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Thursday, August 25, 2005
Names To Know, Part I - Marco Killingsworth
Many Big Ten fans were caught off guard last season by the emergence of two junior college transfers. Carl Landry of Purdue and Vincent Grier of Minnesota are the conference's top two returning scorers, yet they were hardly household names at this point last year. I thought I'd get a head start this time around and start profiling Big Ten newcomers who could have a big impact on their teams. Indiana's Marco Killingsworth leads off the series.

Killingsworth joined the Hoosiers last year after three seasons with Auburn but sat out the required transfer year. At 6'8", 265, he's a big-bodied power forward who will form a formidable frontcourt when paired with last year's Big Ten FOY, D.J. White, and foreign newcomers Cem Dinc (Turkey) and Ben Allen (Australia). Head coach Mike Davis has been saying that Killingsworth was the team's best post player in last year's practices and that he was a major factor in White's steady development.

Expectations are high - prominent hoops blogger Yoni Cohen thinks Killingsworth has All-America potential, Davis thinks he's a candidate for first team All-Big Ten, ESPN's Andy Katz thinks he'll help boost the Hoosiers into the top 20, and he even landed a spot on Dickie V's All-Marco Polo team (heh, you really wanted to know that last one). Fans are hoping he'll duplicate his success at Auburn, where he led the team in scoring and rebounding on the way to the Sweet Sixteen two years ago. He also led the SEC in field goal percentage his last two seasons.

What can we expect to see in Marco's final season? Let's start by looking back at some numbers from his sophomore and junior seasons. They should be readily digestible for most readers.


Considering he played less than 30 minutes per game in both of those seasons, the scoring and rebounding figures are pretty solid, and the FG% is rather impressive. But if you've been reading Hawkeye Hoops for very long, you know that this is far from our stopping point. Let's take a look at some more complicated numbers to paint a more accurate picture.

Year......O Rtg....%Poss.....TS%.....TO%.....Reb%.....FT/FG

O Rtg measures a player's points produced per 100 possessions. Last year's Big Ten average was 104.
TS% measures scoring efficiency based on points, FGA and FTA. Big Ten avg = 54.4%.
TO% = turnovers per possession. Big Ten avg = 21.4%.
FT/FG = free throws attempted per field goal attempt. Big Ten avg = 0.347.
[Need more? Check the always handy Stats Primer.]

Killingsworth was already a decent player as a sophomore. He boosted his offensive rating nicely the next year, mainly by cutting his turnovers. His turnovers could be a concern for Indiana, since they're losing a big chunk of TO-free Bracey Wright possessions (16.5 TO% last year), but the Hoosiers will welcome his size and scoring ability, which is considerable. He doesn't miss a lot of shots and he makes frequent trips to the foul line, though he only shoots about 65% there.

If there's one thing to worry about, it's rebounding. The team finished 10th in the conference in defensive rebounding last year (by grabbing only 63.4% of opponents' missed shots), their only respectable rebounder, Pat Ewing Jr., transferred, and Killingsworth has never been an outstanding defensive rebounder. His junior year Dreb% of 15.9% is comparable to what David Teague (6'5", Purdue), Roger Powell (6'6", Illinois), and Travis Parker (6'5", Penn State) did last year.

I didn't have to look very far to find a good comparison for Killingsworth, at least when it comes to scoring. Iowa's own Greg Brunner put up numbers last year that were very similar to Marco's junior season. The following data are from the players' junior years.

Player...............O Rtg....%Poss....TS%....TO%....Reb%....FT/FG

Brunner wass the far better defensive rebounder, but Killingsworth's edge at the offensive end offset some of that difference. At any rate, adding a Brunner-level player should make Indiana a favorite to get back to the NCAA Tournament after narrowly missing the dance last year.

While I don't consider him a threat to break any All-America squads, you can add Killingsworth to the already long list of players who deserve consideration for this year's All-Big Ten Team.
Can we let Killingsworth play a game first? The Big 10 isn't the SEC. There's usually some emphasis on defense in the conference.

I'd never swap Brunner for Killingsworth. Brunner didn't bail on his teammates in an attempt to grab some bling-bling.
Uh, yes. In fact, we let him play 89 games over three seasons. That's a sufficiently large sample size against quality competition for us to draw some valid conclusions about Killingsworth. The point of the post wasn't to say that he would score X number of points this year or be better than Player Y; I just wanted to examine his past performances and provide reasonable expectations for his upcoming season. A lot of my readers like to read previews before the season starts.

As for "there's usually some emphasis on defense in the conference," which league are you referring to (please note thick application of sarcasm)? Looking at the numbers, it's not clear that one league plays superior defense. Observe the points scored per 100 possessions for each conference (conf. games only).

B10 01-02 - 104.8
B10 02-03 - 103.3
B10 03-04 - 104.7
B10 04-05 - 104.3

SEC 04-05 - 104.8

[I wish I could include a few past SEC seasons, especially since that's when Killingsworth actually played there, but I couldn't track down the necessary data. I'll definitely update this comment if I come across the info today.]

Perhaps the confusion lies in pace. The deliberate style of most Big Ten teams leads to lower scoring averages than other conferences, which often gives the impression of "more emphasis on defense." The following are possessions/game averages (conf. games only).

B10 03-04 - 62.4
B10 04-05 - 62.5

SEC 04-05 - 64.1

If it's not clear from the numbers, I'm trying to say that the difference between the Big Ten and SEC (in recent years) is more a matter of pace than of quality of play. So, assuming 04-05 was not an aberration for the SEC, Killingsworth put up his numbers in a league that isn't far removed from the one he's joining, and we should be able to extrapolate some expectations for this year.
"I'd never swap Brunner for Killingsworth. Brunner didn't bail on his teammates in an attempt to grab some bling-bling."

When Jeff Lebo took over after Cliff Ellis was fired, Killingsworth spent some time evaluating what sort of coach Lebo was and found him to be lacking. Instead of stepping up the sort of recruits he wanted to bring to Auburn, Lebo continued to recruit players of low-D1 talent. After spending enough time to see the talent Lebo wanted to bring in to pair with Killingsworth, he decided he no longer trusted the head coach.

I'm not sure that qualifies as a guy who bailed on his teammates for some bling.

You might want to do a bit more research before making flip comments about any player - on your team or any other. However, if one needs to see a player who might better fit the precise description you attempted to fit onto Killingsworth's shoulders, you might take a look at Luke Recker.
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