How Will the Powerhouse 2016 Big Ten Season Play Out? Here’s What the Analytics Suggest …


[Editor’s note: This post was written by Ed Feng of The Power Rank, who joined us on a recent special edition episode of The Assembly Call a few weeks ago. Ed discussed in detail how he sees the Big Ten race playing out in 2015-16. He outlines those thoughts below.

Oh, and he’s a Michigan fan. But try not to hold that against him … ;-) ]

So … will your Indiana Hoosiers win the Big Ten this season?

If not, which team will top the conference in 2015-16?

To shed light on this question, I combined my college basketball analytics at The Power Rank with subjective factors.

First, I looked at two of my rankings.  The first was my Big Ten team rankings from last season based on points per possession adjusted for strength of schedule. Ken Pomeroy does the same type of calculation but with a different algorithm.

In 2014-15, Indiana finished with the 7th-best offensive efficiency in the country … but the 192nd-worst defensive efficiency.  These numbers placed them 6th in the Big Ten as a team.

Second, I used a regression model that takes the previous four seasons of team rankings to predict next season.  College basketball teams’ performance tends to persist from season to season — it’s unlikely Rutgers will jump from last to first, for example.

Last, I consider subjective factors such as departed and returning players. For example, Wisconsin lost Big Ten player of the year Frank Kaminsky, which makes it difficult rank them first despite what the numbers say.

This combination of objective and subjective factors gives the following rankings.

1. Michigan State

Tom Izzo has a lot of pieces coming back (Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes). In addition, it’s hard to argue against a consistent program that has reached the Sweet 16 seven of the last ten years, best in the nation.

2. Maryland

I’m not buying all of the hype around this team. They have talent in Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, and a host of new transfers and freshmen, but they couldn’t crack the top-20 in my efficiency rankings from last season.

3. Wisconsin 

Bo Ryan has never finished worse than 4th in the Big Ten at Wisconsin. Despite the departure of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, he still has two of the league’s best players in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.

4. Indiana

Will the Hoosiers play defense? Tom Crean had the 15th-best team by defensive efficiency two seasons ago (Zeller, Oladipo, Watford), so history suggests he can lead a good defensive team.

5. Ohio State

The Buckeyes haven’t finished worse that 5th since Thad Matta’s first year as coach. They can’t replace the offensive wizardry of D’Angelo Russell, but they have the top recruiting class in the conference.

6. Michigan

The biggest question in Ann Arbor is how John Beilein will distribute minutes among the returning players that contributed last year. Getting Caris LaVert for another season helps, as does the healthy return of Derrick Walton.

7. Purdue

The addition of highly touted recruit Caleb Swanigan gives the Boilermakers another inside force with A.J. Hammonds and Issac Haas. They should improve upon their 55th-ranked defense from last season.

8. Iowa

The Hawkeyes lose Aaron Smith but return the other four starters, so 8th might be a bit low. Fran McCaffery has placed his team in the top 30 of my team rankings, which takes margin of victory in games and adjusts for strength of schedule, each of the past three seasons.

9. Minnesota

Richard Pitino lost a host of contributors from last season, which means 9th could be too high for the Golden Gophers.

10. Illinois

The Fighting Illini play hard for John Groce, but they haven’t made the tourney the last two seasons. The numbers suggest they won’t make it again this season.

11. Penn State

The Nittany Lions had the 136th-ranked offense last year. Could this improve without D.J. Newbill around taking difficult shots?

12. Northwestern

It’s been two seasons for Chris Collins, and the Wildcats have yet to crack the top 10 in the conference. Unless someone like Tre Demps or Alex Olah makes a significant jump in the off season, they looked destined for the bottom again.

13. Nebraska

Remember when the Cornhuskers got hot in 2014, went on a late run, and made the tournament? Must seem like ancient history for Tim Miles after the Huskers dropped to 12th in the Big Ten last season.

14. Rutgers

Did the Big Ten really invite these guys into the conference?  Did they really beat Wisconsin even without Frank Kaminsky last season?


What do you think?

Comment below with your own predictions for the standings will shake out once all is said and done next season in the Big Ten.

Indiana’s NCAA Tournament Reality … As It Stands Right Now

Tom Crean and all of Hoosier Nation will be sweating out a stressful Selection Sunday today. (Image credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports)
Tom Crean and all of Hoosier Nation will be sweating out a stressful Selection Sunday today. It didn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. (Image credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports)

And here we are …

Sweating out Selection Sunday.

It’s a better place than we were in last year, but it’s a place that Indiana should rarely, if ever, find itself in — not with our recruiting base, resources, and tradition.

Sure, there will be that rare season that just goes awry, but such a season should be the most anomalous of seasons (once every 10 or 15 years or so, or less), not the fifth in seven.

I mean, what are we? Some middling major conference program that has to bow down at the altar of the Selection Committee after an up-and-down season with little more than a humble hope that they bless us with the grace of a reputation-salvaging at-large bid?

Well yes, based on the last two year’s of results, that’s exactly what we are right now.

Which we never would have expected on this day two years ago.

My disappointment with this reality, and your disappointment with this reality, is absolutely warranted. We do a disservice to the great tradition of Indiana basketball if we are NOT disappointed to be in this position.

Which is why the coming postmortems will be serious and in-depth once this season has finally breathed its last breath.

But for now …

Blood still circulates through the veins of the 2014-15 Hoosiers.

And based on how Indiana played for most of their 80 minutes in Chicago, that circulation may be powered by a collective heart that beats with more strength and resolve than we thought after the three-game abomination that ended the season.

Which is why I continue to ward off all thoughts of what we should do this offseason, and what next season may hold. Instead, I’m focusing all of my fan energy on the right here and the right now.

I’m hoping that the Selection Committee blesses this team with at least one more game on the big stage so these Hoosiers have another chance to show us what they’re made of.

Because, despite it all, I still think that if we get one game then we’re going to get at least one more.

I can’t shake the feeling that there remains real life left in these Hoosiers. I can’t shake the feeling I’ve had all year that this team would create a positive memory or two come March.

I just wish we hadn’t left our season’s death certificate in someone else’s hands.

But when you schedule six sub-200 teams in the non-conference, and when you lose four home games, and when you drop eight of 12 to end the regular season … you relinquish control of your Tournament future.

Which is why IF we do not hear our name called today, I’ll be upset — but not at the Selection Committee.

The Hoosiers put themselves in this position and will have no one else to blame if a second straight March is spent on the outside looking in.

Hopefully that proves to not be the case.

I remain confident …

I still think we will make the field. Bracket Matrix had us in as of 10:00 a.m. this morning. Crashing the Dance had us in. Galen Clavio has us in.

As for Andy Bottoms? As of 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time, he still has IU in the field — playing Ole Miss in the play-in game.

(Andy’s complete bracket is coming soon and will be available here when ready.)

I know that Joe Lunardi’s voice booms louder than all others this time of year — the ESPN megaphone will do that. But his voice is just one, and he isn’t as historically trustworthy on these matters as the others I’ve just mentioned.

And as Lunardi said this morning on SportsCenter: “Am I going to miss on Indiana? Probably.”

My point: choose your bracketology sources carefully. It will make today a little easier. :-)

One thing that is undeniable: a UCONN victory over SMU today would be bad. It would remove one of the at-large spots that Indiana is currently competing for.

So … go Mustangs, I guess. In Larry Brown we trust, I suppose.

Such are the thoughts we must cling to during a Sunday spent bouncing on the bubble.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change shirts. I just sweated through this one.

It’s gonna be that kind of day.


Editor’s note: this blog post was originally written as an email to be sent only to our subscribers. But I thought it was a good opportunity to see the kind of content that we send to our email list but don’t always post here on the blog. If you want to make sure you never miss anything from us, join our free email list.

So About This Notion That Indiana is Somehow “Better” Without Hanner Mosquera-Perea …


It’s wrong.

I feel like I should be able to just end this article right here, because the notion now seems so absurd to me. And yet I’ve read articles that say it. I’ve seen tweets that say it.

And, frankly, for a short time earlier this season I wondered it myself.

But it’s just flat-out wrong, and it does a complete disservice to the improved (albeit imperfect) player that Hanner has become this year and what his presence means for Indiana.

The “IU is better without Hanner” argument

The basis of the “IU is better without Hanner” argument goes like this:

Indiana’s record without him was better this year because his absence from the lineup allowed the Hoosiers to completely abandon any hopes of a presence inside and play more to its strengths: guards who can penetrate and shoot, and a whirling dervish of a forward who has more space to attack the rim.

It’s a compelling argument when you first read it. And back when Hanner first went down, people like me were posing this very question, wondering if Indiana was indeed better without the inconsistent Mosquera-Perea. (Fortunately, I have co-hosts much smarter than me who set me straight.)

And to be fair, the argument is not without evidence:

  • Hanner went down in the first Ohio State game, playing only eight minutes. Indiana won 69-66.
  • The Hoosiers then won three straight games, including two of their most impressive wins of the season: at Illinois, and at home against Maryland.

Admittedly, that was Indiana’s best stretch of the season, and it came without Mosquera-Perea in the lineup. We were flying high at 5-1 in the conference.

But let’s not mistake a peak performance in January (which Tom Crean teams seem to have every year, regardless of who is playing and who is not) for proof that Indiana is better without its tallest and one its most athletic players.

Hanner came back in the Michigan game, but he played just four minutes. Thus, his contributions didn’t really contribute to that win.

So between the Maryland game and including that Michigan game, Indiana went 2-3 — which included three doors-blown-off performances at Ohio State, at Purdue, and at Wisconsin.

Upon returning, Hanner played 11 minutes in Indiana’s terrific road performance at Maryland (which resulted in a last-second loss), and then the Hoosiers proceeded to close out the regular season on a disappointing 2-4 stretch during which Hanner had the ups and downs that have come to characterize his career. As did his teammates.

So yeah, when you look just at the won-loss records, I can see how a simplistic argument could be made that Indiana is “better” with Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

And yet, that simplistic view overlooks several key elements:

Collin Hartman was a huge key during Indiana’s initial winning streak without Hanner.

Collin Hartman is averaging 4.7 points per game overall this year. He averaged 9.6 points per game during the three-game winning streak without Hanner, and then scored 12 more points in the loss to Ohio State.

He was also grabbing rebounds, making hustle plays, and doing a fantastic job of moving the basketball via the pass on offense … you know: #CollinHartmanThings.

But here is what people seem to forget: Hartman had to play 24, 23, 25, 29, and 34 minutes in those first five games without Mosquera-Perea. He had played 16, 17, 16, and 12 minutes in the previous four games.

And remember: Hartman has spent the majority of the season, maybe all of the season, not being able to practice at 100% because of the knee he injured in the off-season.

Look at what Hartman has done since the second Ohio State game:

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 11.37.10 AM

He just hasn’t been the same guy. He hasn’t looked like the same guy.

He’s still out there battling, but he seems a quarter- or maybe even a half-step slower. Plus, he had to miss a few games with a new injury. And though he was proclaimed “closer to 100%” before yesterday’s game, it still wasn’t the same Collin Hartman who was so instrumental in Indiana’s unexpectedly fantastic start to Big Ten play.

Zero points, 0 rebounds, and 1 assist in 13 minutes of play is not the Collin Hartman from January.

Now look: I would love to see Collin Hartman step up and play tonight like he did in that first Maryland game. I hope he does. Frankly, we need him to.

But we just haven’t seen it from him lately — and what my eyes have told me watching every second of basketball this team has played (Andy and Ryan agree) is that the stretch of increased minutes Collin was forced to play after Hanner got hurt wore him down a bit, and it may take until the offseason for him to fully recover.

So anyone simply saying, “Oh, Indiana can just do what it did the last time Mosquera-Perea got hurt” is simply not in tune with this team.

Emmitt Holt cannot be counted on (yet)

If you’ve watched or listened to The Assembly Call this year, you know that I love Emmitt Holt. He was a diamond in the rough that I am glad Tom Crean uncovered. He’ll be a very good four-year player at Indiana.

And he played really well last night: 8 points, 4 rebounds, and he showed the basketball instincts and intelligence we’ve all come to admire.

But …

Emmitt is still a freshman. And Emmitt is still wildly inconsistent. And Emmitt has rarely put together two good, productive games back-to-back.

At this stage in his career, the role he had last night was perfect: come in off the bench, play 15 relatively pressure-free minutes, and gain experience and confidence.

Here is what Emmitt did while Hanner was out of the lineup earlier this year:

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 11.46.31 AM

About what you’d expect: not bad for a freshman at this stage of his career, but inconsistent.

(You might argue that Tom Crean should have played Holt more during that stretch … and perhaps he should have. But we don’t know whether Holt was earning more minutes in practice, so it makes little sense to speculate on what we can’t see.)

While Emmitt’s potential has us all excited, the reality of him playing 20-25 minutes in a Big Ten Tournament game and then on into the NCAA Tournament is a dicey proposition.

Now, you may say, “Well, Hanner is isn’t exactly Mr. Consistent” either. And no, he’s not. Not by a long shot. But don’t you think it’s better for tonight’s game, and all future IU games, for Crean to have Hanner, Hartman, and Holt all available and ready to be deployed based on matchups, hot hands, and game situation?

Yes, of course. That would make Indiana better.

Don’t forget the lesson of Verdell

Back in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, Indiana dominated Penn State in its first game, only to lose senior guard Verdell Jones to a knee injury late.

Verdell, as you surely remember, had a much-maligned career trying to carry severely limited rosters in Tom Crean’s early days. But as a senior, he was a productive part of one of the most memorable Indiana teams ever.

While we were all horrified to see him go down with his injury, I distinctly remember some folks wondering if Indiana would be better off without him. Verdell was the only play on that year’s team with an ORtg below 100.0 and his TO% was higher than his Assist%.

And yet …

Just hours after announcing point guard Verdell Jones was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, the Hoosiers turned in their worst performance in weeks. Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller each scored 17 points. Only two other players had more than five.

That’s from the recap of Indiana’s ensuing game against Wisconsin.

Indiana played really well last night, and Hanner made some positive contributions during his minutes. We don’t know how severe the injury is, and we don’t know how his teammates will respond to it. And after seeing the fight and fire Indiana came out with last night — Hanner included — anything that might shake them from that emotional urgency is an unwanted distraction.

The whole notion of “play for Hanner” or “win it for Hanner” is cute.

Playing with Hanner would be better. Winning with Hanner would be easier.

Playing without him certainly doesn’t make Indiana “better.”

Bottom Line

What Hanner has brought to this team this year has not always shown up in the box score, and frankly it hasn’t always been reflected in Indiana’s won/loss record. Those games don’t happen in a vacuum. Context is important, and long-term impacts can accrue. And have.

I would love for this article to be completely moot because Hanner is actually okay and can play.

If he’s not (which I assume), then I would love for Collin Hartman to go off for 20 points tonight, or for Emmitt Holt to play 25 minutes and notch a double-double.

Anything that leads to an Indiana victory will be cheered and celebrated by me.

And make no mistake: Indiana can win without Hanner. Just don’t mistake that for meaning Indiana is better without Hanner.

This team is better when everyone is healthy and committed to playing defense like they did last night.

Hanner was a big part of that. And we’re going to miss the big guy if he’s out.

Get well soon Hanner.

This team is better with you in uniform.

How Do You View Your Role as an Indiana Basketball Fan?


I tuned into Dan Dakich’s show briefly today, right as he read a listener email.

The emailer’s basic gist was that Dakich has a forum to express his thoughts about Indiana basketball candidly to anyone who cares to listen. Most IU supporters, however, don’t have such a forum. So what alternative is there to booing at a game for an IU supporter who wants his or her opinion to be heard?

This made great sense as I listened to it.

For a moment, it made me rethink my stance about booing one’s own team at a game.

Maybe I was wrong about booing?

If you listened to our IU-Iowa postgame show, you know that Ryan and I were none to pleased that the Assembly Hall faithful decided to boo during the game, even though we acknowledged that the team and coaches clearly did not bring their “A” (or even “B” or “C”) games to the arena.

But … we had an outlet for our postgame thoughts and frustrations: the show. Obviously our show is on a scale minuscule in comparison to the forum someone like Dakich has, but it’s something.

Plus, we aren’t at the games. We don’t pay money for tickets. We don’t deal with the atrocious Assembly Hall traffic. We don’t commute from Indianapolis on weeknights. Etcetera.

We watch from home. Then we do our show.

Those two experiences are similar but far from the same.

The email Dakich read really made me pause and do my best to empathize.

Why am I so against booing one’s team at home, anyway? 

Especially when the team delivers an admittedly boo-worthy performance, as Indiana did on Tuesday.

Maybe I’ve forgotten a bit of what that feels like to be at the game. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an IU game from the stands. I never booed when I was there, but who am I to tell someone he or she should or shouldn’t boo?

My perspective has shifted a bit, I have to admit.

But ultimately my mind still hasn’t been changed.

I still wouldn’t boo, and I still disagree with booing your own team, even when they are struggling mightily. Actually, especially when they are struggling mightily.

Here’s why …

College basketball fans are a true sixth man

In college basketball, more so than any other major sport in America, the home fans really are part of the team. Home fans are a legitimate sixth man.

That means that every fan in the stands has a responsibility to the team on the floor, and to the rest of the fans in the stands, and to the scores and scores of fellow fans across the world, to bring the same effort, energy, and focus that we demand of the team.

And not just for some altruistic support the kids mindset. But because, quite simply, the crowd can be as important to winning and losing a close college basketball game as making a free throw or boxing out.

Maybe this isn’t true at most arenas or most schools, I don’t know. But it sure is true at Indiana — at least it usually is. It has been.

It’s one of the two big reasons why Assembly Hall has been renowned for so long as such a tough place for opposing teams to win:

  1. The first reason, of course, is that the Indiana teams that have called Assembly Hall home have usually been pretty good. Sometimes great. Sometimes transcendent (such as the team that is being honored at the Hall on Saturday).
  2. The second reason is that the crowds can be expected to have a combination of basketball intelligence and unbridled passion that makes for a hellish experience for visitors, as well as the ultimate pick-me-up for the boys in Cream and Crimson.

On Tuesday night, we had neither. In fact, we had close to the opposite.

Our team was nowhere near good, and our crowd did little to pick up the team.

Some will say, “Well, the team didn’t give the fans anything to cheer about.” If you share this mindset, then I admit right now that this is a point of contention between you and me that may not be bridgeable.

Because I say fans have something to cheer about for 40 minutes as soon as they walk into the hallowed Hall.

And I know: I’m not there in the arena with you. But that’s the mindset I took to every game when I did go. And it’s the mindset take into every game, and into every postgame show, now.

I’ve already pointed out the difference0 between my current IU viewing experience and that of those who attend the games, but there are still enough similarities for me to feel comfortable requesting of you, my fellow IU fan, what I would (and do) request of myself.

So when the team is playing poorly, instead of responding in kind, I say go the other way: implore them even more passionately to pick up the pace, the effort, the focus, the fire. Some nights it will work. Other nights, it won’t. I don’t think any level of fan support was saving Indiana from itself on Tuesday night.

Still, at the very least, perhaps you disorient the opposition by making them wonder why in the hell these crazy fans are still so engaged in the game even when their team is losing. ;-)

But more than that it’s the bigger picture.

Choose to play a positive role in part of something bigger

We have a young team with a clearly fragile psyche right now. Maybe some of the guys internalize the booing and use it to drive them to prove the home fans wrong on Saturday. But I think guys would be more motivated to bring extra effort for fans who they know are in their corner no matter what.

(Side note: I know some will say that the boos were directed at the coach, not the players. And I’m sure Tom Crean felt the wrath. But there are ways to voice your displeasure of Tom Crean without reigning boos down upon the guys wearing the jerseys.)

So if the goal was to voice displeasure on Tuesday night so that the Michigan State game is better than the Iowa game, I don’t see booing being a smart strategy.

But think even bigger picture than that.

Because if the goal of the booing on Tuesday night was to initiate a call for larger change, or a new direction, in hopes of greater future success, I understand where you are coming … but I still think it’s misguided.

Don’t you think it would help with recruiting if Indiana was known as a school where the fans have your back — even in, especially in, your worst moments?

I think so.

Don’t you think it would help in a potential future coaching search if candidates knew Indiana is a place where, yes, you’ll get critiqued on message boards, and get crazy calls to your coach’s show, and have immense pressure to win — but at least McCracken Court is a sanctuary where it’s not just 12 guys and a coaching staff working together for a common goal, but there are 17,000+ fans always right there with you working toward that goal too?

I think so.

My point here is this: I don’t view Indiana basketball games as simple entertainment. I view it as an annual tradition at my alma mater that I actively participate in making better. So my choices as a fan need to reflect that.

I don’t live close to Bloomington, so I can’t go to games.

I don’t have a ton of money, so I can’t make big donations to the athletic department.

So I view my part in this big, beloved annual tradition as being a facilitator of community and conversation for all of the IU fans across the globe who, like me, have to participate in their IU basketball experience from afar.

That is so far removed from actually contributing to wins on the court that you’d need a telescope to see the impact … but it’s not completely removed. Even 0.0001% impact is impact.

So my question is: what’s your part?

Because you can play one, if you choose to.

It’ll never be close to as big a part as the players play, obviously. It’ll never be close to as big a part as the coaches play, of course.

But if you go to games, the you have an opportunity to play a much bigger part than Ryan, Andy, or I ever could. You can actually impact the game. You can contribute to the team winning and losing — that particular game, the next one, and possibly even decades down the line.

Crazy? Maybe.

Maybe it’s nuts to think the next great IU player will commit to IU because fans kept cheering their team on a random Tuesday night when the team was playing like barf.

But maybe it’s not.

Maybe it’s bonkers to think that the next time Indiana is looking for a coach that our #1 choice will say “No thanks” because he doesn’t want to deal with a fan base that boos its own team down the stretch of a moderately successful season.

But maybe it’s not.

I’m letting you in on this possibly absurd way that I view my IU basketball experience because this kind of mindset makes my experience as a fan more rewarding, and in some teeny-tiny way I think it helps us all move closer to our collective goal; and in the absence of definitive evidence to the contrary, it’s what I’m sticking with.

I’m not saying I’m right. Not at all. That’s just how I view it. And I may be insane.

But I know that I found it useful today to consider a perspective that was not my own. I’m hoping that by putting this out there, maybe someone else will find the same experience useful too. (And please feel encouraged to use the comment section to explain your thoughts on this well.)

I’m glad Dakich read that email, because it reminded me that there are plenty of reasonable mindsets out there beyond my own. And we’re all entitled to view our fan experience in our own way.

My big point here is simply to say that however you view your fan experience, especially if you’re at the games, it matters. So consider it carefully. And then choose intentionally.

If that’s to boo, so be it. I disagree with you, but I get it.

We ultimately want the same result. We’re all in this together.

And hopefully on Saturday we’re all back on the same page, cheering and celebrating an important Indiana victory.

The coach needs it. The players need it. We all need it.

Let’s go get a win, Hoosiers.