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Friday, January 14, 2005
 
Next Up - Minnesota
It's not that often that you hear a 12-3 team's third conference game is a "must win," but I get the feeling that Hawkeye fans are as anxious about tomorrow's game against Minnesota as they have been in quite some time. Just two games ago this team was ranked in the top 15 of the national polls and chosen as the most likely challenger to Illinois for the Big Ten title. Now they're in the conference cellar, gearing up to play a game that could go a long way in determining their fate. If they lose Saturday, Iowa is looking at the very real possibility of starting the conference season 0-4, as they follow up at #1 Illinois next Thursday. A win would hopefully send them to Champaign with enough momentum to put up a fight.

Team Breakdown
Let's take a peek at each team's Four Factors to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses. (You might wish to consult the updated and ever-evolving Stats Glossary).

Minnesota (B10 rank)
adjFG% = .564 (3)
TO/poss = .247 (11)
Oreb Rate = .389 (2)
FTM/FGA = .289 (4)

Iowa (B10 rank)
adjFG% = .542 (5)
TO/poss = .209 (5)
Oreb Rate = .309 (8)
FTM/FGA = .303 (2)

Average Opponents' Pomeroy Rating (nat'l rank)
Minnesota = 48.48 (159)
Iowa = 52.97 (27)

Minnesota Points/100 Poss
Offense = 112
Defense = 93

Iowa Points/100 Poss
Offense = 111
Defense = 97

Iowa might get some competition from the Gophers. When the Gophers maintain possession of the ball (they turn it over more often than any Big Ten team), their offense has been quite effective. They trail only Illinois and Michigan State in adjFG%, and they often get the ball back if they do miss. The Gophers also get to the free throw line frequently (Vincent Grier, J'son Stamper and Jeff Hagen are all in the conferences top 15 for FTA/FGA), and shoot a respectable 72% there.

Iowa's numbers, while not necessarily pretty in their raw form, are decent in the appropriate context. First, they've had the Big Ten's third hardest schedule so far, and 27th hardest in the counrty. Competition that tough will depress the numbers a bit. Also, the Big Ten has several teams that do well in some of these categories. Iowa might be 5th in the conference in shooting and TO rate, but they're in the top 15% and 25% of those stats, nationally.

I've read that the combination of Minnesota's league-leading 3pt% and Iowa's lackluster perimeter defense could lead to the Hawks getting torched from downtown. I doubt that will be a big problem since Minnesota is last in the conference in threes attempted per shot attempt (3PA/FGA), and is 3rd to last in Ken Pomeroy's 3-point production. Hopefully Iowa will force and make good use of Minnesota's turnovers.

Individual Breakdown
Now's the exciting part of the preview where we check out the new numbers we broke out yesterday.

Minnesota................Floor%..........O Rate............%Poss
Vincent Grier.............0.580..............131..................23.7%
Jeff Hagen.................0.544..............117.................25.2%
Dan Coleman.............0.474.............108.................21.5%
Rico Tucker...............0.445.............111.................23.1%
Aaron Robinson........0.473.............131..................14.2%
Brent Lawson...........0.565.............129..................13.4%
J'son Stamper...........0.508.............101.................22.5%
Spencer Tollackson..0.457..............93..................18.8%

Iowa..........................Floor%..........O Rate.............%Poss
Pierre Pierce............0.464...............103................31.3%
Jeff Horner..............0.508................131................20.2%
Adam Haluska.........0.545................138................17.7%
Greg Brunner..........0.555................116................22.2%
Erek Hansen...........0.477..................98................17.2%
Doug Thomas.........0.571................114................15.3%
Mike Henderson.......0.435.................95................16.2%
Carlton Reed............0.506...............126................13.2%

You might remember from yesterday that floor percentage is the ratio of a player's scoring possessions to individual possessions. Total floor% for all Big Ten teams is right about 50%. Player's get credit or partial credit for scoring possessions through scoring, assists, and offensive rebounds. Individual possessions are accumulated through scoring possessions, missed shots that the defense rebounds, and turnovers.

The offensive rating is a player's points produced per 100 possessions. Points produced is an Oliver number that credits players for contributions through field goals, free throws, assists, and offensive rebounds. Keep in mind that the average offensive rating for Big Ten teams is about 109.

Possession percentage is the amount of a team's possessions a player is involved in when he's in the game. Note that if five players played a full game and shared the ball equally, each would have 20% of the possessions.

Vincent Grier gets his impressive floor% by shooting well from the floor and by getting to the free throw line often and shooting well there. Dan Coleman and Rico Tucker are providing about league average production - not bad for freshmen. Aaron Robinson and Brent Lawson have impressive offensive ratings, but that alone does not make them great players. Their %poss are probably the lowest I've seen for anyone with as much playing time as them (both about 29 mpg), which means they have little involvement in the team's offense.

Has anyone else wondered how this team would look now if Pierre Pierce's ankle sprain at the end of the Texas game had been more severe? Would it be a case of addition by subtraction? A reduced role for Pierce would allow for larger contributions from more efficient players like Horner, Haluska, and Brunner. Pierce's %poss is one of the highest for any player from a top 30 team (might be the highest, I'm just not inclined to look it up. Just know that when Michael Jordan was in his prime, he was using 30-33% of the team's possessions). Unfortunately, his efficiency (O Rate) is well below the conference average. That's just not the guy you want controlling nearly a third of your team's offense. As Dean Oliver notes in his book, unless you have Michael Jordan, one-man teams just don't go very far.

Well, that's about it for tonight. Perhaps you could tell by the volume of my writing that I'm a little excited to finally see a live game again. My last Iowa game was Western Carolina on December 18, a full month ago. I'm hoping that the team still has enough fans to provide some good basketball atmosphere after the 0-2 start (one fan who's given up, via the Big Ten Wonk).

Go Hawks!

Comments:
I have one question for you. Do you keep your own stats or do you get them from a different source. I've been looking for someplace that will deliver the opposing teams Offensive Rebounds in past games without having to go through each individual game stat.

Great weblog. I'm looking forward to what you post.

By the way I think the home court advantage will be the deciding factor for IA against Minn.
 
Unfortunately, I have little experience in any relevant computer programming, so I just bring stats from the internet into Excel. I'd like to work on Oliver's defensive ratings, but I'm running into the same problems you are. The ratings require the opponents' rebounding rate, but I haven't found any website that provides a team's opponents' cumulative totals in an Excel-friendly format. Good luck.
 
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