Ken Pomeroy's web site (kenpom.com) has become one of my favorite playthings this season. Here are some of the things you learn when you go there:
1) Illinois leads the nation's 347 Division I teams in not having its shots blocked. Just 4.5 percent of the Illini's shots have been swatted this year.
2) One reason for that stat? Illinois ranks No. 5 nationally in "effective height." Pomeroy multiplies a player's height by his playing-time percentage (as long as he averages at least 4 minutes per game) to gauge how tall a team is.
Why does he do this? Because he found height correlates positively to performance on offense, but correlates even more positively to defense. Here's what he wrote for a Basketball Prospectus article in January 2008:
"It should be no surprise that a team’s average height does correlate to its offensive and defensive prowess. On the offensive side, average height has a correlation coefficient of .27 to adjusted efficiency, and on the defensive side it’s .38. For those new to correlation, a value of 1 would mean that variation in height would explain all the variation in efficiency. A correlation coefficient of zero means that the two values are entirely unrelated. So in layman’s terms, there’s a relationship between height and efficiency on both ends of the floor, but it’s not very strong. In addition, the relationship between height and efficiency is stronger on the defensive end."
3) Northwestern, by the way, ranks 12th nationally in effective height. More interestingly, Bill Carmody ranked 344th out of 347 Div. I coaches in using his bench through Sunday's games. The Wildcats' subs have played just 18.2 percent of the minutes this year.
That's a direct response to NU's loss of Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan at the season's outset. In previous years, Carmody hasn't subbed a ton but at least ranked somewhere in the low 200s of the national rankings.
4) DePaul continues to rank dead-last nationally in free-throw shooting. The Demons are hitting just 57.1 percent of their unguarded 15-footers. UCLA and Texas are the next-worst BCS schools at 61.7 percent.
5) Now for that NIU thought, which isn't related to its terrible shooting and defense per KenPom's numbers.
NIU athletic director Jeff Compher recently told the DeKalb Daily Chronicle's John Sahly that third-year coach Ricardo Patton's job isn't in jeopardy. You can read that here: http://www.huskiewire.com/articles/2010/02/23/70339361/index.xml
Compher's sentiment is all well and good, even as the Huskies can run their losing streak to 11 games tonight (the school's longest skein since 1976). But, sometimes, I feel I have to adjust a coach's statements.
Here's a quote from Patton in the article: “There are no quick fixes. There are no easy solutions when you’re trying to do things the right way. We didn’t come in with with a quick agenda to go out and sign a ton of junior college players and run the risk of those guys not graduating. So we’re trying to do it the right way with young guys and have them grow and develop.”
Fortunately, I keep a spreadsheet that tracks every local college's scholarships and commitments. Patton was hired in March 2007.
Prior to his first season, he brought in four scholarship players. One was a junior-college player with 2 years remaining (Sean Smith). One was a juco with 3 years remaining (Najul Ervin). One was a freshman (Jeremy Landers). One was Sean Kowal, one of his players at Colorado who had to sit out before getting three years of eligibility.
Prior to Patton's second season, he signed two jucos who didn't pass academic muster and went elsewhere (Dominique Johnson and Jerwin Callaway). He also signed four freshmen and brought in Xavier Silas as a Colorado transfer. Oh, and when neither Johnson nor Callaway made it in school, he signed juco big man Ante Dzepina.
Prior to the current season, Patton received a commitment from juco big man DeAngelo Riley, but he wound up at Ole Miss.
So for Patton to suggest he didn't try to mine the juco ranks is a little, um, incorrect. Just sayin'.