On The Road Again
Before I hit the road for the weekend, I want to direct your attention to the new poll over on the right side of the page. It's a simple ploy to encourage a small amount of reader participation. Make me happy and add your vote when you see a new poll is up - it's free and anonymous, but I think you can only vote once. As of now, I'm guessing most polls will be Iowa or Big Ten related.
That is all.
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.
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.
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.
(Old) News and Notes
There have been a lot of newsworthy Iowa-related topics in the past month that I have yet to write about. Today I'll try to purge my backlog of unwritten blog notes so I can move on to some other things I want to cover.
- The USA World University Games team that included Greg Brunner brought home gold medals after it won all eight of its games. Brunner's shooting was less than impressive (just 12-30), but he tried to make up for it by being a monster on the glass. He finished second on the team in rebounds per game (5.8) despite playing significantly fewer minutes than a lot of his teammates. His corresponding rebound % would no doubt be impressive, but it's hard to calculate since the WUG stats site doesn't provide playing time. That technicality can be brushed aside by using FGA as a proxy for minutes played - i.e., we assume Vincent Grier played twice as many minutes as Brunner did because Grier took twice as many shots. For all this to work, we have to assume each player shoots an equal number of shots per minute. That's a bit of a stretch, certainly, but slightly less so since this is an all-star team (players are closer in ability level than a typical team, so shots should be more evenly distributed) and each game was won by at least ten points (no need to rely on a go-to guy). Anyway, this method results in a rebound rate of about 30%, which is ridiculously good. Alternatively, Bru was grabbing close to six boards a game in only 10-15 minutes per. It was an impressive rebounding performance any way you look it.
- Jeff Horner is one of 50 preseason candidates for this season's Wooden Award, which is given to the nation's best college basketball player. The other Big Ten nominees are Michigan State's Paul Davis and Maurice Ager, Illinois's Dee Brown, Wisconsin's Alando Tucker, and Minnesota's Vincent Grier. I'm a little surprised that Horner was included, since I don't even consider him Iowa's best player. For the record, I think Purdue's Carl Landry got snubbed. Yes, it's only a preseason ballot and doesn't mean much, but this guy has to eventually garner some recognition, right?
- Iowa gave a scholarship to Justin Wieck, who walked on last year after two years at Kirkwood CC. His scholarship was the last available for this year's team, which essentially means that Nathan Skinner will not make the squad. Skinner was not expected to meet academic qualifications.
- The Iowa athletic department drastically reduced student ticket prices for the upcoming season. The move was well past due, but I wasn't expecting this big of a cut. A student season package was $204 last year; I paid $95 for mine this year. As if the prospect of Iowa having its best team in several seasons wasn't exciting enough, now there might actually be a few students to make noise at the games! I've already heard from people who wanted to go last year but were turned off by the prices, but plan to buy season tickets this year. I. . .can't. . .wait.
- 2006-07 recruit Isaiah Dahlman narrowed his list of schools to Iowa and Michigan State, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. According to the Pioneer Press, "A little birdie says. . . Dahlman probably will pick Iowa over Minnesota or Michigan State." Nine days later (Sunday), they printed this -"It's still a good bet that. . .Dahlman will commit to Iowa this fall," though they provide no sources. I won't take any rumors too seriously, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. Dahlman will visit Michigan State soon and is expected to make his decision shortly after.
Scanning the Schedule
Last week, the Big Ten announced its conference schedule for the upcoming season. Due to the size of the league, Big Ten teams don't play each other an equal number of times. Rather, they play six opponents twice, and once against the remaining four teams. I'm not a big fan of the setup, since it can give some teams an unfair edge, but it's not going away without cutting teams (*cough* Penn State) from the conference. I thought it would be worthwhile to look over the schedule today and see if any teams are at a disadvantage.
By the way, does any school do a worse job updating its site than Iowa? Minnesota is the only other school yet to post their full season schedule for next year. Half of the league even has a Summer Prospectus (media guide) previewing next season's team. And don't get me started on Iowa's pitiful archive section. Just give me the stack of old media guides and hire me to update the records already.
Moving on, here are the four teams that each school will only play once during Big Ten play.
The tougher the opponent listed in the table, the easier the schedule for the school in the far left column, because they play that opponent only once instead of twice. It's hard to say just how good each team will be next year, considering the losses at Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin; the newcomers at Indiana and Minnesota; and the general unpredictability of Iowa and Michigan, but I'll venture a few observations anyway.
Most Fortunate Team
Purdue - Matt Painter wins the lottery with what's probably the easiest schedule he could've hoped for in his first season as head coach. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan State have been the cream of the Big Ten crop for the past several seasons, and Iowa returns every key player from an NCAA Tournament team. That's not to say that Purdue will finish with an impressive record, but the schedule makers couldn't have made their season much easier.
Michigan State - It's pretty tough for the best team in the league to have the toughest schedule, simply because they don't have to play themselves, while most teams play them twice, but MSU might be an exception. Only getting one game against Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern outweighs that "top team" benefit. They'll have to face Illinois, Iowa, Inidiana, and Wisconsin twice. Check out their first five games -
at Ohio State
That's five teams that should be strong contenders for NCAA Tournament berths this year. Illinois and Wisconsin might be down this season, but they both protect their home court very well, and the Spartans start out on the road with both of them. Ouch.
Iowa's schedule deserves some consideration too, since their home-and-aways include Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
Feel free to bookmark this page so you can reference the chart this winter when you're telling me why your team is getting hosed, or why they should be 10-6 instead of 7-9.