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Wednesday, March 09, 2005
 
The Ballots Are In . . .
As you are by now aware, the following players were voted as the cream of the crop in this year's Big Ten.



All Big Ten Teams
Media First Team
Coaches' First Team

Dee Brown, Illinois

Dee Brown, Illinois

Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin

Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin

Luther Head, Illinois

Luther Head, Illinois

Deron Williams, Illinois

Deron Williams, Illinois

Bracey Wright, Indiana

Vincent Grier, Minnesota


Media Second Team

Coaches' Second Team

Alan Anderson, Michigan State

Greg Brunner, Iowa

Greg Brunner, Iowa

Maurice Ager, Michigan State

Terence Dials, Ohio State

Terence Dials, Ohio State

Vincent Grier, Minnesota

Bracey Wright, Indiana

Carl Landry, Purdue

Carl Landry, Purdue


Media Third Team

Coaches' Third Team

Maurice Ager, Michigan State

Alan Anderson, Michigan State

James Augustine, Illinois

James Augustine, Illinois

Paul Davis, Michigan State

Paul Davis, Michigan State

Alando Tucker, Wisconsin

Alando Tucker, Wisconsin

Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern

Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern




As far as I'm concerned, Bracey Wright has no business being named on anyone's First Team ballot. The Big Ten Wonk argued the same point this morning, noting that some 36 players ranked ahead of Wright in the simple yet very underrated Points Per Weighted Shot metric, which measures how well a player uses his field goal and free throw attempts to produce points. This is a valid point, and should have been enough to keep Wright off the first team.
***UPDATE - Anybody remember the Pierre Pierce Rating I created way back when? It's a measure of sustained offensive ineptitude (from the field), and Wright led the Big Ten this year.***

I offer further evidence - playing time. Like baseball injury guru Will Carroll will tell you, playing time is a part of performance. Being on the court is a prerequisite to putting the ball through the hoop. If pitcher A has a 2.50 ERA over 220 innings, while pitcher B manages a 2.30 ERA over 150 innings, it's pretty clear that you don't vote B as the Cy Young. Same story here - Wright may have led the conference in scoring average (in Big Ten games), but by missing 3 games (almost 20% of the season!), he finished a distant 10th place in points scored, 50 behind Grier. Since scoring is about all he brings to the table, a 10th place finish should banish Wright to second team, or even third (more on that in a minute).

Another pick I disagree with is giving Player of the Year to Dee Brown (cue the boos and "this guy's crazy" hollering). That's not intended to take anything away from him, because his rate stats were phenomenal this year. He led the conference in 3-point percentage, adjusted field goal percentage (measures efficiency on field goals only), and PPWS. Not bad at all. What is rather important, though, and is often overlooked, is Brown's role in Illinois's offense. He's always capable of taking over, but he's not the go-to-guy. Note the percentage of possessions used by the Illini's starters (conference games only) -

Roger Powell.......23.9%
Luther Head..........22.4
Deron Williams.....22.2
Dee Brown...........19.9

Playing time is still an issue with me, so Powell's low minutes per game drops him to fourth on the list of Illinois's aggregate possessions used, but Brown still trails two of his teammates. Like I said, Brown was awesome this year, but didn't contribute quite as much as Head, or (in my opinion) Mike Wilkinson. That said, Brown wasn't far behind. Feel free to disagree.

Well, if I'm so willing to disagree with some of the "obvious" choices for the all-conference teams, I should probably make public my selections so I too can be mocked. Here goes.

Some numbers I used to guide my picks -

adjFG% - changes a player's field goal % to account for three pointers
TS% - measures a player's efficiency in producing points from field goals and free throws
floor% - the ratio of a players individual possessions on which he contributes to a team scoring possessions
off rtg - a player's points produced per 100 possessions
%poss - the amount of a team's possessions that a players uses while he's in the game
Stats Glossary

Also, since each guy played (or had the opportunity to play) 16 games against more or less the same schedule, I find per game averages to be almost useless. I used aggregate totals for most of my comparisons (e.g., total rebounds instead of rebounds per game).

First Team - conference rank in parentheses

Dee Brown, Illinois- 0.559 floor% (9th), 138 off rtg (1st), 0.692 adjFG% (1st), 0.706 TS% (1st), 0.515 3pt% (1st), 240 points (9th), 28 steals (4th), 64 ast (4th)
- He might not have been my choice for player of the year, but Brown is an obvious inclusion for the first team, as he was simply the most efficient scorer in the conference.

Luther Head, Illinois - 255 points (5th), 0.591 adjFG% (11th), 0.634 TS% (10th), 31 steals (2nd), 0.391 3pt% (10th), 124 off rtg (7th), 48 ast (9th)
- According to the Wonk, he's the Illini's best defender. Couple that with his undeniable scoring ability, and he's a no-brainer first-teamer.

Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin - 261 points (4th), 48 Oreb (3rd), 78 Dreb (5th), 126 reb (3rd), 0.594 adjFG% (7th), 0.611 floor% (2nd), 129 off rtg (4th)
- Under the assumption that scoring efficiency decreases as one uses more of an offense's possessions, Wilkinson's Big Ten season was very impressive. When he was in the game, Wilkinson used 24.1% of all Badger possessions. Here's the Big Ten's top ten in offensive rating (points produced per 100 individual possessions). Note that Wilkinson leads everyone but Landry in possessions used.

Player.........................Off Rtg..........%Poss
Dee Brown.....................138..............19.9%
James Augustine...........135..............18.1%
Alan Anderson...............130...............23.6%
Mike Wilkinson...............129..............24.1%
Kelvin Torbert.................126..............17.0%
Luther Head...................124..............22.4%
Chris Hill........................124..............20.7%
D.J. White......................121..............23.7%
A.J. Ratliff.......................120..............15.9%
Carl Landry....................120...............28.3%

The quality of Wilkinson's play both offensive and defensively puts him in Brown's league, but I think the quantity (he played 83% of the team's minutes and used 24% of the possessions) gives him a slight advantage in Player of the Year discussions.

Vincent Grier, Minnesota - 288 points (1st), 35 steals (1st), 600 minutes (3rd)
- Grier presents another quality vs. quantity argument. His shooting was far from efficient (0.442 adjFG%), but by leading the league in free throws made and attempted, he produced a respectable TS% over a ton of minutes, which put him on top of the Big Ten in total scoring. That alone is not enough to be a first-teamer, but leading the league in scoring in addition to leading the conference's best defense certainly is. That defense ranks 10th nationally, according to one Ken Pomeroy.

Greg Brunner, Iowa - 254 points (6th), 47 Oreb (6th), 96 Dreb (1st), 143 reb (2nd), 22 steals (8th)
- This one is sure to cause some controversy, since this is an Iowa blog, and as the 5th selection, it drops Deron Williams to 2nd team status. The choice between these two guys was very difficult, considering how close they rate in several categories, but I wanted to be objective and not just assume everyone was right in choosing Williams. Here are some numbers I considered -

Player.................%Min......Pts......Rebs.....Asts....Stls.....adjFG%.....TS%....Off Rtg...%Poss...Floor%
Greg Brunner.......0.83......254.......143........28......22........0.525........0.570.......111........24.7......0.534
Deron Williams....0.83......169.........54......107......22........0.526........0.527.......112........22.2......0.481

These two played essentially the same number of minutes, with Williams being the league's best passer, and Brunner one of the best rebounders. Their offensive efficiencies were basically equal, except that Brunner did his with a larger number of possessions (and as his team's only post option). A common argument for Williams goes along the line of "his team isn't the same without him." Quite possibly true, but the same can just as easily be said for Brunner. Without him, Iowa has no one to score in the paint, and their rebounding takes a significant hit.

This pick was damn-near a toss-up, but Brunner's bigger offensive role and his play down the stretch give him the edge in my book. Let the mocking begin!

Second Team

Deron Williams, Illinois - 107 assists (1st), 169 points (25th), 112 off rtg (20th), 22 steals (8th), 0.403 3pt% (8th)
- If I was making six picks per team, Williams would've made the first team cut, but I only had five. Easy pick for this spot though.

Terence Dials, Ohio State - 262 points (3rd), 40 Oreb (9th), 84 Dreb (4th), 124 reb (4th), 0.571 adjFG% (14th), 0.558 floor% (11th)
- His 83% of minutes played and 25.3% of team possessions made him the anchor of what would have been a decent offense without the 25.1% of possessions and 90 off rtg of teammate Tony Stockman.

Paul Davis, Michigan State - 19.3 reb% (1st), 12.2 Oreb% (9th), 26.0 Dreb% (1st), 85 Dreb (3rd), 20 steals (13th)
- This is the part of my ballot where quality finally starts to win out over quantity. Davis only played 26 mpg in Michigan State's deep and balanced team, but his domination of the boards makes him well-deserving of this spot. To borrow an idea from the Wonk - Davis's 19.3 rebound rate (rebounds per available rebounds) was a full 2% better than Aaron Johnson in second place. If you take 2% off of Johnson's rate, you fall all the way to 9th place in the conference.

Alan Anderson, Michigan State - 130 off rtg (3rd), 0.592 floor% (5th), 0.585 adjFG% (11th), 0.649 TS% (6th), 230 points (13th), 98 rebounds (8th)
- Anderson, like Dee Brown, has superb shooting percentages, but his playing time (27.8 mpg) leaves him behind several players with better aggregate numbers. In any case, he's a borderline first-teamer, so it was nice to see the Wonk give him some recognition. (In case you didn't notice, I don't buy into the "Michigan State 'has to' have one player on the first team" argument.) That seems to be the same as saying one player from each team has to go to baseball's All-Star game, and I hate that rule. You should be selected because you were the best, not to fill some quota.

James Augustine, Illinois - 0.638 floor% (1st), 135 off rtg (2nd), 0.606 adjFG% (6th), 0.680 TS% (2nd), 41 Oreb (8th), 70 Dreb (7th), 111 Reb (7th), 16.3 Reb% (5th)
- The longer I look at Augustine's numbers, the more impressed I get. How many big guys hit 85% from the line (conf only)? He may be just a role player on offense (18.1% of poss), but he fills that role extremely well. And those rebound totals look really good for a guy who saw just 28 mpg.

Third Team

Carl Landry, Purdue - 253 points (7th), 48 Oreb (3th), 0.596 floor% (4th), 120 off rtg (9th), 0.643 adjFG% (3rd), 0.668 TS% (4th)
- This guy was a lock for my first team until he went down against Minnesota. If you pro-rate his 18.1 ppg to 16 games, he would have just edged Grier for total points (and that's counting his 1 point in 7 minutes against Minnie as a full game). His 120 off rtg looks good but not great at first glance, but considering he was forced to use over 28% of Purdue's possessions, it is excellent. The shooting percentages he maintained while being Purdue's only offensive weapon are pretty amazing.

Maurice Ager, Michigan State - 206 points (17th), 0.594 adjFG% (7th), 0.648 TS% (6th), 118 off rtg (13th)
- Another Spartan who's hard to place because of playing time. His 118 off rtg came on 25.1% of team possessions, so he was a solid contributor to the offense when he was on the court.

Adam Haluska, Iowa - 242 points (8th), 20 steals (13th), 119 off rtg (11th)
- At the risk of looking like a true homer, Haluska makes my third team. His point total is solid, and his defense was decent. The truth is, I don't see many guys left who had great Big Ten seasons. I seriously downgraded Bracey Wright and Alando Tucker for missing three games each. Vedran Vukusic seems like a reasonable pick, since he finished second in points, but I think defense matters too. At any rate, I don't expect to see Haluska finish this low next year.

D.J. White, Indiana - 0.606 Floor% (3rd), 223 points (15th), 0.603 adjFG% (6th), 0.638 TS% (7th), 121 off rtg (8th)
- This was a great start to White's Big Ten career. That 121 off rtg came on a hefty 23.7% of team possessions. He could be a first-teamer next year if he learns to rebound, assuming Bracey will share the ball (Wright led the league by using 31.3% of Hoosier possessions, slightly higher than what Pierce used during his 7 Big Ten games).

Bracey Wright, Indiana - 238 points (10th), 110 off rtg (23rd)
- I seriously considered going with Jeff Hagen in this spot, but Wright deserves some recognition for "leading" the Hoosiers to 10 conference wins, although my gut tells me their success has a lot to do with the development of their freshmen. At any rate, a 110 off rtg with over 31% of a team's possessions is no small feat, however inefficient it makes the team. It's a heck of a lot better of an offensive rating than Pierre Pierce managed with a similar number of possessions.

Honorable Mention

Jeff Hagen, Minnesota
Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
Jeff Horner, Iowa
J.J. Sullinger, Ohio State
Roger Powell, Illinois
Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern
Aaron Johnson, Penn State

Player of the Year

Luther Head - For me this award came down to Head, Brown, and Wilkinson. In fact, I find myself leaning toward Wilkinson even as I give it to Head. Wilkinson was nearly as efficient as Brown while using many more possessions. Head scored only 6 fewer points than Wilkinson. All three provided great defense. I give Head the nod over Brown because his defense rates a little better, according to the Wonk and to the Dean Oliver model. And while I generally reject this type of argument, I take Head over Wilkinson because of Illinois's success as a team.

Freshman of the Year

D.J. White - This one was pretty obvious, although Penn State's Geary Claxton did some nice things, including finishing second behind teammate Aaron Johnson in offensive rebounds, as well as finishing 8th in the league in minutes played.

Comments?
Feel free to respond - whether you agree with me or think I'm an idiot, I'd like to hear from you!
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