Sunday, February 24, 2013

This Could Get Ugly ... In a Good Way

The Badgers have the best defense in the Big Ten, and it isn't even close. According to the Kenpom numbers, Wisconsin's defense is allowing .901 points per possession, and Ohio State is second at .959. The Big Ten Geeks point out that the .901 figure is historically great in the Big Ten (assuming, that is, that history started when Ken Pomeroy created his website in 2002):
In the tempo-free era, only last season’s Michigan State squad, spearheaded by Draymond Green, defended better relative to conference average than this season’s Badgers have thus far, and it’s awfully close. Wisconsin has a legitimate chance to lower their in-conference defensive efficiency down the stretch, as three of the remaining four games come against the conference’s worst offenses.
With the Badgers, we just might be watching an historically stifling defense.
They make a good point that Wisconsin has three cupcakes coming up. Purdue, Nebraska, and Penn State are bad offensive teams. They rank 10th, 11th, and 12th in the conference in offensive efficiency, and only Northwestern is close.

These teams are not only bad, but they're bad in a way that makes Wisconsin a bad matchup: they are bad at shooting. Wisconsin plays good defense by forcing teams to take tough shots (rather than, say, by forcing turnovers or blocking shots.) So a team that can't shoot is likely to struggle even more against the Badgers.

To put this in perspective, let's look at the teams' true-shooting percentages:

Team       TS% (overall / conf.)
Nebraska  48.9 / 46.6
Purdue     47.9 / 46.2
PSU         47.8 / 45.2

By comparison, the lowest TS% for the Badgers in conference play under Bo Ryan is 51.5% in 2006. As I showed the other day, Ryan Evans is the only mid- to high-usage player in the Bo Ryan era to go a season with a TS% lower than 48.9%. By comparison, Purdue, Nebraska, and Penn State each have a team TS% that is 48.9% or below. Yowsa.

More perspective. The Badgers have had just four players go a season with a usage rate above 20% and a TS% under 50% in the last 12 seasons. Purdue, Nebraska and PSU currently have four. If you expand the sample to include players who've played at least 50% of the teams' minutes, there are an incredible eight players on these three teams with a TS% below 50%—two on Purdue (T. Johnson and R. Johnson—A. Johnson barely misses the cut with 49.3% of minutes played and a TS% of 42.6), four on Nebraska (Talley, Gallegos, Rivers, and Parker), and two on PSU (Newbill and Travis). Yowsa.

I will be surprised if the Badgers allow more than 50 points to any of these three teams. So the Badgers' historically good defensive stats have a very good chance to get even better by the end of the regular season.

1 comment:

  1. Game 1, against Nebraska was certainly ugly in a good way. Wisconsin DE is now down to .889 acc. to kenpom.