Seeing as it is Friday and there are no Big Ten games on the docket for the evening, it seems like a perfectly good time to delve into some advanced stats (for our purposes, all advanced stats are from the irreplaceable KenPom.com). Each team is at least one third of their way through the conference schedule so there are some conclusions we can draw from the stats so far.
After last night's rousing win over Maryland, Indiana joins Wisconsin as the class of the conference at 5-1. However, the advanced stats, in conference play, seem to suggest that Wisconsin is more set up to be successful over the long haul than the Hoosiers.
A shocking statistic was brought to my attention yesterday. One I had to double, and triple, check to make sure was correct. <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>The players with the top 5 O-ratings in B1G play (acc. to <a href="https://twitter.com/kenpomeroy">@kenpomeroy</a>) have something in common. <a href="http://t.co/cpdjyCer1n">pic.twitter.com/cpdjyCer1n</a></p>— Bart Torvik (@totally_t_bomb) <a href="https://twitter.com/totally_t_bomb/status/558382425148227584">January 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> That's amazing! And it doesn't even stop there, because Badgers' sixth man Duje Dukan has the seventh best O-rating in conference play at 125.8.
Everyone had a bit of trepidation when starting point guard Traevon Jackson was injured against Rutgers, but there was also excitement at getting to see young sophomore Bronson Koenig run the show. Well, all Koenig has done in conference play is post the highest o-rating of any player in the Big Ten. He's also first in the conference in eFG% and True Shooting Percentage, which take into account that threes are worth more than twos and that free throws are things that count as well. When you throw in the third best turnover percentage in the conference, Koenig has been the consummate point guard with Jackson out.
Conference (and national) player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky somehow finds himself only third on the list, but he is used on a much higher percentage of plays than his cohorts and also takes more shots. Kaminsky, as proven by the game against Rutgers which I vowed to never speak of again, is the most indispensable player on the team. He scores efficiently, he leads the conference in defensive rebounding percentage, and he's even 13th in assist percentage...as a seven foot center. There's a reason you hear his name during almost any televised college basketball game.
Even with just two players like Koenig and Kaminsky, a team would be expected to be near the top of the Big Ten, but the Badgers have five. Slashing swingman Sam Dekker is leading the conference in turnover percentage while boasting an eFG% of 62.5 (third in the conference). Bruising and graceful (somehow at the same time) forward Nigel Hayes is playing the highest percentage of minutes on the team while committing the fourth least fouls per 40 minutes. He's also drawing the 15th most fouls in the conference and his free throw rate (which measures a player's ability to get to the line relative to how often he attempts to score) is fifth best in the Big Ten. Finally we get to defensive stalwart Josh Gasser. He has always been the unsung hero of the Badgers. He's often tasked with chasing around the opponent's best offensive perimeter player, but still being counted on to knock down a big three on offense. He has the best free throw rate on the team, and third best in the conference, at 60.7.
In comparison, Indiana's highest ranked player for O-rating is Collin Hartman who is ranked ninth. Hartman had a monster game against Maryland last night, but has barely played over 50% of the team's minutes in conference play. However, since seeing increased minutes in IU's last four games, his O-rating has consistently gone up in each game.
The Badgers are currently clicking on all cylinders offensively, which is great because their historically stout defense has been a little lacking this year. While no team is going to make it through conference play unscathed (see: Scarlet Knights, Rutgers game) the Badgers are well equipped to win the regular season title. They have five extremely efficient players on offense, so if one has an off night there are four more guys to pick up the slack. Or, if they are all on point, then 32 point victories over Iowa happen.