Sunday, March 06, 2011

Ohio State Has Historic Shooting Performance

#1 Ohio State 93, #10 Wisconsin 65
I'm seeing the media talking about this game as if it was a total beatdown and proof that Ohio State is the best team in the country. I do think Ohio State is the best team in the country, but honestly this was a tight game where Ohio State had a historic three-point shooting performance. Wisconsin actually entered this game with the fifth best 3P% defense in Big Ten play this season, but Ohio State shot 14-for-15 behind the arc. The Buckeyes only hit 15-for-20 (75%) at the free throw line, so obviously it wasn't just that Wisconsin was leaving their men open. And this was, by far, the best three point shooting performance by any team ever - the previous record for teams that attempted at least ten threes was 10-for-12, which was done twice in the early 1990s. I'll give you some other stats to put that into perspective. For a team that entered the game 40.5% on the season behind the arc, the odds of Ohio State hitting at least 14 out of 15 three-pointers were 1-in-33,504. The odds of them hitting 14 in a row, which they did accomplish, were 1-in-313,062. The odds are that we'll never see another team shoot this well in a game in our lifetimes.

We have a tendency as fans to overrate shooting performances over statistically insignificant sample sizes. I brought up a great example earlier this year when I watched both Seton Hall vs Syracuse games and said that I was actually more impressed with Seton Hall when they lost by five than when they won by 22. In the five point loss Seton Hall was dominating but simply had a lid on the basket - they hit 3-for-26 on threes even though so many of them were wide open. In the 22 point victory Seton Hall hit 10-for-17 behind the arc, even though they weren't any more open than they were when they hit 3-for-26. Both games were just fluke shooting performances. Going back to this Wisconsin/Ohio State game, Wisconsin actually had 8 more offensive rebounds, 1 fewer turnover and 5 more blocks. Usually a team that wins all three of those categories wins the game. And watching the game I didn't feel like there was much of a gap in quality between the teams. Ohio State was getting more open shots than Wisconsin was, but Ohio State could have gone fluky cold and the story we'd be hearing would be about whether we should question Ohio State after a home loss to Wisconsin.

Ohio State clearly looks very safe for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Making it to the Big Ten tournament championship game will lock one up for sure. They are probably contending with just Kansas for the #1 overall seed. Wisconsin would be looking at a 3 or 4 seed in the Tournament if the season ended now. It's not impossible that they could fall to a 5 seed if they go one-and-done in the Big Ten tournament, but they can also work their way up to a 2 seed if they can win the Big Ten tournament title. The Badgers will open up on Friday night against the winner of Penn State and Indiana. Wisconsin has struggled with Penn State this year (they split the regular season series, with Wisconsin only scoring six more points on net) so it wouldn't be a total shocker if they went one-and-done.

Penn State 66, Minnesota 63
Speaking of Penn State, they have been coming on strong over the past few weeks, while Minnesota has been in a total tailspin since the Al Nolen injury. Penn State has won four of six, including road wins at Minnesota and Northwestern, and the two losses in that stretch came against Ohio State and Wisconsin. Minnesota has lost nine of ten, with the one win coming over Iowa. Talor Battle led all scorers with 22 points, including a cold-blooded fade-away three-pointer with about 90 seconds remaining that gave Penn State the lead and the momentum down the stretch. Battle doesn't have a tremendous three-point shooting percentage (36% on the season), but it's because defenses focus so much on stopping him and he has to force so many shots. When he gets hot, he is more dangerous behind the arc than any other shooter in the entire Big Ten. He can put up points in bunches like nobody else. And he's precisely why Penn State can be such a giant killer (they beat Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State, and had a 1 point loss to Purdue and a 3 point loss to Ohio State).

The Nittany Lions finish the season in sixth place in the Big Ten with a 9-9 record, and their RPI is all the way up to 53rd. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will also be very close to cracking the Top 50. I'm pretty sure they'd be out of the NCAA Tournament if the season ended now, but for the first time this season they're actually on the bubble. They will open the Big Ten tournament against Indiana, and with a win there will play Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. With anything less than wins over those two teams they'll be NIT-bound. But should they beat Wisconsin to make the Big Ten semifinals? They could very well hear their name called on Selection Sunday. It will depend on how strong the bubble is.

Minnesota has to win the Big Ten tournament to avoid the NIT. They will open on Thursday afternoon against Northwestern, and with a win there will play Friday afternoon against Ohio State.

Indiana State 60, Missouri State 56
Indiana State has been on a golden run. They've won 8 of 9, with a 4-0 record in games decided by five or less over that stretch. Missouri State finished with 14 more offensive rebounds and 3 fewer turnovers, and only lost because of a 37.3 eFG%, their worst shooting performance against a Missouri Valley team this season. That said, I give Indiana State a lot of credit. They know what they are, which is a team that doesn't have half the raw talent of the big boys in the Missouri Valley Conference. They have a poor offense (rated by Pomeroy the 182nd most efficient offense) and don't force turnovers (217th in the nation in defensive turnover rate), because they just don't have the players capable of creating their own offense or forcing steals. But the way they make up for it is by playing smart and with maximum effort on defense, forcing opponents to always have to take a contested shot. Indiana State finished first in the MVC and 52nd in the entire nation in defensive eFG%. They played their hearts out defensively in this game and will go Dancing, most likely as a 13 or 14 seed.

For Missouri State it hurts to outplay a team and still lose, particularly with an automatic bid on the line. As well as Indiana State played defensely, Missouri State also missed a ton of open shots. Down by only one point with 4:30 to go, Missouri State missed their next five shots, including a wide open three-pointer for star Kyle Weems that would have given the team the lead with a minute to go. Missouri State has an RPI that is 42nd right now, but there's a reason why the RPI is a horrible metric. Missouri State has zero RPI Top 50 wins, and their best win of the season came over Wichita State. They also have RPI 100+ losses to Evansville and Northern Iowa. Their Sagarin ELO_CHESS will fall out of the Top 65 with this loss, and without any good wins there was no way Missouri State was going to go Dancing without a Top 50 ELO_CHESS. I just don't see how they can avoid the NIT. This is a team that started four seniors, so you would expect them to take a step back next season, but they will return their best player (Kyle Weems) and have a good young coach (Cuonzo Martin) who has the program moving in the right direction.

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