Note: All statistics in this post are from ESPN.com or the magical spreadsheet that I pump the ESPN.com statistics into.
Now that Northwestern has played four games, I thought it was time to look into some of their tempo-free statistics before the season gets too far along. Maybe there are some early trends that can be highlighted which help us better understand the Northwestern Wildcats.
What I can tell you is that Alex Marcotullio is underrated. He's really good at taking the ball away from other teams, as he's averaging 3.4 steals per 40 minutes. Marcotullio has also more than doubled his defensive rebound rate from 8.0 percent last season to 16.3 percent this season.
Those numbers jive with a team-wide trend in that the defensive rebounding has been somewhat passable. After Sunday night's game against Creighton the Wildcats have allowed opponents to grab just 28.0 percent of offensive boards. That's worlds better from last season. It appears to partially be coming from a decreased emphasis in blocked shots.
The guys besides Marcotullio that have been helping out with rebounding? Jeff Ryan - who leads the team with a defensive rebounding percentage of 24.5 and JerShon Cobb - who is at 19.0 percent. Most of the other players have numbers relatively similar to last season.
But enough about defense. Let's talk about offense. How are the Wildcats getting it done on that end of the court? Well, the obvious. They're shooting the ball really well and not turning the ball over. Northwestern ranks in the top 20 nationally in both effective field goal percentage and turnover rate.
What's really funny is that Ivan Peljusic plays for the Wildcats. The team has a turnover percentage of 15.5 percent this season, but Peljusic's individual rate is nearly three times that at 42.9 percent. Now you know why he's not on the court even though he's a monster on the glass.
At the other end of the spectrum is John Shurna. Some how Northwestern's best player, the guy every team should be gearing up to stop, has turned the ball over just seven times in 66 possessions this season, or 10.6 percent. That explains why he's been deadly efficient on offense with an offensive rating of 137.2 even though he's used 30 percent of Northwestern's possessions while on the court.
Oh, and the good thing about being a catch-and-shoot perimeter oriented player? You don't turn the ball over ever. Yes, Marcotullio also leads the Wildcats in turnover percentage at a measly 6.7 percent.
The one guy who appears to be really struggling on offense? Cobb. The freshman is picking his spots and not using too many possessions, but he's turning the ball over way too much and struggling a bit with his shot. My guess is that his shooting will improve, but he might be best served by becoming even more of a distributor on offense. His assist rate trails only Luka Mirkovic amongst players that get regular playing time.
Finally, Mirkovic needs to get more involved in the offense. It seems like the Wildcats have rolled their focus away from him this season, or he's just being too passive, because his offensive rating is up, but his usage is way down. Now, those two things might actually be related, but even a slightly above average offensive center would be useful for Northwestern in conference play.
Oh and my second favorite stat besides Peljusic's turnover rate? The fact that Ryan has used exactly two possessions all season on offense (he's 2-3 with one offensive rebound). When you factor in his minutes played it works out to a usage rate of 2.3 percent, which is just absurdly low, but awesome.