Stat Poring

Mar 8, 2021

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We're a family of eight now, and there was a chance for 7 of the 8 to get together the first weekend in March. Tyler could cover the Ohio State game, I'd be coming off a bunch of road games, I'd still be back for the BTT, so we took it.

Yesterday we were gone all day. And I didn't want to be half-there while trying to watch the game on my phone (my one son lives in Idaho with his new bride - there's no way I'm going to get some time with them and stare at my phone), so I decided to put my phone away and check the score later. Didn't have much of a signal anyway.

When I checked the score (I use The Score app) it showed that Curbelo was the leading scorer with 19 points. So I assumed Ayo didn't play. It wasn't until I checked a game story that I saw Ayo had played. And it was even later when I found out that Ayo wore the black mask.

I like that sometimes. My life used to be 83% Illini all the time - now it's 99.5% Illini all the time because it's my answer to "what do you do for a living?" once cocktail parties return. So to take a game off every now and then - I did the same for the Missouri game this year - really feels good. I need that 0.5% to assure myself that Illini athletics doesn't dominate my entire life.

And let me tell you - the rush of checking the score is the same drug it's always been. Opening the app feels like the teacher just called on me in class. And then seeing the win is like getting the answer right and the class starting a slow-clap.

I asked for an 8-word summary on Twitter and there was enough "those last three minutes!" that I knew I didn't want to watch any highlights until I could watch the full game. And with a big dinner last night and then card games and such followed by a crash in bed, I figured I probably wouldn't be able to watch until Monday night.

My brain had other ideas. I was wide awake at exactly 3:10 am. I watched the game, felt the rush, and now I'm sitting here, still the only one up, drinking my coffee and poring over season statistics. Once someone wakes up I'll stop writing and we'll switch to late Sunday evening all of the sudden. But for now, it's statistics time.

I always do this at the end of the regular season. And the first thing I always look for: minutes. I do a minutes projection before the season, so I want to see how it played out. Let's start there.

In the Back And Forth post Tyler and I wrote after Ayo and Kofi announced their return, I had the minutes this way:

Ayo 33
Trent 30
Kofi 28
Da'Monte 21
Hutcherson 20
Miller 19
Giorgi 18
Curbelo 16
Grandison 10
extra big (BBV? Hamlin? Hawkins?) 5

Obviously, Hutcherson's back injury changed all of this. I assumed Hutcherson would be getting the Grandison minutes, and that Grandison would be getting 10 minutes per game. With Hutcherson missing the season, here's how the minutes shook out:

Ayo 35
Trent 33
Kofi 27
Miller 26
Da'Monte 25
Curbelo 20
Giorgi 15
Grandison 14
Hawkins 6

The surprises (for me, at least):

  • I had Adam Miller at 19 and he played 26 minutes. And I had Curbelo at 16 and he played 20. The main difference, there, I think: no Hutcherson. Had Hutcherson been healthy I think you would have seen a rotation of 9, not 8, with the "extra" guy (Hawkins) still getting six minutes. And maybe Hutcherson would have taken five minutes each from the freshmen and Da'Monte. (Or maybe Hutcherson would have been 10th man. Hard to say.)
  • I had Kofi and Giorgi at 28 and 18 - they played 27 and 15. I guess I'm a little surprised at Giorgi only getting 15. Thought there'd be a little more "Giorgi at the 4, Kofi at the 5".
  • Ayo and Trent combining for 68 minutes was a bit surprising. 12 total minutes on the bench. That's a heavy, heavy load.
  • I guess it's also a bit surprising that Grandison moved into the starting lineup in January, seemingly played a ton the rest of the season, and still only averaged 14 minutes per game.

I should probably upload these stats so we can talk about them. Here's the final season statistics:

Stats that really stick out:

  • Kofi never fouled out? Wait - Kofi never fouled out all season? I don't think Kofi fouled out all season. "DQ - 0". Yes, Kofi didn't foul out all season. Trent twice, Ayo once (Indiana), Curbelo once, Miller once, Da'Monte once, Giorgi once, Kofi zero times.
  • Free throw percentage for Jacob Grandison: .952. 20 for 21.
  • Ayo finishes the regular season at 20.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.2 rpg. So the statistic holds: only college player the last 11 seasons to average 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Hi Luka.
  • I'm going to make up a statistic called "assists per minute" just so I can surprise you with which player is third: Curbelo .201 apm, Ayo .149 apm, Grandison .097 apm.
  • Defensive rebounds: Da'Monte 116 in 26 games. He's 6'-2.5".
  • Team leader in fouls might surprise you: Andre Curbelo with 71. Trent and Kofi 65, Miller 63.
  • Da'Monte final three point percentage: .545. So let's look at his four seasons: .225, .317, .283, .545.
  • Kofi final free throw percentage: .549. We're going to see hack-a-Kofi in the Tournament.
  • Kofi final assists: 3. We're going to see Kofi triple-teamed in the Tournament.
  • Kofi final dunks: One hundred million. We're going to see Kofi dunk on fools in the Tournament.

My overall thought: these are the stats we needed to see. Like, nearly exactly. Before the season, I could have written this paragraph:

A one-seed? Man, I don't know if we can be a one-seed. To pull that off we'd need Kofi at 17 & 10, we'd need Curbelo and Miller to provide, like, 17 points per game, we'd need Trent to really improve his three point percentage, we'd need Da'Monte to not be someone they leave open on the three point line, and most of all, we'd need Ayo to put up a National Player Of The Year kind of campaign. That's a lot to ask.

20-6, 16-4, the most Quad 1 wins in college basketball, 1-seed.


raleighIllini25 on March 8, 2021 @ 07:35 AM

Great article and dive into the numbers. Robert, your reporting and writing are wonderful. Thank you for helping all of the fans spread around the work get a front row seat to this unique perspective.

I think the problem for teams that have to play us is Curbello. And when I say that I don’t mean that he is the most important person on the team but strategically and tactically it would be difficult to scheme for a second style of play internal to a basketball game once it started. Curbello’s style of play is so different from everyone else’s on the team and even everyone in the country that it causes havoc on the defensive end. I swear sometimes it’s like watching Curly Neil from the Globetrotters. It’s like watching A video game of him sometimes. The guy can do everything and anything and keep dribbling. How do you defend that? How do you scheme for that? Especially when you have Ayo and Kofi to contend with. Not to mention everyone else.

thegoah on March 8, 2021 @ 07:38 AM

I particularly enjoyed that last sentence.

Sean on March 8, 2021 @ 08:19 AM


JimmyTheLayup on March 8, 2021 @ 09:13 AM

There is an assist % stat that you could have used bullet #4 as well.

Curbelo - 35.7% Ayo - 29.9% Grandison - 15.7%

Kofi - 0.9%

DB50 on March 8, 2021 @ 10:21 AM

The stat that caught my eye was Jacob Grandison's FT-20-21! I have a good friend who once led the NAIA with a 92.5% in FT. He said he once made 76 in a row in practice. Grandison has that same touch like automatic. I would love to see him at the line with the game on the line in the NCAA tournament.

skibdaddy on March 8, 2021 @ 11:32 AM

Grandison quietly had an amazing season... 14 Minutes/game (8th on the team) , shot 43% from 3 (2nd), made all but 1 FT for 95% (1st), 27 offensive rebounds (T3rd). When I saw that, (and the videos of him making 25 3's in a row) I thought why isn't he getting more looks from 3? Hopefully in the tourneys!

Also some team stats stood out to me:

-We shot 50% on the season and 38% from 3! (I remember from past Illini teams that I was happy they shot over 50% for a single game.)
-We also held opponents to 41% shooting and 33% from 3. +10 Rebound/game margin -48 Foul margin overall +136 on assists!!!

What a great season... Gotta go win it all now to cement these kids in the history books!

HailToTheOrange on March 8, 2021 @ 11:30 PM

I believe it was 35 (!!!) three's in a row

McMurtry113 on March 8, 2021 @ 02:32 PM

Like a lot of people, I don't get the newspaper anymore. This article made me realize how much I've missed looking at player statistics.

One thing that stood out to me: our team field goal percentage is exactly 50% - 758/1,516.

Giovantischixstripz on March 8, 2021 @ 05:52 PM

Grandison since entering the starting lineup:

20.9 ppg, 6.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg

Illinois in that time: 11-1

X Factor

Gadwallgetter on March 8, 2021 @ 11:52 PM

No Kofi 3pt attempts???? Terrible season! ??

tgb on March 9, 2021 @ 12:39 AM

I agree that Curbello brings a whole different look to the team. He gets everyone's attention.

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