Northwestern vs. Eastern Illinois tempo-free: We got an ol'-fashioned intra-species showdown

The fifth year senior was all over the place, pulling down 11 boards. - David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The NU Era of Northwestern hoops begins with a cavalcade of camera shots of the Collins family. Oh yeah, and our C-Unit (Crawford and Cobb) is back, too.

Quick primer for those who are new to the tempo-free. Over the past several years, a whole bunch of folks started convening on usenet trying to figure out why some hoops squads win, beyond the basic box score. Now those folks are either running NBA teams, or running their newly created analytics departments. At the college level, we look to guys like Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway (The ORIGINAL Big Ten Wonk) to keep carrying that torch, and to complete missions like burying the concept of rebounding margin. Consider me a basement knockoff of those guys.


Pace and Points per Possession

To get the "pace" of a game, I average out the number of possessions between both squads. Last night I had EIU with 65, and NU with 62.7. Let's split the diff and call it 64. For perspective, kenpom.com ranks us 319th in "pace". You get Points Per Possession by divvying the amount of points by Pace. You want to up your efficiency, and you want to decrease your opponent's. Per kenpom.com, last season the national average was 1.00 PPP.

NU: 1.12 PPP
Lewis: 0.85 PPP

Four Factors

Dean Oliver wrote a seminal piece called "Basketball on Paper" which outlined the Four Factor to winning a basketball game. They're listed below in order of influence.

Effective Field Goal Percentage (FGM + .5 *3FGM)/FGA
NU: 58.1%
EIU: 32.1%

Turnover Percentage (TO/PACE)
NU: 18.8%
EIU: 10.9%

Offensive Rebound Percentage (OREB/OREB + Opp DREB)
NU: 21.4%
EIU: 27.1%

Free Throw Attempts / Field Goal Attempts
NU: 67.4%
EIU: 71.7%

Takes on the Tempo Free

  • The 'Cats awesomeness from three-pointslyvania (10 for 21) secured their phenomenal eFG that night. Many of their triples came off of drive and kick, as opposed to zone-breakin'. Meanwhile, the Panthers were terrible from the field, especially from distance: 2 for 18. Again, the 'Cats perimeter defense was solid again.
  • Despite the stalwart perimeter defense, the 'Cats didn't force many turnovers. (Jershon had the lone steal for the 'Cats that night.) Meanwhile, they continue to be average in terms of protecting the ball. Which, is ok, except that the last 10 years the 'Cats were among the national elite in that category.
  • The 'Cats came back to earth in terms of protecting their glass. However, allowing EIU to nab 27% of their misses isn't terrible - in fact, it's miles ahead of last year when they allowed opponents to nab 36% of rebounds (40% in conference). If they can hang around 30% for the year, that would still be above national average. For that to happen, we'll need Olah/Cerina to grab a dozen boards from the 5 to give us a chance.
  • Both teams got to the line a ton, due to the points of emphasis fouls being called by the refs. We'll see if this holds up, but thankfully our fellas hit 22/29 from the line - a terrific 75.9%!

Possible Burning Storylines

The Return 2, Electric Boogaloo (or should I say, "C-Unit"?). JerShon and Drew were the best two players for the 'Cats last night. The former had 9 points, 8 assists and 2 blocks, while the latter banged 25 points, nabbed 11 boards. Given both players' high usage, they only had 2 turnovers. While not the formal point guard, Cobb appears to be the best playmaker on the squad with his terrific court vision. Meanwhile, Drew looked really smooth from distance - 5/7, despite being contested on several of them. These guys set the tone for the squad.

The kids can play? The kids can play! Hey Wildside, every time Nate drops a trey, I demand you to pump this jam. #32 logged 25 minutes, with 5 points, 4 boards, 1 assist and no TOs. Meanwhile, Sanjay notched 9 points by going 3-3 from distance. Keep that up, he could be our Jimmy Butler (3 and D guy). He movement and length allows him to D up a 2, 3 or a 4. If these kitty 'Cats can continue to provide these kind of contributions consistently, the 'Cats could dream of postseason play.

How's that Olah/Cerina at the 5 working out for you? Alex was more aggressive this game, and went 8 and 8 in just 23 minutes. Meanwhile, Niko only had 2 points and 2 boards in just 11 minutes. Foul troubled limited their time on the court, and these guys better figure out how to adjust to a tighter game being called.

Other Thoughts

  • The offense looked a bit smoother. However, when the zone hit it appeared that EIU was playing a different sport. Again, maybe its early, but the 'Cats have enough shooters to kill a zone - it's just a matter of freeing up that shooter.
  • Speaking of offense, I was trying to figure out what EIU was running. Reggie Smith had 19 points, but went 4-16 from the field. My favorite takes were when he dribbled between his legs and took step back three pointers early in the possession. Meanwhile, the firm of Piper and Austin went a combined 0 for 7 from the field, 0 for 5 from three point, and had 0 points. So, yeah, I guess that's why Reggie was channeling his inner John Wall. Yeesh.
  • The other two kitty 'Cats - Kale and Tre are still trying to find their spots in the flow of offense. In Kale's case, he only got 3 minutes. My long distance guess is that he doesn't have the defense to crack the rotation yet.
  • Speaking of Tre, I'm expecting him to get more minutes if Sobo continues to struggle. In his defense, he was 7 for 8 in Free throws, and pulled down 5 boards. However, he did turn the ball over 3 times, and I'm having a hard time seeing him getting looks within the run of this offense. Cobb can penetrate, but it appears that Sobo has a hard time getting around his guy. On the other hand, Tre has a little more quickness with the ball - if that shot starts dropping, he could be a real useful linchpin for the 2nd unit.
  • Congrats to Doug Collins, who has just won the award of "Most likely to nab the most camera time." We'll see if he gets more minutes than Danny Crawford, or Mama Coble. Also related, the ol' Coach was looking really intense for being in the purple seats. Looked like he was ready to jump up to help out on the bench.
  • Who expends more energy on the sideline - Coach Collins or Coach Fitz? Are you telling me that there isn't an Athletico pedometer promotion that this marketing department is missing out on?
  • Coach Collins on Drew last night, "I'd like to see him get to the line a little bit more." Past Coach Carmody on Drew: "I don't like seeing him turn into a suburban jump shooter." Both coaches are correct in their analysis, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the snarkiness of the latter.
  • Speaking of Coach Carmody, you gotta think that he's swirling a glass of Cabarnet Sauvignon somehwere, cursing out a television - "Oh great, NOW they call bumping the cutter. Yeesh!"
  • Loved this photo of the team greeting Coach Collins. Between this, and seeing how the team reacted to him in the J-Mo schollie video, it really appears that the team has really embraced their new coach. Very very cool.
  • Looking forward to the Stanford game: Gonna be tough. Road game against a very quality opponent. I'm looking forward to seeing how Collins and his crew prep the squad now that the games will be coming every few days.
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