John Gasaway is a writer for Basketball Prospectus and is a co-author of the upcoming book, The Basketball Prospectus 2010 Major-Conference Preview. He previously wrote for the Big Ten Wonk. We recently exchanged e-mails with John to help us preview the Big Ten and Indiana because, well, he’s smarter than us. The interview is lengthy, so we’ve split it into two parts. Today: Indiana and The Basketball Prospectus 2010 Major-Conference Preview.
Inside the Hall: Indiana is coming off a tough season and is still in the midst of rebuilding. They were nearly last in the country in turnovers a season ago, which I assume you believe will improve this season because it really can’t get worse. What measurable statistics are most important for Indiana to become a competitive team in a seemingly brutal conference?
JG: Measurable statistic? Points! For and against! No, just kidding. You’re asking about the stats that precede that one, and rightfully so.
Fair enough, try this on for size: If Indiana had been playing in some kind of weird parallel hoops universe last year where turnovers were forbidden and each team’s offense was judged simply according to how well they shoot, hit the offensive glass, and make free throws, your scrappy Hoosiers, even as young as they were, would have ranked a somewhat respectable seventh in the conference in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play (instead of 11th, which is where they really came out). So, yeah, the turnovers were huge.
Moving to defense we find that IU ranked 11th there as well, allowing Big Ten opponents to score 1.12 points per trip. That’s bad, sure, but it’s not catastrophic. In recent years teams like Northwestern and Penn State have on occasion done way worse than that. So there’s hope. In fact the Hoosiers were actually normal when it came to rebounding opponents’ misses–it’s just that, uh, there were no misses. Opponents lit it up from everywhere. This year’s deeper and taller roster should help make that a thing of the past.