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Big Ten Weekly Review and Player Efficiency Ratings, Feb.7th

Another interesting week, insofar as Ohio State asserting its dominance and Michigan State & Illinois combined to attempt to play the ugliest game in recent history could be classified as interesting. Indiana and Northwestern both notched rare road victories over their in-state rivals, Iowa picked back-to-back wins, and Penn State and Nebraska have cooled off - which is saying something.

The rankings are based on the current standings and results, but the player efficiency rankings are from the games before 2/2. I'll have some personnel thoughts based on the rankings.

As usual, I've taken the box scores for the first half of conference games (Indiana played eleven games by the time a number of the other teams got to the halfway-mark, c'est la vie) and run them through my formula to get individual per-game and per-possesion efficiency ratings. The what and why can be found here, and the worksheet can be found here.

Quick additional note on player ratings - I was going to cut the players below 12 possessions per game, but I decided to keep those that fell between 8 and 12 possessions because they help to illustrate a few interesting points. I did italicize them, to easily identify those players who had low usage. For example, Amir Williams of OSU is clearly a statistical outlier, and his leading the conference in per-possession efficiency shouldn't be taken too seriously as he is averaging only 11.1 possessions in his seven conference games.

IPSPG = individual possessions per game, or how many possessions
EPtotal= the total Effective Production of the player to date
EPPG= Effective Production Per Game
EPPS= Effective Production Per poSsesion

I also rank the the starting players by position, so Cody Zeller's "2C" means he ranks as the second-best center in the conference while Jordan Hulls' "5SG" means he's the fifth-best shooting guard, etc.

Mean EPPG: 10.3
Median EPPG: 9.8

Mean EPPS: .2816
Median EPPS: .2796

1. Ohio State (8-2) W @ Wisconsin

John Gasaway recently argued that this might be the best Buckeyes' team that Thad Matta has ever had, and I'm inclined to agree. There are no weak points on this roster, the talented true freshmen are deployed in limited reserve roles, and the defense is as solid as the offense. Furthermore, Wisconsin, who is as good as anyone else in the conference, couldn't repeat last year's upset in Madison when the Buckeyes had time to prepare for them. Matta has eight players above the mean/median line, which is only equaled by Minnesota (of all teams!) and the Gophers' top player would only be the fourth-most efficient player on OSU's roster.

Williams, Amir 6.8/0.6101
Sullinger, Jared 26.6/0.5353 1C
Smith, Lenzelle 16.7/0.4136 2SF
Craft, Aaron 18.6/0.3809 6PG
Thomas, Deshaun 16.3/0.3559 6PF
Weatherspoon, JD 3.8/0.3088
Buford, William 17.1/0.3064 4SG
Thompson, Sam 6.6/0.2875
Ravenel, Evan 4.2/0.2467
Scott, Shannon 5.2/0.2352
Sibert, Jordan 3.1/0.1841

Personnel notes - What's there to say to reinforce the dominance of the Buckeyes? Shannon Scott looks like one of the most inefficient players, but among freshmen point guards, he's actually only behind Trey Burke and David Sobolewski (and well ahead of Travis Trice, Tracy Abrams, Remy Abell, and Corey Hilliard).

2. Michigan State (7-3) L @ Illinois, W v. Michigan

The memory of a terribly-played loss at Illinois was quickly wiped clean by a thumping of the rival Wolverines. Right now, the Spartans look like they are a half-step above everyone else in the conference except OSU. Branden Dawson is playing very well right now. Raymar Morgan didn't have this good of a freshman season, and that was my previously-thought-to-be-too-high-benchmark for comparison.

Green, Draymond 28.7/0.5559 1PF
Dawson, Branden 16.7/0.5123 1SF
Nix, Derrick 13.6/0.4235 3C
Appling, Keith 19.5/0.4069 4PG
Payne, Adriean 9.8/0.3747
Kearney, Brandon 5.2/0.3747
Thornton, Austin 10.2/0.3159
Wood, Brandon 10.7/0.2361 8SG
Trice, Travis 5.5/0.2011

Personnel notes -Brandon Kearney looks to be another late-blooming freshman, kind of like how AJ Moye was back in the day, and is finally living up to his recruiting profile. Brandon Wood's numbers are artificially depressed due to his bout with the flu, look for those to rebound by the end of the conference play. And Green has unsurprisingly finally reclaimed his top spot in the efficiency rankings - he's been arguably the top conference player for the last three seasons.

3. Wisconsin (7-4) L v. OSU, W @ PSU

The Badgers won at a fading Penn State, but followed that up with a game where they were competitive but couldn't turn the tide against the Buckeyes at home. I'm beginning to think what we're learning about both last year and this year for UW is that Jordan Taylor simply can't lead this team to an elite level of play all on his own. Last year, he had Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer inside to take the pressure off. Those two could get easy scores or nab second chances in the paint, or step out and spread the floor with their three-point shooting. Evans & Berggren are trying to fill that role, but they're just not consistent enough yet.

Taylor, Jordan 23.8/0.4287 2PG
Berggren, Jared 12.4/0.3201 9C
Bruesewitz, Mike 12.6/0.3182 7SF
Kaminksy, Frank 3.2/0.3165
Gasser, Josh 13.7/0.2565 6SG
Evans, Ryan 11.3/0.2509 11PF
Wilson, Rob 2.7/0.2241
Brust, Ben 5.7/0.1649

Personnel notes - I honestly thought Josh Gasser might be one of the top guards in the conference this season, and a little surprised that even with good three-point shooting, he's never really compared all that well with the rest of his Big Ten shooting guards. I didn't expect Berggren to be dominant, but it is a bit disappointing to see his and (especially) Ryan Evans' efficiency ratings tank. I'm not optimistic for this club come March.

4. Michigan (7-4) L @ MSU, W v. Indiana

Trey Burke is really quite good, putting numbers up that are similar to Jordan Taylor. But this club is pretty thin. Contributors like Colton Christian, Carlton Brundridge, Eso Akunne and Blake McLimas are all playing less than 7 possessions per game. Maybe if Horford gets back, there'll be substantive depth, but for now, the Wolverines are pretty reliant on Stu Douglass to come off the bench with a hot hand. That's not generally advisable when a team goes into the postseason, but Beilien's a mighty good coach.

Burke, Trey 23.3/0.4234 3PG
Morgan, Jordan 12.8/0.3092 10C
Hardaway Jr, Tim 15.4/0.2796 9SF
Douglass, Stu 11.8/0.2613
Smotrycz, Evan 8.2/0.2591 10PF
Novak, Zach 11.6/0.2303 9SG
Vogrich, Matt 2.8/0.2131

Personnel notes - It's a very thin roster that Beilien plays, and relatively low-efficiency as well. Part of this is due to the drive and kick offense, which capitalizes on Burke's quickness and efficiency. Also, though, guys like Novak and Hardaway simply aren't producing as well this year as they did last. However, Michigan State jsut showed that you just make Michigan beat you with threes rather than give up backdoors or let them draw fouls. That's not "the book" on Michigan, generally, but it probably should be this year.

5. Indiana (6-6) L @ Michigan, W @ Purdue
I believe that Purdue game was possibly - although not assuredly- Indiana's biggest road win of the entire season. The fact that Indiana's freshmen and sophomores appear to be figuring out how to contribute conference play lends a certain degree of optimism to the final third of the Big Ten slate, which includes four home games. 11 conference wins looks like a possibility again. And I've not seen this talked about, but Will Sheehey was slumping big-time, but came off the bench to provide a performance only second to Oladipo in efficient production. Recording only one missed shot for 7 points, as well as posting 7 rebounds, an assist and steal, and three blocks is the kind of performance that really makes a real difference in games even if it doesn't grab headlines.

Zeller, Cody 21.8/0.4766 2C
Oladipo, Victor 14.7/0.3347 5SF
Hulls, Jordan 15.3/0.2927 5SG
Watford, Christian 13.8/0.2743 8PF
Pritchard, Tom 4.5/0.2629
Elston, Derek 5.2 0.2624
Roth, Matt 6.1 0.2561
Jones, Verdell 11 0.2517 10PG
Sheehey, Will 4.8 0.1733
Abell, Remy 1.3 0.1225

Personnel notes- Oladipo's ranking as the #4 center #5 small forward does not include his career game at Purdue. Also, you can see that Will Sheehey and Remy Abell were having pretty poor conference showings before the Purdue game as well. I finally switched Hulls and Jones' positions, as it has become obvious that Jones runs the offense, and when he is out - Hulls is deferring to Oladipo to start plays.

6. Purdue (5-5) L v. Indiana
This is weird. Indiana just went out and beat Purdue in a tough game, but I can't put Purdue any lower than sixth. They swept Iowa, have wins at Minnesota and Northwestern, and just toyed with Illinois at home.The Boilers are clearly better than the teams below them, and clearly worse than the teams above them - so I guess this where they belong.

Jackson, Lewis 16.7/ 0.4492 2PG
Hummel, Robbie 18.6/ 0.3761 5PF
Carroll, Travis 9.9/ 0.3368 8C
Byrd, DJ 10.7/0.3297
Johnson, Terone 12.1/0.3296 6SF
Barlow, Kelsey 9.8/0.2673
Marcius, Sandi 2.2/0.2567
Smith, Ryne 9.9/0.2197 11SG
Johnson, Anthony 3.5/0.1861
Hart, John 1.9/0.1579
Lawson, Jacob 3/0.1548

Personnel notes- I boosted Terone Johnson to start at the small forward spot over Kelsey Barlow, as its clear that Barlow is falling out of favor. TJ is more of a two-guard, but really needs a couple of shooters beside him. Also, Travis Carroll is quietly producing when he's on the floor, but there's obviously issues with his defense that's limiting his PT. Also, Ryne Smith's production has really dropped off from last season.

7. Iowa (5-6) W v. PSU, W v. Minnesota
Yeah, it was two home games against two sub-.500 conference teams, but who else picked up two conference wins this week? Just Northwestern, who the Hawkeyes travel to face next. Iowa's got a chance to make some noise yet, despite their up-and-down year, and now that Bryce Cartwright appears to be recovering his spark from last season, he's teaming with Aaron White, Matt Gatens and Roy Devyn Marble to make a pretty fairly balanced offense. Now, about that defense...

McCabe, Zach 15.8/0.3879 4C
White, Aaron 14.9/0.3792 5PF
Marble, Devyn 18.6/0.3434 4SF
Gatens, Matt 19.4/0.3343 2SG
Archie, Devon 3.2/0.2981
Cartwright, Bryce 10.7/0.2939 8PG
Basabe, Melsahn 8.9/0.2654
Olaseni, Gabe 1.9/0.2178
May, Eric 5.9/0.2006
Oglesby, Josh 3.7/0.1481

Personnel notes - Wow, Zach McCabe! If I knew in advance McCabe and frosh Aaron White would both be top-5 level producers in the conference in the paint, I would've been pretty high on Iowa this year. Also, if Josh Oglesby had played at his usual level against Indiana instead of going nuts from three (6-for-8), that loss would've looked much, much worse. Hopefully, he doesn't have that on tap for when the Hoosiers visit the Hawkeyes on the 19th.

8. Minnesota (5-6) W @ Nebraska, L @ Iowa
Honestly, there's no shame in picking up the split in playing two road games. Minnesota could be building a case for an at-large bid, if they had any quality non-conference wins. As it is, what had looked like another case of this moribund program destroying another good coach now looks like Tubby's revival. The fact that the Gophers are a bubble team despite the loss of Trevor Mbakwe is good, sure, but reserve center Elliot Elliason's emergence has to make Minny fans hopeful for next year, too.

Williams, Rodney 20.8/0.4019 3PF
Elliason, Elliot 9/0.3904
Sampson, Ralph 15.1/0.3734 5C
Coleman, Joe 13.5/0.3689 1SG
Welch, Julian 15.7/0.3594 7PG
Armelin, Chip 7.7/0.3294
Hollins, Austin 13.6/0.3068 8SF
Otosenieks, Oto 4.3/0.2889
Hollins, Andre 4.6/0.1869
Ingram, Andre 1.5/0.1811
Ahanmisi, Maverick 4.5/0.1542

Personnel notes - Maverick Ahanmisi's reverting back to old inefficiencies, so Julian Welch is pretty firmly the point guard now. This has allowed Joe Coleman to shine at off-guard, and he's been particularly good at hitting the glass and getting to the free-throw line. I'm actually rather surprised that his numbers are so good given that he still turns it over a lot and never hits threes, but Coleman's gotten enough assists and steals to move into the top spot at the position.

9. Northwestern (4-6) W @ Illinois, W v. Nebraska
Great, great week for NU. I'm a little concerned that the win at Illinois (the first since 1999) may put Bruce Weber on the hot seat a little bit, but mostly I'm just happy for the Wildcats. I still don't think they have the horses to get to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever, but at least they look like they belong in the conference now.

Shurna, John 25.2/0.4154 2PF
Curletti, David 12.8/0.3599 6C
Marcotullio, Alex 9.6/0.3047
Sobolewski, David 16.3/0.2826 9PG
Mirkovic, Luka 6.6/0.2826
Crawford, Drew 15.3/0.2717 10SF
Fruendt, Nick 2.6/0.2596
Hearn, Reggie 9.2/0.2284 10SG
Cobb, JerShon 0.8/0.0296

Personnel notes - Looking at the per-game numbers, you might think Drew Crawford was a top-level Big Ten player. But looking at his efficiency numbers in a tempo-free context, his stats clearly benefit (or possibly suffer) from a very high usage. I understand that Carmody has never been one to rest his starters, and I also know that Marcotullio and Cobb have been injured, but I don't understand why this hasn't given Nick Fruendt a chance to play some more minutes. He's never been a rotation player, but his numbers over the last couple of years were never terrible. Give Drew Crawford a break once in a while, maybe.

10. Illinois (5-5) L v. Northwestern, W v. MSU
The Illini might have the inside track on getting a NCAA tourney berth over the next four teams above them, but Illini fans will not want to remember this week any time soon. It probably seems totally unfair to drop them yet again when Illinois notched a great RPI win over Michigan State, but I have a hard time according Bruce Weber's team credit for that win. They defended well, sure. They also won by one point when Draymond Green was out late with a knee injury and Brandon Wood had the flu. The more games they play, the more the Ohio State home win looks like a fluke.

Paul, Brandon 23.9/0.3899 3SF
Leonard, Meyers 17.9/0.3454 7C
Bertrand, Joseph 13.4/0.2991 7PF
Henry, Myke 4.7/0.2845
Egwu, Nnanna 3.2/0.1861
Griffey,Tyler 2.7/0.1906
Abrams, Tracy 6.3/0.1609 12PG
Richardson, DJ 8.6/0.1469 12SG
Maniscalco, Sam 5.5/0.1464

Personnel notes - The Illini now have the worst backcourt in the Big Ten, at least in tempo-free efficiency terms. Meyers Leonard is currently looking less efficient than Davide Curletti of Northwestern and Zach McCabe of Iowa. There's not a lot of good here, although I'm having a hard time figuring out if Brandon Paul should be considered a point guard or power forward in the four-guard line-up that Weber is currently throwing out there. For now, I'm splitting the difference.

11. Nebraska (3-8) L v. Minnesota, L @ Northwestern
The Huskers have cooled off after winning three of their previous five games. Tough to say what will happen next with these guys - they could lose all of the remaining seven conference games, or win four or five of them. Diaz is not the player he was last year, let alone earlier this season, but Talley's numbers seem to be on an upward trend. Senior Brandon Richardson is also playing very well, which is good as his backcourt partner Bo Spencer has crashed a bit.

Richardson, Brandon 17.5/0.3315 3SG
Talley, Dylan 14/0.3194
Ubel, Brandon 12.3/0.2926 11C
McCray, Toney 14.2/0.2618 9PF
Diaz, Jorge Brian 8.4/0.2127
Spencer, Bo 9.9/0.1749 11PG
Walker, Caleb 6.6/0.1396 12SF
Fox, Mike 1.1/0.1388
Moore, Josiah 1.3/0.1135
Niemann, Christopher 0.2/0.0983
Rivers, David 0/0

Personnel notes - One of things I wanted to illustrate by including the 8-12 possessions per game players was how little Doc Sadler has to work with. It's hard to criticize walk-on Mike Fox for not producing, and Christopher Niemann is really too injured to be playing any kind of minutes, but freshmen Josiah Moore and David Rivers have been pretty disappointing, as has the unlisted Corey Hilliard, who is also registering zeros in his 7.5 possessions per game.

12. PSU (2-9) L v. Wisconsin, L @ Iowa
From bad to worse. Billy Oliver's concussion-like symptom left the already out-gunned Nittany Lions with only three rotation players who are taller than 6-4. Luckily, he was back in reserve role for the loss at Iowa, though. Tim Frazier's stellar play gives Pat Chambers' crew a chance to pick up another win or two, but the Lions season has probably already hit its peak.

Frazier, Tim 24.1/0.4053 5PG
Travis, Ross 6.6/0.2825
Woodyard, Cameron 10.2/0.2492 7SG
Borovnjak, Sasa 6.4/0.2389
Graham, Jon 5.9/0.2353 12C
Glover, Matt 9.5/0.2259 12PF
Marshall, Jermaine 9.3/0.2117 11SF
Collela, Nick 6.2/0.1875
Oliver, Billy 6.7/0.1734

Personnel notes - The once-dreadful Cameron Woodyard has increased his production to actually be a decent player in his senior year. Jermaine Marshall's efficiency has fallen off from last year, which isn't good. I don't understand why Ross Travis gets so few minutes, even with Billy Oliver's injuries. He seems to get 7 or 8 rebounds every time he plays 20+ minutes, he's only turned it over three times in conference play, and it's not like anyone else is shooting better than he is. There may be a good reason, but it isn't immediately visible to me from Travis' stat-sheet.