D.J. Richardson, for example, is listed as an Illinois native despite playing in Las Vegas his senior year). Note that Illinois and Indiana natives comprise nearly a third of the conference (54 of 166 players), although that's not particularly surprising when you consider that 4 of the 11 teams (36%) are from these states. It's also interesting that there are more players in the conference from outside the United States (10) than from Pennsylvania (8), Wisconsin (7), or Iowa (5). Heck, there's nearly as many players from Texas, New York, or Arizona as there are from Iowa (4 from each). Does the Hawkeye state just not produce much basketball talent, or do they matriculate elsewhere?

Another interesting question: which schools dedicate the biggest chunk of their rosters to in-state talent?
































































TeamIn-state playersTotal playersPercentage in-state
Purdue131776%
Illinois914

64%

Michigan State91560%
Northwestern81553%
Ohio State81553%
Michigan81650%
Penn State81747%
Indiana71644%
Minnesota61443%
Wisconsin51533%
Iowa41233%


Purdue leads in this measure by a wide margin, while their in-state rival Hoosiers are towards the bottom. Clearly, some of Tom Crean's recruiting decisions were driven by the fact that he basically had no roster when he arrived, but it's interesting to see nonetheless. This could show, in some way, the benefit that Purdue has derived from Indiana's recent turmoil (the end of the Mike Davis era and the rocky Kelvin Sampson era). I'd expect Indiana's in-state percentage to increase over the next few years, at the possible expense of Purdue's, as the Hoosiers become bigger players in Indiana recruiting.

Another interesting tidbit - there are eight Big Ten players from Pennsylvania, and every single one decided to, as JoePa would say, "COME TO PENN STATE!!" Nittany Lion fans can watch the entire Big Ten season without ever cheering against a Pennsylvania player - even Iowa, whose state has produced just 5 current Big Ten players, let a player get out-of-state and onto an opposing Big Ten roster (Jason Bohannon at Wisconsin). Wouldn't Iowa fans love to have Bohannon in Lickliter's offense right about now?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

None and Done

For some reason, it seems like the "one-and-done" rule gets a lot of attention this time of year. Certainly I'm guilty of writing about this subject in the fall, and here I am doing it again. But anytime college basketball makes the Times' opinion page, it's going to bring bloggers out of the woodwork. Bissinger and Gasaway probably agree on a few things, but one of them is that one-and-done needs to go. Frankly, I'm of the same opinion. But it strikes me as odd that neither of them follows the money.

Bissinger alleges that Stern's reasons for backing the one-and-done rule (and the proposed "two-and-through") are two-fold. First, it's to protect NBA GMs from themselves. The scars of Kwame Brown and Korleone Young still haven't healed, so the argument goes, and one-and-done is the Sabarnes-Oxley to those Enron-level disasters. Second, Bissinger argues that one-and-done is a sort of handout to the NCAA, forcing superstar high schoolers into collegiate gyms, boosting school revenue.

Gasaway endorses the first line of reasoning, but rejects the second. He points out that the NCAA revenue is largely fixed well in advance of any signatures on letters-of-intent. There's the counterpoint that it doesn't really matter who the great freshmen are, or where they go to school - the NCAA wins if they simply know that every single season, the best high schoolers in the game join the college ranks. And that's fair as well. But even if you accept that the NCAA benefits financially from one-and-done (and given the late Myles Brand's support for one-and-done, I think it's fair to reach that conclusion), you have to wonder why David Stern would want to subsidize the NCAA in this elaborate and complicated manner. I mean, can't he just write a check? He's not above doing that, certainly.

Actually, I think Brand has it right on Stern's motivations. In the midst of endorsing a two-and-through arrangement, and buried in the article, Brand notes one of the benefits of more years in school:
The marketability of the stars would be increased in that they would be better known before beginning their professional careers.
Well, I can't disagree with that, I certainly said as much last year. No one knows where Dwight Howard or Amare Stoudemire went to high school; we all know where Derrick Rose went to college. If draft picks are well-known by the public before they ever play their first professional game, there's certainly the possibility that more butts will be in the seats. It certainly makes more sense than an overwhelming need to protect some of the sharpest businessmen (DeJuan Blair's draft night notwithstanding) in the country from their own bad decisions.

Unfortunately for Mr. Stern, the NBA does not own a worldwide monopoly over professional basketball. The most famous reminder of this fact might be Brandon Jennings. Jennings opted to play ball in Rome rather than suffer the indignity of going to English 101 for a semester while playing basketball for free. Some have pointed out that Jennings didn't necessarily go to Europe for the money, rather it was simply the case that he didn't qualify. Of course, since when has a top point guard needed a qualifying test score in order to play college basketball? No, if Jennings wanted to play college ball, I'm quite sure he would have found a way. But he opted to take his game overseas. And as far as I can tell, he stunk in Europe. And even though there were reports that his game was advancing, there was a lot of smugness waiting for Jennings stateside.

But then something interesting happened - turns out, Jennings is really good. Through his first 3 NBA games, Jennings is averaging 22 points (18 shots per game) and 5.3 assists. Not bad for a rail-thin rookie in his first week. And as good as Jennings was in high school, it's hard to imagine that he was this good. The most plausible conclusion is that Jennings got better overseas. Now, it's true that he might have hurt his draft stock. Though he was taken 10th overall, it's certainly possible that he would have been drafted higher if he played in the Pac-10 instead. But keep in mind, Jennings was the test case. There was a lot of uncertainty and concern over his European numbers. Jennings may have cost himself some money, but he also might have made some money for the likes of Jeremy Tyler.

And therein is the lesson for Mr. Stern. Jennings' success might tempt other superstar high school seniors (and juniors!) to follow his lead. Now that NBA teams know that players can get better overseas, the fact that a 19 year old played in Madrid rather than Memphis shouldn't be a reason to not draft him. And getting paid a couple million euros can't hurt, either. Time will tell if Jennings & Tyler remain the exception, rather than the rule. But Mr. Stern is on notice - players like Jennings & Tyler want to be paid to play basketball. And it's entirely his choice whether they play in his league or in Europe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast

We didn't invent tempo-free stats. Neither did John Gasaway, Ken Pomeroy, or even Dean Oliver. Best we can tell, some guy who won a few games in North Carolina did. The fact that tempo-free stats aren't new should not come as a surprise. They're not terribly difficult to understand, and most are pretty easy to calculate as well. And moreover, they seem to illuminate productive basketball moreso than the traditional "per game" stats. So of course coaches (who tend to understand basketball pretty well) know about these things. Maybe that's why the tempo-free revolution that was to be televised has been met with a collective "ho hum" from the industry. Some of these stats already litter your local head coaching office, and probably did before Dean Oliver ever wrote his book. And this nugget, which I hope to illustrate in this post, is already something very well-known among coaches:

"The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores."

Al McGuire said that, and he was absolutely correct. As much as freshmen titillate with potential, they spend even more time frustrating coaches with uneven play. Freshmen commit more turnovers, miss more shots, are more timid in the offense, rebound less, etc. In general, freshmen are the worst class of player in college basketball.

But everyone reading this blog already knows that. The more interesting question is how much further back are freshmen relative to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Or, put differently, how much we can expect freshmen to improve as sophomores? And how much we can expect sophomores to improve as juniors? And so forth with juniors to seniors.

And that's how I spent my summer (ok, I had an intern helping. And by "intern" I mean "college-aged family member who slept on my couch all summer.") -- looking at the statistical profiles of every BCS conference player who first stepped on campus between 2000 and 2005 (i.e., the last group's senior year was last season), with some additional filters:

No players with less than 10% Minute Percentage as a Freshman: In this study, the freshman year is the baseline number. We're measuring change, and that measurement is no good if you can't get a reliable relative point. Ten percent is arbitrary, admittedly.

Omit successive years with less than 10% Minute Percentage: Again, I didn't want small samples polluting the data.

Omit one-and-done players: Again, the measurement is change. A player has to give me at least one change data point to be considered.

No transfers: By and large, transfers not only change schools, but significantly, levels of competition. The most common transfer was from a BCS school to a low-level conference school. When the numbers improve, it's impossible to separate player development from the change in the competition level.

Conference games only: My affinity for conference game numbers is well-documented in this space. The idea is to try our best to hold the level of competition constant.

Results

The big, overarching conclusion is this: a player shows the most improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons than he does any other offseason. In fact, the freshman offseason improvement is, on average, greater than the improvement between a player's sophomore season and his senior season. That's not to say every player follows this pattern. There are lots and lots of exceptions, and this is no hard-and-fast rule. It's just a remark about the averages. And frankly, that's all we do around here, play the averages.

Pretty graphs below (going left-to-right is freshmen to sophomore to junior to senior):






The pattern is clear in all of the graphs, and perhaps most striking in the Shot% and TO% graphs, where a logarithmic growth & decline are shown (Keep in mind, this doesn't contradict Pomeroy's earlier work on shot percentage - that range is showing a pretty narrow band between 18% and 20.2%).

And now, to bring on home to why our readers should care. For that, I bring you the 2008-09 Fighting Illini. This team won 24 games after going 16-19 the year before. Yes, a lot of that was bad luck (or "bad DeChellis" if you prefer), but the Illini also lost 1/3 of the minutes from that 16-19 team. It's not like everyone came back. Another key piece in the Illini's resurgence is that 48% of the minutes were played by sophomores. In other words, 48% of the minutes were played by guys who figured to improve the most. And they did.

So what does that mean for this season? Well, nothing definitive, but we have started factoring this into our analysis of the teams for this season. And this graph should prove handy for others who want to do so as well:



(Note: In this table, I counted Alex Legion as a sophomore for the upcoming season, even though that's not technically accurate. Laval Lucas-Perry played in 5 games at Arizona, Legion played in 6 at Kentucky. It didn't make sense to treat them differently.)

As the graph shows, Illinois figures to be at the other end of the spectrum this season. Not surprisingly, Indiana laps the field. And maybe the people ranking Michigan and Minnesota (#15 and #18, respectively, in the initial coaches' poll) aren't so crazy after all.