This week, we finally got some separation in the Friday Facts, with Michigan taking control. I also look at updated projections for the Big Ten tournament, who underachieved and overachieved the most during conference play, and reveal my votes for the Big Ten awards. Oh, and I also take some cheap shots at Northwestern's basketball program.
Friday Facts (explanation)
|TEAM||OFF. EFF.||DEF. EFF.||RAW EM||ADJUSTED EM|
With its utter destruction of Illinois on the road, Michigan finally rises to the top of the Friday Facts. Iowa is still hanging around, thanks to its strong conference schedule, but unless Michigan suffers a terrible loss to Indiana and one of the other contenders gets a blowout win this weekend, Michigan will win the 2014 Friday Facts Award.
Northwestern, meanwhile, sinks further and further away from the rest of the pack. Its 27-point home loss to Penn State was easily the worst loss of the year from an adjusted efficiency standpoint, good for minus-0.61 points per possession compared to the average Big Ten team's performance. To put that in perspective, 0.6 points per possession is the gap between the No. 1 team (Michigan) and the No. 5 team (Ohio State) that has accumulated so far over the entire season.
Allow me to pontificate for a moment on Northwestern basketball. The Wildcats had that nice moment in the sun, when they were 5-5 and had beaten Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin on the road. Chris Collins seemed to have found a way to use what he had to put his guys in position to win some games. But it was a mirage. Northwestern is just terrible.
And there's every reason to believe it will remain terrible forever. I live in Evanston, and I attended the Badger game there this year. I resolved never to return. The facilities Northwestern plays in are a joke and as far as I know, there are no plans to improve them. The program will remain a joke until that happens. If Collins is able to put together any kind of successful season, he will accept the first offer he gets from a real major conference team.
Big Ten tournament projections
Michigan's dominant win over Illinois also makes it a clear favorite to win the Big Ten tournament, as its KenPom rating improved considerably:
(This table has been updated to fix a coding error that mainly affected the semi-final results)
There are still five teams with a good chance to win the thing, and Nebraska's status as the current No. 4 seed gives the Huskers a shot to make a run to the finals.
Northwestern is now looking so out-matched that it did not win the tournament even once in my 5,000 simulations. That is what happens when you lose at home by 27 to Penn State.
Overachievers & underachievers
Here is how each team has performed compared to how a team of its caliber (that is, a team with its KenPom rating) would have been expected to perform, on average, versus that team's Big Ten schedule so far:
|TEAM||ACTUAL W-L||EXP. W-L||DIFF.|
|Iowa||9 - 8||10 - 6||-1.2|
|Ohio St.||9 - 8||11 - 6||-2.1|
It's not a knock on Michigan to point out that its gotten a bit lucky during the Big Ten season. A team of that caliber would have been expected to go 11-6, on average, against Michigan's schedule so far. So Michigan has actually won a full three games more than expected, which makes it the most overachieving team in the Big Ten, just ahead of that scrappy Nebraska squad. In my simulations, Michigan gets to 14-3 or better only about 15 percent of the time. So: quite a run.
On the flip side, you have Iowa and Ohio State, two seemingly good teams who've compiled decidedly mediocre conference records. If you are looking for a dark horse in the Big Ten tournament, I might suggest that some regression to the mean is looming. Then again, perhaps not.
All-Big Ten awards
For what it's worth, here are my votes:
Player of the Year: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
This was really close between Stauskas and Michigan State's Gary Harris for me. Both are future pros who have been great this year, overall. I was actually leaning in favor of Harris, who is the better all-around player, until Tuesday night, when Stauskas went off against Illinois. After that, it would have looked pretty dumb to vote for anyone else.
Coach of the Year: Tim Miles, Nebraska
I love Tim Miles. This award comes down to Miles and Michigan's John Beilein (with Wisconsin's Bo Ryan a very clear third), and a case can be made for Beilein, whose team won the outright title after losing one of the conference's most heralded players (Mitch McGary). But Nebraska has outperformed beyond all reasonable expectation. Its preseason KenPom rating was 123, which was actually higher than most preseason prognosticators had them. Now the Huskers are hovering around 50, and may make the NCAA tournament as an at-large. That is the stuff of which Coach of the Year awards are made.
Freshman of the Year: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
This is also pretty close, between Vonleh and Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (with Michigan's Derrick Walton a clear third). It really wouldn't have been close except that Vonleh has now missed two Big Ten games, and he plays for a non-contender. Nigel Hayes has had a remarkable season, and for a contender. He has seemingly inspired Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky to take his game to new heights, and has recently shown flashes of being a great passer and a plus rebounder. But Vonleh gets the award, because he is just a beast on both ends. I'll be glad to see him drafted in a couple months.
First Team: Nik Stauskas, Gary Harris, Terran Petteway, Frank Kaminsky, Roy Devyn Marble
Second Team: Aaron White, Sam Dekker, Caris LeVert, Aaron Craft, Yogi Ferrell
Third Team: Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, LaQuinton Ross, Denzel Valentine, Shavon Shields
Probably the most controversial aspect of this is the exclusion of Adreian Payne. He is a great player on a good team, but he just missed too many games in the Big Ten schedule. If you were just asking me who are the 10 best players in the Big Ten, he is definitely on that list. But I consider this a list of the players who have had the best Big Ten seasons, so Payne misses out.
So, how did I do?