By the Numbers: Northwestern Analysis, Iowa Forecast

You may have noticed the basketball-like substance on the floor of Mackey Arena Sunday. You may also have noticed that it came from the Good Guys and not the valiant opposition ... in no small part because a) Painter seems to be caring less about results and more about lessons, which strangely leads to better results sometimes, and b) Northwestern apparently angered the basketball gods by nearly making the tournament last year, so every contributing senior has been struck down in response; only Reggie Hearn has recovered.

kenpom had this as a Purdue win going into the game, and it played out basically as a more extreme version of what the numbers would have suggested.

29 opportunities: 14 to Purdue (48.3 OR%), 15 to Northwestern (51.7 DR%)
That's not supposed to be
close to even, Wildcats.
  • Rebounding. Northwestern is actually above-average in height – their effective height is +2.5, 37th in the country – but that's related more to defense than anything else. Since Jared Swopshire went down for the season against Iowa, they've been left with short players and young players: the tallest, 7'0" Alex Olah, posts just a 6.3 OR% and 15.0 DR%. For context, in slightly fewer minutes, 6'5" Rapheal Davis has 6.8% and 15.1% respectively. (Translation: tall Wildcat needs practice.)
    Accordingly, Purdue destroyed Northwestern on the boards, 48-23*, with a whopping 48.3 OR% (see graphic; 5 of those 14 were team boards, which I suspect means some Wildcat knocked them out of bounds or fouled). Davis had 1 OR and 6 DR for Purdue; Olah had 2 OR and 0 DR. Purdue also posted an 81.0 DR%. (Translation: Purdue with the rebound.)
  • Defense. Height correlates with defense in several areas, but it doesn't cause better defense, and Northwestern has shown that in Big Ten play, dropping to dead last in defensive efficiency (111.0). Yes, this comes from things like losing by 15 to Nebraska and by 28(!!) to Wisconsin, both slow-tempo teams like the 'Cats.
    In Evanston, Purdue was "held" to just 1 point per possession; this time they posted 1.16 PPP, and yes, they scored a bit over 16% more points than in the first meeting. Purdue shot .556 from two and .467 from three. (In related news, Ronnie Johnson did not attempt a three.) This is not good if you are on defense. If Purdue had hit their free throws (A.J.?), it probably would have been a 40-point game.
  • Offense. Yes, the Wildcats forced 15 turnovers for a 23.4 TO%, well over Purdue's conference average of 19.0%, but they simply couldn't convert them ... shooting .316(!!!) from two will do that to you. Add in .222 from three and a Boiler-like .583 from the line, and you get a blowout loss: fewer possessions (thanks to the 19.0 OR%) and few conversions. Hearn: 3-10, 0-1 from three, 8 points in 30 minutes.

Fortunately for Northwestern, Penn State fills the gap between impending blowouts at the hands of Ohio State (home) and Michigan State (away). Like Purdue, Northwestern must steal one of those games to have a fighting chance at .500; unlike Purdue, they now seem completely incapable of doing so.

The win stopped a three-game slide that dropped Purdue down to 97th; right now they're 78th, where they were right before the first Northwestern game. The Iowa game still looks like you'd expect if a tournament-bound** team were hosting a sub-.500 team: 80-20 for Iowa. Things to watch for if Purdue's going to pull this one off:

Iowa eFG: Basabe and White lead team, Oglesby much worse
More shots for the guy
on the far right, plz.
  • Iowa's transition game. The Hawkeyes are 8th in offensive efficiency in Big Ten play (100.4), 10th in eFG (44.2%), and 11th in 3P% (28.6). Get back on defense, make them run what half-court options they have, especially if they go to Josh Oglesby (32-121 from three, .264; his eFG is 38.5%, which is stat-speak for "bad"). Purdue's two-point defense (44.3%) is third in the conference; there shouldn't be many good options when the defense gets back.
  • Fouls. Iowa leads the conference at .732 from the line. They shot .867 against Nebraska ... but only had 15 attempts on 13 Cornhusker fouls. Purdue allowed 27 FTA in the overtime win in Mackey; best not to repeat that performance if possible.
    Inside fouls were a problem in the first meeting: AJ fouled out in 30 minutes and Travis Carroll had 3 fouls in 7 minutes. Aside from maybe Adam Woodbury (20-38, .526), no Hawkeye is really a liability at the line. Don't commit cheap fouls.
  • Shot selection. Purdue shot just .423 from two in Mackey; Iowa's in-conference defensive efficiency is much better than Northwestern's, and in the road games against teams on either side of Iowa, Purdue shot .426 against Michigan State and .438 against Michigan. It'll be as important as ever that players move without the ball on offense: poor shots generally don't lead to points in this situation.

kenpom predicts a 71-62 win for Iowa; a Purdue win would be more of a confidence booster than anything else (an NIT bid probably requires another regular-season win plus a first-round BTT win) and pretty much forces Iowa to win the BTT to make the NCAA field.

* EsPN's numbers do not include team rebounds, which is silly because they do count.
** Yes, Iowa's not currently even on the bubble. Yes, losing to Nebraska is bad. However, 8 of their 10 losses are to solid teams (Wichita State's righted themselves and look to be in good shape; VT is Iowa's other bad loss), and a first-round BTT win would likely give Iowa 20. 8-10 in this conference should be enough to get them in.

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