Saturday, December 28, 2013

StatWatch™: Sam Dekker leading in Points & Rebounds

After today's double-double, Sam Dekker has now surpassed Frank Kaminsky as the Badgers' leading scorer and extended his lead in the rebounding department.

Under Bo Ryan, the only players to lead the team in both scoring and rebounding are Alando Tucker, Brian Butch, and Jon Leuer.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Greek Freak Update

Giannis made his first NBA start last night against the Knicks. I did not think Giannis would start a game this year, and maybe not next year either. His learning curve has been accelerated by the injuries to small forwards ahead of him on the depth chart, Carlos Defino and Caron Butler. It also has helped that the Bucks have had to play small with more injuries to starting and backup centers Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachulia. The Bucks have the worst record in the NBA, and since this is a season for tanking there is little reason not to play the young Buck and try to develop him.
Giannis played 42 minutes before fouling out against the Knicks in a game that extended into 2 overtimes before the Bucks lost yet again. Giannis scored 10 points on 2-3FG and 6-7FT with 7reb, 2assists, 2steals, 1block, 3turnovers. On the season he has played in 20 of 25 games averaging 19.4 minutes, 6.2 points, 4.1reb, 1.1 assists, 0.6steals, 0.7blocks, 1.0turnovers and 2.0fouls. He is shooting 49.4%FG, and 28.6%3ptFG. He has been put in a role to limit his inexperience and allow his athleticism to work for him. In the preseason Giannis was given more free reign and the result was tons of turnovers and fouls along with a few spectacular plays that caught the attention of NBA coaches and executives. During the regular season he is usually posted on the wing where he is not really a part of the offense, but he gets an open shot now and then. More importantly it limits his turnovers and allows him to go the glass on the move from the wing where he has made some impressive put backs.

The Bucks try (mostly unsuccessfully) to run because their offense is so bad, and Giannis has shown his ability to finish in transition and make a spectacular pass. For every big dunk or nice pass there are many more lapses. Against the Knicks he was caught guarding Andrea Bargnani on the perimeter who cannot do anything out there but shoot. Giannis got caught looking and Bargnani drained a 3 as Giannis realized he was late on the close out. These mistakes are quite common, but not unforgiveable for a kid that just turned 19. Hopefully he will learn from these mistakes. Even with all the mistakes Giannis is way ahead of where I figured he would be at this point in his career. He is already an acceptable NBA player. A long way from a great NBA player, a good NBA player, or even decent NBA player, but still not bad for a kid that never played against college basketball talent let alone the likes of Carmelo Anthony who he guarded at times against the Knicks.

I have given up rooting for the Bucks this year, or even just trying to enjoy some good basketball (unless I am watching the Spurs fundamentally destroy the Bucks). I still watch the games, but I'm not really watching the Bucks. I'm just watching Giannis and Henson to see how they play, and how they develop. Sadly this is far more interesting than watching the Bucks. Tonight Giannis got the ball on the wing, took a couple dribbles to create space and calmly drained a step back 3 as the shot clock was winding down. The splash plays like that give me hope that I could be watching him as an All-Star caliber player some day. For now I'll just have to settle for watching a young kid learn.

Weekend College Basketball Picks

No Badger game again this weekend, but there are some interesting games. I noticed that the hoops writers at made picks against the spread for 10 of the more interesting games this weekend, so I thought I'd make my picks for those games as well. To be clear: I would never gamble on basketball, because the point spread is so fickle. But this is a way to maybe make my life a little more interesting and fun, so screw you. Chorlton, I dare you to beat me. You too, Osterholm (who is in danger of having his new posting rights revoked on the basis of inactivity.)

Notre Dame at Ohio State -8
This is what I'm talking about with point spreads in college basketball. I know Ohio State will win, but by how much? It's likely to come down to: (1) does Notre Dame make a couple of late three-pointers? and (2) does Ohio State make its low-leverage free throws?

Notre Dame is coming off a neutral court win over mediocre Indiana, but they've got a couple of bad losses. Ohio State has won every game by double digits, though Delaware hung close with them the other night.

Notre Dame can score, and this should be a low-pace affair. So I like Notre Dame to cover but lose. (This follows my first rule of thumb: if all three CBS guys picked the favorite to cover, I'm going the other way.)

UPDATE: This game is actually in Nee York, which makes it semi-home for Notre Dame if anything, and I therefore withdraw my statement that "I know OSU will win."

Michigan State at Texas +3
Michigan State still has injury problems, and Texas is coming off a shocking victory at North Carolina. If Texas wins this game, they will have cobbled together a tourney-worthy non-conference resume. But that seems unlikely, as they just squeaked by Mercer, UT-San Antonio, Vandy, and Temple (all sub-100 teams in the Kenpom ratings).

One thing that makes me want to pick Texas is that they had a preseason T-Rank of 43, and a preseason Kenpom rating of 80. So they are moving in the right direction, and I want it to be the case that my algorithm saw something Kenpom's didn't. I root for the T-Rank.

But it's just hard to imagine that Michigan State loses this game, and three points doesn't seem like enough. So I'm taking MSU to win and cover.

Oklahoma St. at Colorado +7
This is a battle between two teams the T-Rank underrated. It had Oklahoma State at 19 and Colorado at 66, compared to Kenpom preseason ratings of 4 and 39. I'd rather have it been wrong about Colorado, since that was a bigger outlier, so I'll take Oklahoma State to win and cover.

BYU at Oregon -10
Here's a T-Rank special: BYU was 64 and Oregon was 22 compared to Kenpom 48 and 56. Oregon has no moved up to 20 and BYU is still at 47, so I'm rooting for a big Oregon win.

But 10 points?  That's tough. It will be a high-pace game between two teams who don't play defense. So Oregon could certainly run away things late. Still, it's just so easy for a team to make even a blow-out look close with some late buckets by scrubs. And I wouldn't be shocked by a BYU outright win here.

But I'll go with my rooting interest: Oregon to win and cover.

Georgetown at Kansas -8
I will take the points in this one, but Kansas wins. Kansas has played a brutal schedule, and it continues here. There has been some foolish talk about Kansas given their schedule. Talk like about how Tyler Ennis has been more impressive than Andrew Wiggins (his fellow Canadian). That's nonsense. Kansas has lost to three really good teams away from home. They aren't going to lose at home. But T-Rank tells me G'Town has underachieved, so I'll root for them to keep it close in the loss.

Belmont at Kentucky -17
Ah, who the hell knows. Belmont did win at North Carolina, but they aren't very good this year. They've lost 3 of their last 4, including not-so-good losses to South Dakota St. and Denver on the road. They might well be due to just lay an egg. But this game is a random number generator, so I will go with my heart: Belmont covers in a loss.

Gonzaga at Kansas St. +6
A home underdog in college basketball is a powerful force, but this game is actually in Wichita, not the little apple. Despite my first rule of thumb, I will take Gonzaga to win and cover.

UMass at Florida St. +2
Obviously I'm rooting for the Seminoles in this game. Upset special! Bonus rooting interest is to eliminate Umass from the "ranks of the unbeaten."

Missouri at Illinois +1
It's a pick 'em game on a neutral court. Missouri is undefeated and therefore due for a loss. But Missouri was a T-Rank outlier at 27th (compared to 49 in Kenpom preseason and 45 now). So I'll take Missouri. A push here wouldn't surprise me.

UConn at Washington +5
Previously undefeated UConn just lost a shocker at home to Stanford, and now faces another PAC-12 opponent for its first road game. This is Washington's only chance for an impressive non-conference win, but they are not a good team.

UConn was #10 in the T-Rank, so on that basis I should be cheering for them. On the other hand, I essentially called their home loss to Stanford, despite a certain writer's claim that they didn't face any "possible" losses until their game at SMU. It would be pretty sweet if they lost two of these unlosable games. For that reason, I will take Washington to win outright.

If I do well, I'll brag about these picks next week. If I don't, I will delete this post.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Surprise team: Florida State

Last night, Florida State destroyed Charlotte, 106-62. Charlotte is an okay team that upset Michigan on a neutral court (although they have some bad losses as well). Florida State also has a nice win over VCU, and its only losses are close ones to Michigan (OT, neutral court), @Florida (67-66), and @Minnesota (71-66).

As a result, they've risen from 105th to 34th in the Kenpom ratings, and they are the only team in the current top 50 that I didn't bother to rate in my own T-Rank preseason ratings. I didn't bother to rank them because they finished 121st in last year's Kenpom ratings, and didn't turn up in the top 75 of any of the other preseason rating systems. Since I was just trying to get a top 40 or 50, this seemed like a safe margin.

But the nice thing about T-Rank is that I can go back and retroactively rank teams since it is all based on historical data and projected rosters. When I did this, I got a nice surprise: turns out, Florida State would have been ranked number 36 in the T-Rank. Nailed it! (Sort of.)

Why was Florida State rated so highly in the T-Rank? Well, they returned four starters from last year's team, including three freshmen. My system expects players who play as freshmen to take a big leap as sophomores. They also returned a good amount of their minutes, about 70%. Third, last year was an aberration for Leonard Hamilton, who had been to the previous four NCAA tournaments; my system uses data from the previous three seasons to come up with the T-Rank, so the effect of one bad season can be deemphasized.

Why was Florida State so underrated by the pundits and other rating systems? Well, Florida State wasn't bringing in any top recruits or transfers. In fact, two players transferred out (Terrance Shannon and Terry Whisnant), though neither was a major contributor on last year's team. Most importantly, they lost by far their best player from last year's team, Michael Snaer. So there were big question marks surrounding this team.

For the record, here are the other teams currently in the Kenpom top-75 that I did not rate for the preseason T-Rank:

52: SMU
56: Drexel
61: West Virginia
64: Geo. Washington
67: Indiana St.
68: Princeton
70: New Mex. St.
72: UC Santa Barbara
74: Toledo

If any of these teams makes a run toward the bubble, I will retroactively T-Rank them as well. Hopefully next year I will have time to rank every D-1 team before the season so we can avoid these kinds of surprises.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another Ben Brust StatWatch™: Leading the conference in 3-pointers

As I've already detailed, Ben Brust is hunting down his own single-season mark and the Badgers' career record for most three-pointers made. After hitting five threes against EKU, Brust now just needs to average 2.6 threes per game over the Badgers' 21 remaining games (19 regular season and at least 2 post-season) to break Locum's career mark. This could come down to how many post-season wins the Badgers get. Hopefully it will be a bunch.

But Brust has one more three-related milestone in target: leading the Big Ten. His 34 threes currently leads the Big Ten. Yogi Ferrell is second with 29, and Nik Stauskus has 25 in just nine games. Brust has a narrow lead over Stauskus in threes per game (2.83 to 2.77). So, something else to keep an eye on.

As far as I can tell, the last time the Badgers had a player lead the league in three-pointers was 1992-93, when Michael Finley made 63, three more than Shawn "The Truth" Respert.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Badgers' Ball Screen Defense

Eastern Kentucky's coach had an interesting comment after his team got blown out by Wisconsin yesterday:
Coach Ryan is obviously incredibly well respected for a great reason. His ball-screen defense is so unique and it caused us to try some different things. And they weren’t very effective.
What is unique about Wisconsin's ball screen defense? It's a little beyond my ken, frankly. But I know this is a special interest of yours, Chorlton, so I thought I'd ask.

Indiana: On the Bubble

Indiana lost to Notre Dame at home in Indianapolis yesterday, dropping them to 8-3 with other losses to UConn (neutral) and at Syracuse. The losses aren't terrible, but they have no good wins. Their two remaining non-conference games are cupcakes, so they won't be getting any good wins before the Big Ten season. A neutral court win over middling Washington (5-4, #133 Kenpom) will be their best non-con win.

Their current profile is certainly that of a bubble team. They have an RPI of 90 due to a fairly weak schedule. Obviously, it's too early to take the RPI seriously. But their projected RPI is 49th. And they've dropped to 39th in the Kenpom ratings, which projects them to go 9-9 in the Big Ten.

Will 9-9 get Indiana in the tournament? That would be a 19-12 record going into the Big Ten tournament, so they'd probably have to win their first-round game. Of course, it also depends on who they beat; they'll have to collect some scalps. They'll have opportunities, as they get 6 games against UW, MSU, and Michigan. They get Ohio State and Iowa just once, but at home. They'll probably need to win at least four of those eight games.

Two of their first four Big Ten games are home games against MSU (Jan. 4) and Wisconsin (Jan. 14). If they lose to MSU, the game against Wisconsin will be something like a must-win.

It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying victory than one that bursts Indiana's bubble.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Big Ten over rated?

Big day for the Big Ten today. While UW has had a great non-conference season and will now coast into the Big Ten Season with a couple cupcakes in the next couple weeks, the rest of the Big Ten cannot say the same. The Big Ten has struggled against non-cupcakes this year and by my quick and unofficial count has just 2 wins against teams currently ranked in the top 25 (MSU vs. Kentucky, and UW vs. Florida). It's not for lack of opportunities. By my unofficial count the Big Ten is 2-11 against teams currently ranked in the top 25. There are also just not a lot of good wins in general.

Here's a quick list of mostly major conference opponents:

OSU beat Maryland and Marquette, still has Notre Dame

MSU beat Kentucky and Oklahoma, lost to UNC, still has @Texas

Iowa beat Notre Dame, lost @ISU and Villanova, no more big games 

Minn beat FSU and lost to Arkansas, Cuse, no more big games

Indiana beat Washington, lost to UConn and @Cuse, still plays Notre Dame

Purdue beat BC, lost to Washington St and OKST, still has @West Virginia

PSU beat St Johns, lost to Ole Miss and @Pitt, no more big games

Mich beat FSU, lost to ISU, Charlotte and @Duke, still has AZ and Stanford

Nebraska beat Georgia and Miami, lost to UAB, UMass, @Creighton, no more big games

Northwestern lost @Stanford, @NCST, UCLA and Mizzu, no more big games
Much has been made about the poor strength of schedule in the Big Ten. The Big Ten had better start racking up some wins. There are 3 major conference opponents today, plus Purdue gets Butler.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wisconsin Sports Person of the Year

The prestigious Bart Torvik Wisconsin Sports Person of the year for 2013 is:

Bo Ryan. 

He has now won the award 12 years in a row. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Court storming time?

Looks like the Badgers will finish their non-conference season undefeated with only 3 home games remaining against lesser competition. The first 3 Big Ten games are @Northwestern, Iowa, and IL. If Northwestern pulled the upset I would imagine there will be a court storming, and deservedly so. Although I'm not sure there are enough Northwestern fans at their home games to actually fill the court.

The 4th Big Ten game is @Indiana. If UW is undefeated they will likely be a top 3 team when they play Indiana. On top of that, IU has a 12 game losing streak vs. UW. Under normal circumstances I would say any time an unranked team (as IU will likely be) beats a top 3 team a court storming is acceptable. When you throw in the long losing streak against UW, a court storming seems inevitable if IU were to win at home. The last time IU beat UW was in 2007, and you will probably remember this scene:

IU fans storming the court after beating UW was as big a sign that UW was now a part of the college basketball elite as anything I've seen. Maybe I'm just old. I grew up watching Bobby Knight win 31 consecutive games against UW from 1980-1997. I was a college Junior before I got to see UW beat IU (I didn't watch much basketball when I was under 4). It may be undignified for fans at schools like IU, Kentucky, Duke, UNC, etc. to storm the court, but for fans of UW it sure makes a loss a little more tolerable when it happens.

Common sense tells me that UW will lose a game at some point this year. If that loss occurs on the road, then there will likely be a court storming. I sure hope IU doesn't get to do it, as I so enjoy watching Crean pout.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I was surprised to notice as I was looking at stats tonight that the Seahawks are the 2nd highest scoring team in the NFL (not including the Monday/Sunday night games). They also have the 2nd best scoring defense, but everyone knows they have a great defense. It's not like they have been playing slouches all season either. They have already played several of the top defenses in the league, Carolina (1st), San Francisco twice (3rd), New Orleans (6th), Arizona (8th), Tennessee (11th), Indy (12th), and St Louis (14th). They still have to play St Louis and AZ again in the last 3 games. That's 10 of 16 games vs. top 14 defenses, so their scoring is no joke.
These guys are good.

StatWatch™: Ben Brust and Three-Pointers -- UPDATED

Last year Ben Brust set the record for most three-pointers made in a season by a Badger (79). The world was first alerted that this might happen by a perceptive StatWatch™ piece by a certain blogger.

Brust has 25 28 threes already this season, so he is on pace to challenge that record. Which brings to mind the question: is the career record in jeopardy?

Yes. Tim Locum has the career record for the Badgers, at 227 career three-pointers made. Brust currently has made a total of 161 164, so he needs another 63. At his current pace, he'd need another 27 games to get it. That's six post-season games. So it's unlikely, but worth tracking.


I think the career numbers I was using for Brust didn't include the Marquette game, so he had 3 more threes than I gave him credit for. I've corrected the numbers above to correspond to what they should have been at the time of the original post. As it stands now, on December 12th, he has 168 threes in his career, meaning he needs 60 more to break Locum's record. That's 2.5 a game over 24 games (meaning two post-season wins). Should be a barn-burner.

StatWatch™: Jackson's assists

After 10 games, Traevon Jackson has 48 assists. I put those numbers into a spreadsheet and it informed me that he is averaging 4.8 assists per game. His assist rate (the tempo-neutral assist stat) is 30.1%.

To put those numbers in perspective, Jordan Taylor averaged 4.7 assists per game and had an assist rate of 30.4% in his great year (2010-11). Devin Harris averaged 4.4 APG his junior year.

I doubt Jackson will keep this rate up, but if he does he's got some even more impressive feats within striking distance. The Wisconsin record for assists in a season is 179, by Tracy Webster in 1992-93. At his current rate, Jackson would break that record in 38 games. The Badgers will play 31 regular season games, so this would require a bunch of post-season games—but not outside the realm of possibility.

Jackson is also averaging 5.3 apg in his last 7 games. If he keeps that pace up, he'd break the record in the Badgers' 35th game. I'd be very surprised if the Badgers don't get 35 games this year.

So I'll be keeping an eye on Jackson's assists.

Utah State update; Missouri on the radar

Well, it looks like I put the hex on Utah State. A while ago I noted that they were off to a good start, but had a test coming up with BYU. They played a good game with BYU, but ended up losing. Then yesterday they got upset at home by Pacific. So much for all that.

But another T-Rank outlier has come to the forefront: Missouri. They were one of the top upside outliers, ranking #27 in the T-Rank while languishing down at 49 and 52 in Pomeroy and Hanner's preseason ratings. Well, all they've done is win their first nine games, including a big win yesterday over UCLA. They're only up to 40 in the Kenpom ratings, but that still incorporates some his preseason bias.

They've got a couple more non-conference tests coming up against NC State and Illinois. We'll see if this is another hex.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Most seasons in most sports end in disappointment. So as a fan you have to enjoy the ride, and savor the highlights and accomplishments along the way.

The Badgers are 10-0 against the toughest schedule that any major conference team has played. This season has been a triumph so far. I am enjoying it.

Marshall's transfer

News broke today that George Marshall will transfer.

This is understandable, but disappointing. Koenig had passed Marshall on the depth chart, so Marshall's minutes were likely to be sparse for the rest of the season barring an injury. But that proviso is important: Marshall provided a great insurance policy in case of an injury or serious foul trouble. He is the kind of guy who could come off the bench and explode for 20 points out of the blue.

But the handwriting was on the wall for George. With Gasser's injury leading to an unexpected redshirt last year, the pathway to playing time for Marshall got extended yet another year. I think he would have gotten serious minutes here as a senior, at least, but it seems unlikely he was ever going to start at point guard with Koenig in front of him.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Torvik's Big Ten Preview

Chorlton is the master at in-depth previews of every Big Ten team. I can only pretend to have his depth of knowledge. And I will do so now.

Chorlton put things in terms of top and bottom. Instead of an upper and lower division, I think there are really four pretty clear divisions this year, and I'm going to predict that none of the teams in my four divisions will finish more than one division above or below the slot I assign them to. Put it in the book. Here we go.

Division #1:
Michigan State
Ohio State

One of these three teams will win the Big Ten. (Keep in mind that there might be like a five-way tie for the Big Ten title.)

MSU was the clear pre-season favorite, and rightfully so. But though they've been ranked #1 for three weeks, they've gone through a few of their typical early season woes. A close game at home to Columbia was disturbing. Then they got destroyed at home by North Carolina, as usual. WTF, MSU? Thankfully, they've got an easy excuse: they aren't 100%. Star Gary Harris has a gimpy ankle, and Adreian Payne apparently has plantar fasciitis, which I believe is the sudden emergence of a third big toe (usually somewhere on the foot). Unfortunately, there's no guarantee these injury problems are going to resolve. Gary Harris seems a little ... fragile. And who knows how many more toes Payne might grow. Still, even at 90% this team has the talent and experience to contend nationally. I have begun to doubt whether they've got the balls to win the Big Ten, but they'll be in the mix.

Last year I made the mistake of underestimating Ohio State. Never again! Matta is a master, and Ohio State is doing its thang™ again. They are going to be great on defense, the only question is whether they can score enough. Luckily for them, scoring is often optional in B1G conference play.

As I've documented, Wisconsin has already had probably the best non-conference season in the history of the program. The win over Virginia was the most impressive of all, as it showed they could get down 'n dirty. I've had some concerns about their defense, but as time goes on these are dissipating. Indeed, their weakest defensive performance have come against lesser foes and their best defensive performances have come in their toughest games. Look at this picture:

On the y-axis is the Kenpom win probability for each of Wisconsin's games. (To put it in terms Chorlton can understand: The higher it is, the more likely they were to win that game.) On the x-axis is the Badgers' corresponding defensive performance in that game. For example, in the lower left you've got the Virginia game, where they had a 30% chance of winning but held Virginia to .67 points per possession. On the upper right is the North Dakota game—they were 96% likely to win, but gave up 1.15 PPP.

So this chart shows a very clear trend, but it is exactly backwards. You'd expect the Badgers to allow more points to the better teams, but the opposite is true. It's a mystery. But here's my thought: these guys rise to the occasion.

Division #2: 

Chorlton wrote the book on these teams already, and we agree they'll finish 4-6. So just a few brief notes:

Michigan misses Trey Burke a lot, as any team would. He was a three-star recruit who became national player of the year as a sophomore. No one appreciates how good he really was, and thus Michigan is overrated. This is a big year for Beilein. If they revert to pre-Burke semi-mediocrity, my old opinion that he's more of a Tubby Smith than a Bo Ryan will be redeemed.

Iowa is definitely on the rise, and I actually think they're the most likely of these Division #2 teams to win the Big Ten. But they have serious flaws as well. In particular, they still struggle in the half court on offense. As we know, running won't get it done in the Big Ten, so you have to figure out a way to scrounge up baskets. Iowa lost a lot of close games last year because they just couldn't score at the end of games when things got tight. They've got all the same players, and could have the same problems.

Indiana does have some good freshmen. From what I've seen, Vonleh could be really good. I hope he leaves after this year. But this is a team that will struggle in the Big Ten. They're more likely to fall into the NIT than win the Big Ten.

Division #3:

One of these three teams will surprise us, but I'm not sure which one. Purdue has looked terrible at times this season, but I refuse to believe they won't improve. Illinois has a bunch of freshman, as Chorlton noted, and maybe they'll get good this year (but I doubt it). Minnesota has Austin Hollins (or maybe it's Andre who's good) and a bunch of other guys, and they'll get some wins at home. Which one of these teams will put together a lucky season? My bet is on Purdue because they have the best coach.

Division #4:
Penn State

I actually disagree with Chorlton, and have observed some improvement in his beloved "bottom." Well, not in Northwestern. But Penn State and Nebraska could win some big games at home.

Okay, I've run out of gas. Prediction time.

OSU, 14-4
WI, 13-5
MSU, 13-5
Mich., 11-7
Iowa, 11-7
Ind., 10-8
Ill., 8-10
Minn., 8-10
Purd., 8-10
PSU, 5-13
Neb., 4-14
NW, 3-15

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Big Ten bottom

Some people think the Big Ten will be tougher than last year because the bottom teams will be better. This is largely based on an bunch of players returning from last year after having some success, some others returning from injury, and several transfers. I am not one of these people. I see only 2 teams that have a chance at to make the NCAA in the bottom of the Big Ten, and that chance is slim. The 4 other teams look pretty bad, and only one looks good enough to make a run to the NIT.


After a spectacular non-conference season last year IL came back down to earth and finished 8-10 in Big Ten play. They still made the tourney largely because of those non-conference wins. Of the 8 players that played in 35 games for IL last season, 5 are gone (Paul, Richardson, Griffey, McLaurin graduated, Henry transferred). With a spectacular recruiting class coming in this year I expected IL to go young, and end up looking a lot like Purdue last season. Instead IL has an experienced starting 5 of 2 seniors and 3 juniors including the 3 holdovers from last season (Abrams, Bertrand, Egwu) and 2 transfers (Rice and Ekey). The 5 freshman come off the bench, but only Tate gets major minutes. He is getting about 20 min/game and averaging about 4ppg, and 4 assists. This group should mature as the season goes on and let IL compete in future years to get back to the top of the conference.

Does IL make the tourney? Maybe, but if so it will be just barely. IL has a very tough conference schedule so they will have plenty of chances to get quality wins. IL has 11 games against the top 6, and just 7 against the bottom. They get MI and Purdue only once at home, and Northwestern and Minn once on the road. If they can pull off a few upsets at home I think they will have done enough with a very tough strength of schedule to get in, probably with a losing conference record for the second year in a row.


Last year Purdue struggled early while a bunch of talented freshman got their feet wet, but finished strong going 8-10 in conference play. I figured this team would make a jump this season with all those guys coming back, but now I'm not so sure. The top 3 scorers return, (Johnson, Johnson and Hammonds) but the 4th Byrd graduated and he was the only perimeter threat on the team last year. This team may be effected by the rules changes more than any team in the Big Ten. Purdue's lack of shooters on the perimeter won't allow them to take advantage off all the open looks available with no hand checking allowed. Against Oklahoma State's pack it in zone they looked lost on offense. Purdue also suffers defensively as Painter has always taught a half court defense heavy on ball pressure that is very hard to do with the hand check rules. Painter likes to pressure the ball handler which makes it hard for that player to get up a shot or make an entry pass into the post. Think of Chris Kramer all over the opponents point guard, harassing them into bad passes and getting steals. Look for Purdue to have trouble sending teams to the foul stripe all season.

Is Purdue tournament worthy? I don't think so. If Purdue makes a run it will be because Hammonds gets them there. He is talented enough that he may play in the NBA someday, but he has not been on the court enough this year. He was suspended for the first game, and Purdue almost lost without him to a horrible Northern Kentucky team. In the 4 games he played, in he is only averaging 17.5 minutes/game, and he got into early foul trouble again against Oklahoma State. Purdue is playing 11 guys in every game this year so far. Purdue has probably the easiest conference schedule of any team as they only face Indiana and MSU once at home, and IL and Iowa once on the road. The record may be about the same, but I think this team takes a step back and not forward this year.


Minnesota is in a major transition year. Out is Tubby Smith and the consistently mediocre teams he produced. In is Richard Pitino and a bunch of transfers. Tubby's teams had made the tournament 3 of the last 5 years, and he won his first tournament game with Minnesota right before he got fired. No small feat as Minnesota has only made the tournament 12 times in their history. Minnesota fans must remember the recent success of the Clem Haskins era, and think Minnesota basketball is capable of bigger things. Minnesota lost a lot of minutes and production from last year with Mbakwe, Williams, Coleman, Ingram and Welch gone, however the Hollins brothers return. Minnesota didn't bring in any impact freshman, but they have 3 transfers (Matheiu, Smith and King) that will contribute right away. Andre Hollins is a terrific player and should have a huge season. He should be able to carry this team to a win by himself in a few games this year. The rest of the returning cast is unimpressive to say the least.

Can Minnesota surprise everyone and match their 8-10 record of last year? Nope. This will be a bad basketball team. I think they will struggle just to get into the NIT. They have a fairly favorable schedule getting MSU and Nebraska once on the road, and Indiana and Illinois once at home. Minnesota will probably stay bad for a couple years unless Pitino can bring in some more impact transfers or freshman. Look for Minnesota to remain fertile recruiting ground for Bo to steal talent from over a crappy home state program.

Penn State

The three bottom teams are all pretty terrible. I think PSU will be the best of the three because of the return of Frazier. He is an all around good offensive player and should benefit a great deal from the new rules. This team's defense should be terrible as usual. They don't have much size (their two forwards Taylor and Travis are 6-7 and 6-6) so rebounding will be an issue and shot blocking a non-factor. Newbill gives PSU a 2nd scoring option if teams focus on Frazier, so this team should have what it takes to shoot their way to a few wins.

Can Frazier carry PSU to the post season? I doubt it. PSU has an easy schedule getting Iowa, UW, and MI only once. The other single matchup is Northwestern. With only 9 games against the top of the Big Ten PSU should get enough wins to look like they aren't as terrible as they are.


Northwestern also is in a major transition after firing Carmody who was probably the most successful basketball coach in team history. Like PSU, Northwestern is also hoping the return of a very good player (Crawford) will help them make a jump from last season. Also like PSU, Northwestern has a 2nd scorer in Cobb, who can complement Crawford and take some pressure off. Broken record here, but Northwestern is also terrible defensively and will have to shoot well to beat decent teams. Northwestern has a little more size than PSU with Olah, but they may not be any better defensively.
Can Northwestern get to 5 wins? I'm taking the under. They get MI and OSU once, but they also get IL and PSU just once.


I'm having trouble finding much to like about Nebraska. They are really lacking in talent. They don't even have the middling stars like Northwestern and PSU who might carry them to some shoot out wins. They do get 4 games against Northwestern and PSU, and only play UW, Iowa, MSU and Minn once. They should get a win or two, so I don't think they get shut out in Big Ten play. 
Bottom predictions:

IL- 8-10
Pur- 8-10
Minn- 7-11
PSU- 5-13
NW- 4-14
Neb- 3-15

Monday, December 2, 2013

Picks recap

With the regular season complete it's time to recap my picks. I'll update the final tally after the bowl game prediction. Last season I went 5-5-2 (4-1-1 on picks and 1-4-1 on the o/u) After starting out strong this season on the o/u I fell apart at the end, but I stayed strong on the picks just like last year. Overall this season I'm 10-8, 6-3 on picks, and 4-5 on the o/u. The lesson here is the same as last year, stick with the picks and leave the over/under. Over 2 years I'm 10-4-1 vs. the spread, and 5-9-1 vs. the o/u.
Should be a fun bowl game vs. a fun SEC opponent on Jan 1st