Odds and Ends

We love feedback here, and to encourage more of it, I'm going to try and respond to a few points and questions that we've received.
Pace, Schmace, Revisited**

I've previously looked at pace and came to the unsurprising conclusion that the Big 10 is slow. However, I could not explain how or why the Big 10 is slow, beyond "because it's slow." But we're going to look harder here, to see if we can find something to explain this pace predicament.

A commenter wondered whether it was the super-slow teams (such as Northwestern) that were bringing the averages down. A good thought, but this does not appear to be the case:

The teams in red are the Big Ten teams - the teams in **blue are the Big 12 teams. Why Big 12? Well, because of the 5 remaining BCS conferences outside of the Big Ten, the Big 12 is the median, pace-wise. As the graph illustrates, the entire conference is pretty slow, and there's not a large gap between most of the teams. In fact, the fastest team in the Big Ten last season, Minnesota, would be in the lower half of the Big 12, pace-wise. My search for meaning continues...

Bo Ryan and the Amazing No Foul Defense**

KJ over at Spartans Weblog opined that perhaps the key to the Wisconsin foul gap was in part driven by the swing offense. However, the Badgers really haven't seen much of an increase from 2000-01, the year before Ryan started. In that season, they drew 19 fouls a game. Since Ryan has taken over, they haven't gotten higher than 19.6. That said, the four seasons prior to 00-01 were about two fouls per game lower, so it's possible that 00-01 was just an aberration.

There were also some comments that suggested that Ryan was simply a great teacher of fundamental defense - moving the foot, going "straight up" when contesting shots, etc. But this is too simplistic in my view. After all, what coach out there isn't teaching the same stuff? Are their players dumber than Wisconsin players? Do those coaches not really care about those things, and simply roll the ball out on the court for practice? As much as I admire Ryan and the Wisconsin program, any explanation that paints the rest of the Big Ten (and the rest of the country, for that matter) as simple-minded, lazy, apathetic, or otherwise severely lacking in traits desirable in a college basketball coach or player, does not sit well with me.

Now, this isn't to say that Ryan isn't emphasizing certain things moreso than other coaches - that's precisely how styles are born. But the idea that Ryan is just stressing "play good defense" is too simple and broad. No, I prefer to think he's barking out at his team that they shouldn't reach, or take chances on defense, or other items that would lead to less fouls, and turnovers.

And as much as it might seem like the Badgers are simply going "straight up" on defense, well, they've enjoyed their highest Block% over the past two seasons since 1997-98. So the fouling doesn't seem to have much to do with a change in style there. **

Why Can't We Figure Out Marcus Landry**

We left him off our Preseason All Big Ten Team, he doesn't get mentioned as a top returning big man, but then we mention him as a top wing in the conference.

This guy confuses us. Not only does he have a unique position - we'll call it "Big Wing" - but he also doesn't have a predictable style. He's a post player with shotblocking ability with a nice touch from the FT line and a good outside shot. To me, that sounds like a John Beilein player or someone like Mike Tisdale. But I don't think it would occur to paint Landry as that style of player, from watching him on the court.

First, let's take a look at the good. Landry took on a large shot diet last season (25.7) on a very good team, so that alone speaks well for him. He made 3s at a pretty good rate for a guy his size (35.7% in conference), has a nice touch from the line (82.4%), and can do some nice things on defense (2.9% Block%).

But what about the not so good (he's not really "bad" in any area, so we'll call it that)? Well, he's only about 50% on two pointers, which makes his eFG a pretty pedestrian 50.8. While he makes his FTs, he doesn't get to the stripe as much as you'd like (29.4 FT Rate), he's not gifted at setting up his teammates (7.7 Assist Rate) and his rebounding isn't dominant. In fact, it's somewhat subpar (7.1/14.6 OReb/DReb) for a PF. But then again, he had a lot of great rebounders on his team last year. It's tough to outboard Brian Butch every night, so we won't count that against him.

The truth is, Landry's a bit above average in some areas, but never seems to be below average in any single area. Not only that, he does it on a high shot diet. So while Raymar Morgan struggles with TOs, and Kevin Coble lacks offensive rebounding ability, Landry keeps it even, everywhere. I guess this explains why we're simultaneously fans and yet cool on his expectations. On the one hand, a player like Landry doesn't hurt you anywhere, and therefore would fit in on every single team in the country. But at the same time, he doesn't have the "fix this, and become a superstar" potential that other players have. Manny Harris had a horrible shooting year that didn't make much sense other than being a freshman. Fix that, and he's great. If Raymar Morgan tightens up on the TOs, he's virtually unstoppable inside 15 feet. But in order for Landry to improve, he needs to make something that's not bad, and make it very good. That seems more difficult than turning something that's bad into something that's just ok. So I don't see the upside with Landry that I do with other players. But that doesn't mean I don't think he's a fine player already.