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Sunday, March 27, 2005
 
Shooting For Three - Part I
The Big Ten has some serious bragging rights to hold over its naysayers after Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin won their first three tournament games. The field gets cut in half again this weekend, and those left standing advance to the Final Four in Saint Louis.

Getting three Big Ten teams into the Elite Eight wasn't all that astounding, considering some of the teams that fell before they could face their Big Ten foe. Illinois faced UW-Milwaukee instead of Alabama or Boston College; Wisconsin should send Christmas cards to both Bucknell and NC State, as they allowed the Badgers to avoid Kansas and Connecticut; Vermont took care of Syracuse for Michigan State. With the exception of MSU's win over Duke on Friday, the highest seeded opponent any of these teams faced was #9 Nevada (Illinois).

So yes, the upsets definitely worked out in the Big Ten's favor. Not that I'm complaining.

Illinois rode a thrilling comeback into the Final Four, giving the Big Ten at least one team in Saint Louis. Here's a peek at the teams trying to join them.

Wisconsin vs. North Carolina
I'm just going to use the same format I used for most of my recent previews of Iowa games.
Possessions per game and efficiency data are from Ken Pomeroy's Stats Page.

Team Offense
.............................Poss/G.......Off Eff......adjFG%.....TO/poss.....Oreb Rt.....FTM/FGA.......3A/FGA
Wisconsin................64..............110..........0.508..........0.185..........0.309..........0.262.............0.356
N. Carolina................75..............122..........0.560..........0.221..........0.401.........0.331.............0.306

The most interesting thing about this game will be the contrast in team paces, as North Carolina is one of the most up-tempo teams in the country, while Wisconsin takes a lot more time with each possession. They like to pass the ball around and wait for a decent shot. It's worked so far.

Wisconsin is one of the better teams around at limiting turnovers, which is important since they don't get a ton of their own shots back (notice the very pedestrian Oreb Rt). UNC is a good defensive rebounding team, too, so the Badgers will have to avoid turnovers to keep this game close.

Evaluating North Carolina's offense is kind of fun because they're so good at several things. First, they shoot very well - they're 40% as a team from three, and only two of their regulars (Felton and Scott) shoot below 49% overall. Next, UNC is a great offensive rebounding team - at least one of the top 25 in the country. It'll be interesting to see how that matches up with Wisconsin's tough defensive rebounding (more on that in a minute). Finally, Carolina shoots a ton of free throws and makes 73% of them - their FTM/FGA rate ranks 8th nationally (using only regular season numbers). They're only at about the national average for TO/poss, but they perform so well at everything else that it doesn't matter much.

Team Defense
...............................Def Eff.......adjFG%.......TO/poss........Dreb Rt.........FTA/FGA
Wisconsin.................88.............0.469.............0.189............0.745...............0.280
N. Carolina.................87.............0.464.............0.246............0.690..............0.315

According to Ken's data, the two teams allowed just about the same level of points per possession. They also held opponents to about the same shooting percentage. The rest of the stats vary significantly. Wisconsin avoids going for steals and stays back in position. They might not force many turnovers this way, but they're in the right spot for defensive rebounds nearly 3/4 of the time (that's a lot!). I don't have defensive data for all teams, which would allow me to list Wisconsin's rank for Dreb%, but my list does show only 10 or so teams with an offensive rebound rate as low as 0.255 (1 - 0.745).

North Carolina, on the other hand, prevents its opponents from scoring by simply relieving them of the basketball. This strategy leads to plenty of easy scores, as evidenced by their shooting percentage. They also do a decent job with defensive rebounding, though clearly not as well as Wisconsin has done.

Note that I use FTA/FGA for defense, and FTM/FGA for offense. FTM/FGA works well for offense because it measures the team's ability to (1) get to the line and (2) make shots when they get there. Teams have little control over how their opponents shoot free throws, so I just measure how often they send them to the line (FTA/FGA).

Individuals

North Carolina
Player.....................MPG...O Rt....%poss.....Pass.....FTA/FGA....TO/poss.....Oreb%...Dreb%...Reb%
Sean May................26.3.....122......27.5%......7.8...........0.66.............0.19.........17.4%....27.2%...22.6%
Rashad McCants....25.5.....122......24.1%....14.1...........0.36.............0.17...........3.3%.....8.8%......6.2%
Jawad Williams.......24.2.....125......20.7%......9.8...........0.35.............0.17...........7.4%...10.2%......8.9%
Raymond Felton......31.5.....112......22.1%....33.0..........0.40.............0.28...........2.4%....11.7%......7.3%
Marvin Williams.......22.2.....127......20.5%......5.4..........0.70.............0.19...........9.7%...22.4%.....16.4%
Jackie Manuel..........22.1.....109......14.2%....13.8..........0.54 ............0.22...........8.1%.....6.2%......7.1%
Melvin Scott............16.5......113......14.1%....13.6..........0.12 ............0.16............2.5%....6.3%......4.5%
David Noel..............16.8......117......12.3%....18.7..........0.37.............0.24............6.3%..10.3%......8.4%

Wisconsin
Player...................MPG.....O Rt....%poss.....Pass.....FTA/FGA....TO/poss...Oreb%...Dreb%...Reb%
Mike Wilkinson......31.6.....118......23.9%......8.7...........0.44..............0.14.........9.6%....19.6%...14.6%
Alando Tucker.......31.7......112.....26.0%......7.8...........0.55..............0.16.........8.8%....15.8%....12.3%
Kammron Taylor...23.9.......94......22.7%....11.9...........0.53.............0.24.........1.4%....11.1%.......6.3%
Sharif Chambliss..24.6......106.....18.9%.....20.7..........0.22.............0.16..........0.6%...11.6%.......6.1%
Zach Morley...........22.8.....107.....20.0%.....14.0..........0.41.............0.23..........4.9%....21.3%.....13.1%
Clayton Hanson.....29.9.....117.....11.2%.....10.7..........0.19.............0.16..........2.0%......8.1%.......5.1%
Ray Nixon..............11.8......99.......14.1%......9.4...........0.10.............0.21...........3.6%.....8.6%.......6.1%
Andreas Helmigk....8.8.......89........22.0%.....7.8...........0.30.............0.22.........10.7%...16.3%....13.5%

Does any player have as big a split between his offensive and defensive rebounding numbers as Zach Morley does? None that I've seen yet. He likes to camp outside the arc and fire threes on offense, thus keeping his distance from the glass, but he's Wisconsin's best rebounder at the other end.

Sean May is an absolute beast on the glass. I haven't done a lot of work with rebound percentage yet, because of the data collection required, but Andrew Bogut is the only comparable guy I've seen to May when it comes to rebound %. I'm very curious to see if Wisconsin's excellent defensive rebounding work will be enough to keep May and his ridiculous 17.4% Oreb% from gathering a lot of UNC misses. And I'm amazed that the Tar Heels can grab over 40% of their misses with only one guy getting more than 10% of his offensive rebound opportunities. That's how much May controls the boards.

Marvin Williams will make a lot of money in the near future. He's already an efficient scorer (though it doesn't hurt to have other future pros sharing the scoring load) - his ability to frequently get to the line (and shoot 85% there) fuels his 66% true shot %, which seems really high for a post player. He's also an excellent defensive rebounder and is fairly tall, and managed to hit 46% of his threes. There's a lot to like.

Thoughts
I think the Badgers will need to be hitting from three to keep this one close.

Random Stuff
- If MSU beats Kentucky, Iowa will have played each of the Final Four participants (Illinois, Louisville, Michigan State, and either North Carolina or Wisconsin).

- If MSU and Wisconsin both win Sunday, Iowa will have fared very well against each of the Final Four teams (beat Louisville and MSU, lost to Illinois in OT, lost to Wisconsin twice by three points).
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