Bumped - More good numbers from Mike Rogers [Con-T]
As much as I have love for KJ's PORPAG statistic -- which is obvious given I've written on it twice this year -- I've loved KJ's polynomial trend graphs way, way more. Why? Well, it shows the ebb-and-flow of the entire conference season in a quick visual, while using tempo-free statistics. I'm not sure there could be anything better. So in KJ's honor (let's hope MSU makes him stick around another couple of weeks at the minimum), I bring unto thee, some polynomial nerdiness (hopefully I'm not stepping on any toes).
For the data, I just simply extracted the offensive and defensive efficiency for each conference game from KenPom's Game Plan page for each Big Ten team.
The blue line(s) are offense and the red line(s) are defense. We'll start with Michigan State, of course.
Click all images to enlarge.
So, the beginning and end of the season was, well, still not good by MSU standards. The middle of the season -- you remember: when no one missed from three-point land against us -- during the six game stretch from Illinois through Wisconsin was abysmal. Not that you needed to be reminded of that, of course. In that span, MSU posted defensive efficiencies of 119.0, 132.4, 102.7, 112.7 (in a win), 112.2, 151.2 (hey there Wisconsin), and 100.6. You could probably add the Ohio State game where we had a Def Eff of 113.9 to this group, but I thought there were some positives to come out of that game for us -- not that moral victories should be something we keep track of. That said, we had an upturn towards the end of the season and can I just say that a trek against the mediocre teams in the Big Ten has never been more needed than ours at the end of the year.
The rest of the teams I'll present alphabetically.
Wasn't a great season for the Fighting Illini either. Illinois started off well with a positive efficiency margin -- including a home win against the Badgers -- early on but then things settled into a middle-of-the-pack team before really heading south for the latter third of the season. Illinois wouldn't win two games in a row after their January 6th win against Northwestern capped a three-game winning streak. They've essentially traded wins and losses since that day, going 6-9.
The Hoosiers had a respectable stretch in the middle of the season, but didn't start or finish strong. And really, that 'respectable stretch' meant hovering around an efficiency margin of 0 which is basically a middling team. That stretch in the middle included their only three wins in conference play where they upended Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota (all at home) around a nine point loss to Wisconsin and a 91-77 loss against the Hawkeyes. Over/under 1.5 more years for Tom Crean?
Iowa had a turnaround under Fran McCaffery this year. It might not have come in the form of tangible results but this is an Iowa team that can be entertaining to watch. Well, at least not gouge-your-eyes-out boring. They're more athletic than they've been in probably a half-decade and they're young. Like the Hoosiers, they too won three games in the middle of the Big Ten season -- one of which we won't even discuss. Besides that game, they also beat Indiana twice. The two games in that five-game stretch they lost were road visits to Ann Arbor and Happy Valley. There are some reasons for optimism with Iowa in that I'm a McCaffery fan. He built up Siena and had a positive effect on the Hawkeyes efficiency in his first year. Can't ask for much more than that from a lackluster program as of late.
The Wolverines struggled to start conference play and it seemed like the same ol' Michigan team. However, as we know, they're without a senior and Tim Hardaway, Jr became a beast to accompany the incredibly-improved Darius Morris. Unfortunately, the win in East Lansing sparked Michigan to an 8-3 record in the final 11 games with their losses coming at Ohio State, at Illinois and a loss at home to Wisconsin on a three-point buzzer-beater. The conference is purging a ton of talent this year, so if you're picking a year to make a few strides and not have a senior on your roster, this is the year.
Minnesota didn't show much at any point in the year that indicated they were anything but the middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, but Devoe Joseph leaving the team really killed Minnesota -- especially when the injury bug hit. The Golden Gophers dropped 9 of their final 10 with the lone with being a blow out of the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Tubby Smith has turned around a completely mediocre team he inherited a few years ago into a perennial 20-game winning team, so there's no need for worry. Still, that's as awful an end to the regular season as Smith could've had.
I'll admit to have a very small soft spot for the Northwestern Wildcats. I say this in as much of a way as I can being that I'm a State fan. Still, it's hard to really hate a team that's in a BCS conference that's never yet reached the NCAA Tournament. Because of this fondness, I would've liked to have seen what Northwestern could've done with Kevin Coble in the lineup -- even though he an John Shurna are extremely similar players.
Yawn. Best team in the country was as consistent as they could possibly be until they finished shooting roughly 9000% from the three-point line. Seriously, I'm just glad Johnny Threebler didn't go nut-so when Michigan State was on the court with them. I obviously haven't done this for any other team in the nation, but I can't imagine one having a trend line this smooth. Even Kansas has that blow-out loss to Texas and Kansas State. Duke had a couple of questionable losses -- though both Kansas and Duke are still elite teams -- but Ohio State's efficiency margin looks like it's stagnant the entire year. Crazy good. I know that Thad Matta gets love around the country, but I feel like he doesn't get the credit he likely deserves for being a top 10 coach in the game today.
The Penn State Talor Battles had a surprisingly competitive 2011 conference season. They come out basically a wash offensively and defensively, but Talor Battle carried the team like no one else in the conference carried a team. Nothing new, of course; he's been doing it for the last three seasons. Jeff Brooks had a very good 2011 campaign, but I wonder how that manifests itself next year when Battle is no longer there to be the focal point of the offense (and opposing teams defenses).
Purdue finished as the third best team of the Big Three at the top of the conference, and that is a function of their defensive slide in the middle part of the year. It started with the 70-67 loss at Minnesota and the followed that up with a loss against West Virginia (not included on the graph). They started winning games after that, but they weren't dominating the defensive end like they did before and afterward. They beat Penn State with a solid offensive efficiency of 116.6 but had a defensive efficiency of 114.8. The Minnesota game sparked seven straight contests in which Purdue opponents bested the 100 efficiency mark -- topping out with Ohio State's 123.3 (did Ohio State seemingly catch everyone in the middle of their 'slumps'? That's what it feels like, at least). During that stretch, Purdue only had offensive performances greater than 100 efficiency mark four times. Matt Painter and co. righted the ship starting with the February 8th game against Indiana and they won seven straight -- including wins at home against Wisconsin and Ohio State back-to-back -- before the Hawkeyes bested Purdue on the final day of the regular season.
The Badgers did their best to match the Buckeye's trend lines and they accomplished it for the most part. Until, well, they ran into the Buckeyes themselves -- who I'm pretty sure are still draining 25-footers. Aside from that, Wisconsin's been an offensive juggernaut this year but gets overlooked due to their tempo. Dan Hanner mentioned it before the season, but this is the year that either Wisconsin or Pitt makes the final four. I know I shouldn't plug a conference foe, but I'd rather root for the Big Ten if I'm not rooting for the Spartans, so I'll just say it: Jordan Taylor should be the National Player of the Year. Unfortunately, this will not happen. In fact, he's likely to not be first team All American, either with Nolan Smith and/or Jimmer Fredette occupying the guard spots on those lists.