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Monday, October 03, 2005
Painter Takes A Hit
Maybe it's because I was out of town for several days, or because Purdue was awful last year, but I haven't heard much mention of Tarrance Crump's arrest on September 25. Crump is accused of hitting a pedestrian with his vehicle while driving intoxicated, then leaving the scene of the accident. I'm guessing three felony charges in one night isn't how head coach Matt Painter interprets the term "triple-threat."

Crump is a junior point guard set to join Purdue this season after two successful years at Shelton State Community College. He was the center piece of a Boilermaker recruiting class that some called the best in this year's Big Ten. Lindy's basketball annual ranked Crump as the #4 juco PG and the top ballhandler of all juco players, and he was expected to step in and run an up-tempo offense.

Losing Crump would be a big blow to Painter's chances of quickly turning around a team that went 3-13 in the Big Ten last year. I was thinking that this team would really surprise a few people, because they weren't quite as bad as last year's record indicated, and because point guard was probably the position most in need of an upgrade.

Not As Bad As It Looks
According to the Pythagorean model, the spread between a team's points scored and points allowed can be a better indicator of a team's quality than their actual record. If you'll recall from your intro to statistics days, the mean of a sample is more likely to be near the mean of the population when the sample size is larger. [I'm surprised I remember anything beyond the 24 year old Swedish grad assistant we had, but I'm drifting off topic.....] In other words, when flipping a coin, you are much more likely to get close to 50% heads when you flip a coin 1,000 times than if you flip it just 10 times. The same is true in basketball - it's a little easier to tell how good a team is by looking at points per possession (since there are around 1,000 possessions in a conference season) than just their record (16 games in a season).

Purdue scored 1004 points and gave up 1089 on about 1023 possessions in last year's Big Ten games, or 98 and 106 per 100 possessions. If they played 1,000 games, you'd expect them to win about 310 of them. If they played 16 games, you'd still expect them to win 31% of them (for a 5-11 record), but the smaller sample size dictates that hitting that 31% figure is less likely to happen. If you look only at Purdue's first 13 games, since Carl Landry missed most of the Minnesota game and the rest of the season after his injury, the team looks a little better. Their point totals were 845 to 882, for an expected record of about 6.3-9.7, which looks a lot more promising than 3-13. Throw in this year's easiest Big Ten schedule, and Purdue looked primed for a turnaround.

Moving On Up
The other reason I looked for Purdue to rebound was that Crump would be replacing Brandon McKnight, who was probably one of the worst players in the conference to play over 30 minutes a game. His shooting was plain awful, and his passing wasn't a lot better.

Here's a quick look at players who saw big minutes at point guard last year, paired with their season eFG%. (eFG% is regular FG% adjusted for three pointers. Average is about 50%.)

Aaron Robinson Minnesota 57.5%
Jeff Horner Iowa 52.6
T.J. Parker Northwestern 51.9
Deron Williams Illinois 51.6
Sharif Chambliss Wisconsin 49.1
Drew Neitzel Michigan State 45.1
Dion Harris Michigan 44.8
Marshall Strickland Indiana 44.3
Jamar Butler Ohio State 39.8
Brandon McKnight Purdue 39.4
Ben Luber Penn State 36.3

If your eFG% is under 40% and you don't play for Penn State, it's a good idea to just stop shooting the ball. This idea was lost on McKnight, who finished second on his team and 13th in the conference in FGA's in conference games. He took about 24% of his team's shots while he was on the floor. That might be acceptable when you're the main threat on your team, but I have to think that working the ball into Landry and his 60+% shooting might be a better idea.

The next table sorts the Big Ten PGs according to a pass rating that borrows heavily from the work of Dean Oliver and estimates points produced through assists per 100 possessions. Keep in mind that assists, FGA's, offensive rebounds, and turnovers are all part of the denominator, which can cloud the picture.

Pass Rating
Drew Neitzel Michigan State 37.8
Deron Williams Illinois 33.6
Jamar Butler Ohio State 31.4
Jeff Horner Iowa 23.2
Ben Luber Penn State 23.1
Sharif Chambliss Wisconsin 22.2
Marshall Strickland Indiana 20.4
Aaron Robinson Minnesota 19.2
Brandon McKnight Purdue 15.4
T.J. Parker Northwestern 14.1
Dion Harris Michigan 13.2

Teams can put up with a poor-shooting point guard as long as he does a good job of distributing the ball. Unfortunately for Purdue, McKnight ranked very low at both skills, and with his 37.4 mpg of playing time, it's no wonder that the team struggled to score enough points to keep up with its opponents.

The point of all this isn't that McKnight should've been sitting on the bench. Gene Keady's other PG options weren't much better shooters and were very turnover-prone. I just wanted to suggest that removing McKnight and adding Crump would make the 2005-06 version of the Boilermakers a lot better than the previous season. Now we'll have to wait to see if he can play at all.

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