Illini Wonk
Thursday, December 23, 2004
  Best 3 Amigos: Illini or Hawkeyes?
Yesterday, in a post about how the Iowa Hawkeyes may provide the most competition in the Big Ten for the Illini this year, I referenced an article about the Iowa trio of guards. Big Ten Wonk has an interesting discussion posted on the topic. Readers of this blog will not have a hard time determining where I stand on this one, but let me start by saying that I have been very impressed with the Hawkeye guards this season and it might be too early to decide this one. However, I'm going to give my two cents:

Illinois is better. First, there is a famous quote and I think it applies here: "There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics." In his article, Gregg Doyel says that Iowa's guards have more steals with the obvious implication being that they are better defenders. However, there is another stat which to me is a lot more telling: Iowa is giving up 69.9 points per game and the Illini only 62.7. There's a lot more to defense than steals. For instance, the Illini guard trio only had two against Wake Forest but they received accolades for shutting down two of the best guards in the country.

Also, on free throws, Doyel decides to compare total numbers (55 for Illinois and 129 for Iowa) rather than percentages. Had he chosen the latter, he would have seen that Head (95%), Brown (88), Williams (77) are much better than Horner (81), Haluska (80) and Pierce (47). Also, the fact that Illinois' average margin of victory is above 20 might have something to do with the fact that they're not shooting many free throws.

This leads into the second point, which is that the Illini have a better points per weighted shot, as you can see from another post on Big Ten Wonk. I shouldn't have to tell you why this is an important stat. Allen Iverson scores a lot of points, but he takes a lot of shots to do it. I put Pierre Pierce in this category.

So, while the Iowa guards are very good and much improved over last season, they are not quite as good as the Illini. Oh yeah, and the Illini haven't lost yet.
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