From a fan perspective, it's amazing how much this basketball season feels like the 2017 football season. The season is over early, the coach is playing the freshmen more and more every game, so you're left to just watch for signs that this might turn into something someday.
Well, that's how I do it, anyway. I'm a "hope against hope" guy, so when faced with a 5-13 basketball team (or a 2-10 football team), I simply hope that it's 2006 football or 1999 basketball again and a big leap is right around the corner. I usually stay right there until it doesn't work out and then pour all of my hope into the next guy. And then the next guy. And by 2038, I'll have a winning team to cheer for again.
On Twitter, I've been tracking the scoring and rebounding by class. The underclassmen keep doing more and more, the upperclassmen keep doing less and less. So I figured I'd go through all of the statistics (old school stats, not NERDstats), to see what sticks out. Here's what sticks out:
Seven Man Team
I don't know why I haven't realized this before now, but the dropoff in minutes played from the seventh guy to the eighth guy is dramatic. Here are the 11 scholarship players (the 12th, Anthony Higgs, is redshirting) by minutes-played:
Ayo Dosumnu - 30.0 mpg
Trent Frazier - 29.5
Aaron Jordan - 27.0
Giorgi Bezhanishvili - 24.3
Da'Monte Williams - 23.2
Kipper Nichols 22.5
Andres Feliz - 20.8
Adonis De La Rosa - 8.7 mpg
Tevian Jones - 8.4
Alan Griffin - 8.0
Samba Kane - 6.8
I knew that Underwood was playing mostly those seven guys. I guess I just didn't realize that all of them were over 20 minutes per game and then Jones, Griffin, and Kane were all between six and nine minutes per game.
So maybe this isn't as freshman-y as I thought? The rotation is basically one senior, two juniors, two sophomores, and two freshmen, with three freshmen and a fifth-year senior providing those 6-9 minutes per game. My guess: you see Kane's minutes continue to rise and De La Rosa's drop, you see Griffin's minutes rise a bit and Jordan's minutes drop, and you see Jones' minutes rise while Kipper's minutes drop. Perhaps getting Kane, Griffin, and Jones into double digits (minutes-wise) by the end of the season.
Ayo Triple Crown?
Right now, Ayo is second on the team in scoring, 0.4 ppg behind Trent Frazier (14.6 to 14.2). He's first in assists (50 for Ayo, 49 for Trent). And he's actually third in rebounds per game (Giorgi is first with 5.1 rpg, Jordan is second with 4.7, Ayo third with 4.6). Which begs the question: will Ayo lead the team in all three categories by the end of the season?
Heck, let's make it four. Looking at steals, Trent has 29 and Ayo is second with 23. Could Ayo possibly overtake him there as well?
And not to get crazy, but let's look at blocks, too. Samba Kane leads with 9. Jordan is second with 7. Then Giorgi and Da'Monte with 6. Then Ayo with 5. I mean, it's not crazy to suggest that Ayo has another game like Michigan and takes over the lead in blocks, right?
I'm guessing that by the end of the season, Ayo leads in points and assists, Giorgi leads in rebounding, Trent in steals, and Samba in blocks. But it's at least statistically possible that Ayo could lead the team in all five.
You're not going to see a three from De La Rosa or Kane, so of the nine guys who are going to hoist threes, I think five of them should shoot and four shouldn't. Let me amend that. Five should shoot them. Da'Monte needs to keep shooting because I swear they're going to start falling soon. And three guys shouldn't.
The 3-point FG percentages:
Jordan - .446
Ayo - .397
Trent - .389
Tevian - .385
Alan - .333
Da'Monte - .296
Andres - .261
Kipper - .224 (???) (!!!)
Giorgi - .185
I'm not sure why, but I want Da'Monte to keep shooting and I want Feliz to shoot less. It's their shooting form, I guess. I feel like the Da'Monte threes will start dropping soon and I just don't have confidence when Feliz shoots from deep. Even though it's 8-27 vs. 6-23. I'm a complicated man.
Giorgi has been shut down from three, I think (5-27 from deep, 0-fer in conference play), and Kipper probably needs to be. I have no idea what happened there. Kipper shot .444 from three as a freshman, .378 as a sophomore, and now .224 as a junior. How?
I like looking at stats broken down by conference games only. The level of competition increases, so if there are some positive trends, they're significant.
The biggest positive trend: the freshmen. Mostly Ayo and Giorgi. Ayo's scoring, assist, and rebounding numbers have all increased in conference play. Giorgi is averaging 13 points and 6 boards in conference play.
Or just look at the three point percentages for the freshmen vs. the others in the seven Big Ten games:
Ayo, Tevian, and Alan: 17-44 (38.6%)
Trent, Kipper, AJ, Feliz: 29-91 (31.8%)
I think the biggest surprise here, when looking at the stats in Big Ten games, is that Giorgi is averaging more points per game than Trent. Seven games into the conference season and Giorgi is averaging 13.0 ppg while Trent is averaging 12.0 ppg. That's both good (wow, Giorgi), and bad (time to go on a run, Trent).
Which brings us back to the point Tyler made back in December. The key is to get Trent and Ayo playing well at the same time. Figure that out and we can maybe have an encouraging finish to a dismal season. Don't figure it out and it's going to be a long summer.