Tempo-free Big Ten

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Here are two facts that are going to blow your mind: 1) Northwestern is the fastest team in Big Ten play right now in terms of possessions per game. 2) Purdue not Ohio State has the best efficiency margin during conference play.

Now, both of these very interesting facts come with a few caveats. One is that it's really early in conference play. Just three Big Ten teams have managed to play a third of their conference season thus far. (Though Northwestern is one of them.) Still, this allows for weird anomalies, like overtime games and easy schedules, to fudge some of the numbers. Yet, I can tell you that even over a full season the Wildcats have been a decidedly mid-tempo team when it comes to pace. Despite the protestations of people like Dan Hanner, Northwestern actually is playing faster. 
Want more proof? Northwestern ranks 188th in adjusted tempo this season. That's seventh in the Big Ten, but light-years ahead of Wisconsin (345th - a.k.a. last), Michigan (324th), Penn State (319th) and Ohio State (243rd). It's right in line with teams like Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue in the middle of the conference. So I ask this: Why doesn't Thad Matta hate college basketball?

Big Ten Efficiency Margins - Team - In Conference Efficiency Margin:

  1. Purdue - +0.22
  2. Ohio State - +0.11
  3. Illinois - +0.08
  4. Wisconsin - +0.08
  5. Michigan State - +0.05
  6. Minnesota - (-0.01)
  7. Northwestern - (-0.02)
  8. Penn State - (-0.03)
  9. Indiana - (-0.08)
  10. Michigan - (-0.19)
  11. Iowa - (-0.20)
Like I said at the opening, that Purdue number is inflated by an easy schedule that's included exactly zero of the other teams in the top five in the standings. Still, you have to be impressed with how the Boilermakers have played thus far. I have concerns though that if you can shut down E'Twaun Moore you can shut down Purdue. West Virginia provided a nice blueprint of that on Sunday. The Michigan State, at Ohio State, Minnesota, at Wisconsin stretch should tell us a lot more about Matt Painter's squad.
You probably didn't expect to see Michigan that low considering how well the Wolverines have played against some of the top teams in the country, but they play slowly, so their blowouts don't always look like blowouts, and they lost to Purdue, Wisconsin and Indiana by a combined 58 points.
Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State appear to be settling in for a Bubble Battle. Of course the Wildcats already find themselves behind the other two because the Gophers have quality non-conference wins and the Nittany Lions have quality conference wins over Michigan State and Illinois. They also both happen to have one more win in conference at 3-3 compared to 2-4. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out over the final two-thirds of conference play.
Superlatives (in conference):
  • Best Offense: Purdue
  • Worst Offense: Iowa (only one below a point per possession)
  • Best Defense: Purdue
  • Worst Defense: Michigan
  • Luckiest: Ohio State - 1.24 wins ahead of expected
  • Unluckiest: Northwestern - 0.66 wins behind expected

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