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January 11, 2011
Tuesday Truths
Way, Way Early Edition

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to the 2011 season of Tuesday Truths, where I'll be looking at how well the 157 teams in the nation's top 14 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis. (For a tidy little homily on why this stuff is so very awesome, go here.)

In just a couple weeks enough games will have been played so that we can look at all of the following leagues:

ACC
Big 12
Big East
Big Ten
Pac-10
SEC
A-10
Colonial
C-USA
Horizon
Missouri Valley
Mountain West
WAC
West Coast

Right now, however, it's still mid-January. Only the Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, Colonial, Horizon, Missouri Valley, and WAC have played enough games to attract our attention. So let's get to it.

Big East: Please read the warning label

Through games of January 10, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Louisville        2-0   65.7    1.21    1.00    +0.21
2.  Villanova         3-0   67.3    1.17    0.98    +0.19
3.  Pitt              3-0   68.2    1.22    1.09    +0.13
4.  Syracuse          3-0   66.2    1.07    0.95    +0.12
5.  Cincinnati        2-1   67.2    1.03    0.92    +0.11
6.  Marquette         3-1   63.1    1.24    1.13    +0.11
7.  St. John's        3-1   64.2    1.05    1.05     0.00
8.  Notre Dame        3-2   64.7    1.03    1.04    -0.01
9.  West Virginia     2-2   64.4    1.08    1.10    -0.02
10. Georgetown        1-3   62.9    1.02    1.07    -0.05
11. Rutgers           1-2   68.0    1.05    1.11    -0.06
12. Connecticut       1-2   63.0    1.01    1.08    -0.07
13. Providence        0-4   71.9    1.01    1.10    -0.09
14. Seton Hall        1-3   66.9    0.85    0.97    -0.12
15. S. Florida        0-4   63.1    1.01    1.15    -0.14
16. DePaul            0-3   67.6    0.99    1.13    -0.14

AVG.                        65.9    1.06

Did I mention it's mid-January? Louisville looks fantastic here and maybe the Cardinals will indeed march to Houston this April and win the national championship with ease. Meantime please keep in mind these numbers are based on just 132 'Ville possessions and that those trips were played at home against Seton Hall and on the road against South Florida. What else jumps out at me? Take a gander at that Marquette offense, one that's faced West Virginia, Rutgers, Pitt, and Notre Dame. Buzz Williams has his team draining shots, taking care of the ball, and crashing the offensive glass. It shows.

Big Ten: D-first purists no likey

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Purdue            4-0   67.8    1.18    0.91    +0.27
2.  Illinois          3-0   66.0    1.23    1.01    +0.22
3.  Ohio St.          3-0   65.4    1.15    1.01    +0.14
4.  Wisconsin         2-1   56.7    1.15    1.05    +0.10
5.  Michigan St.      2-1   63.0    1.05    1.01    +0.04
6.  Penn St.          2-2   62.7    1.08    1.12    -0.04
7.  Minnesota         1-3   61.5    1.03    1.09    -0.06
8.  Northwestern      1-3   68.0    1.06    1.16    -0.10
9.  Indiana           0-4   62.7    1.08    1.25    -0.17
10. Michigan          1-2   59.9    1.02    1.20    -0.18
11. Iowa              0-3   66.7    0.98    1.17    -0.19

AVG.                        63.7    1.09

Doesn't anyone play defense in America's heartland anymore? Well, Purdue sure does. Thus far the Boilermakers' Big Ten opponents have made just 42 percent of their twos, while Matt Painter's men have hauled down a ridiculous 77 percent of their conference foes' missed shots. But, wow, look at the D being played, or not, by teams 8 through 11. Maybe Big Ten athletic directors will start hiring Pac-10 types (see below) in an attempt to inject some good old-fashioned D-based values into this group of Midwestern hot-shots.

Pac-10: Is Oregon State being coached by a professional Craig Robinson impersonator?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Washington        4-0   69.5    1.18    0.95    +0.23
2.  Arizona           3-1   69.3    1.05    0.94    +0.11
3.  Stanford          2-1   64.2    1.01    0.91    +0.10
4.  USC               2-1   63.9    0.95    0.91    +0.04
5.  Washington St.    2-2   69.8    1.01    1.00    +0.01
6.  Cal               1-2   65.8    1.03    1.09    -0.06
7.  UCLA              1-2   68.1    0.95    1.02    -0.07
8.  Oregon St.        2-2   72.7    1.03    1.10    -0.07
9.  Arizona St.       1-3   62.7    0.88    1.02    -0.14
10. Oregon            0-4   69.3    0.87    1.07    -0.20

AVG.                        67.5    1.00

When I'm given the chance to ask President Obama any question I want, it will definitely be: "What in heaven's name is up with your brother-in-law?" I simply can't figure out Oregon State. No, I'm not talking about them beating Arizona. I'm talking about averaging 73 possessions per 40 minutes in Pac-10 play. Last year these same Beavers plodded along at 62 trips per conference game. Robinson hasn't just stepped on the gas, he's installed a jet engine.

Colonial: The official conference of tempo-free stats!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Hofstra           4-0   66.0    1.18    1.03    +0.15
2.  James Madison     3-1   68.0    1.18    1.03    +0.15
3.  George Mason      2-2   63.2    1.16    1.08    +0.08
4.  VCU               3-1   64.4    1.01    0.94    +0.07
5.  Old Dominion      3-1   56.5    1.04    0.98    +0.06
6.  Georgia St.       3-1   67.3    1.00    0.94    +0.06
7.  Drexel            2-2   63.1    0.98    0.95    +0.03
8.  Delaware          2-2   60.8    1.06    1.06     0.00
9.  William & Mary    0-4   59.9    1.01    1.11    -0.10
10. Northeastern      0-4   58.9    0.97    1.12    -0.15
11. UNC-Wilmington    2-2   61.3    0.96    1.13    -0.17
12. Towson            0-4   62.3    0.97    1.19    -0.23

AVG.                        62.6    1.04

Welcome, CAA, to the wonderful world of Tuesday Truths! Good to have you! You look really strange right now! UNC-Wilmington is the least threatening 2-2 team in the history of college basketball. As for surprising Hofstra, they'll have a chance to live up to these glittering numbers when they host preseason favorite Old Dominion this Saturday.

Horizon: It's Butler! It's Cleveland State! It's...Wright State?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wright St.        4-1   62.1    1.07    0.93    +0.14
2.  Detroit           4-1   67.7    1.13    1.01    +0.12
3.  Cleveland St.     4-2   66.3    1.09    0.98    +0.11
4.  Valparaiso        4-1   65.1    1.01    0.93    +0.08
5.  Butler            4-1   63.5    1.12    1.05    +0.07
6.  Milwaukee         3-3   64.4    1.02    1.06    -0.04
7.  Green Bay         2-3   66.2    1.02    1.06    -0.04
8.  Loyola            1-5   63.4    0.97    1.05    -0.08
9.  UIC               0-5   64.7    0.98    1.10    -0.12
10. Youngstown St.    1-5   67.3    0.95    1.15    -0.20

AVG.                        65.1    1.04

More precisely, it's...five teams right now. The top half of the Horizon's more or less undifferentiated, but the fun starts now as Detroit hosts Butler Friday night. Speaking of undifferentiated, feast your eyes on 6 and 7.

Missouri Valley: So far the third-best team's been the best team

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Wichita St.       4-1   67.8    1.10    0.86    +0.24
2.  Indiana St.       4-1   65.0    1.06    0.89    +0.17
3.  Missouri St.      5-0   61.9    1.07    0.93    +0.14
4.  Creighton         4-1   60.9    1.08    1.00    +0.08
5.  S. Illinois       3-2   61.4    0.99    1.01    -0.02
6.  N. Iowa           2-3   58.4    1.04    1.08    -0.04
7.  Drake             2-3   66.4    0.93    0.99    -0.06
8.  Bradley           0-5   66.6    0.98    1.13    -0.15
9.  Illinois St.      0-5   61.7    0.94    1.12    -0.18
10. Evansville        1-4   64.0    0.91    1.11    -0.20

AVG.                        63.4    1.01

This is where I get to point out that per-possession performance in conference play isn't everything. Missouri State and Wichita State met head-to-head in Wichita Sunday night and the Bears came away with the road win, 59-56. It's true that the Shockers did an exemplary job of thrashing Evansville, Bradley, Drake, and Illinois State, but Cuonzo Martin's MSU team is nevertheless in control of its own destiny until further notice.

WAC: Vandalized!

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Idaho             3-1   66.2    1.06    0.88    +0.18
2.  Utah St.          3-0   65.0    1.21    1.05    +0.16
3.  Boise St.         4-0   66.8    1.11    0.98    +0.13
4.  New Mexico St.    2-1   68.9    1.12    1.06    +0.06
5.  Fresno St.        3-1   67.8    1.05    1.00    +0.05
6.  Nevada            1-2   68.1    1.11    1.13    -0.02
7.  San Jose St.      0-4   68.8    0.97    1.07    -0.10
8.  Louisiana Tech    0-3   68.4    0.83    1.08    -0.25
9.  Hawaii            0-4   63.7    0.92    1.17    -0.25

AVG.                        66.7    1.04

Idaho lost at home by five to New Mexico State and then went out and absolutely pummeled the two weakest teams in the league, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii. Meanwhile Utah State is lurking. The Aggies beat Hawaii by just eight, but then again the only teams they've lost to are BYU and Georgetown (back when Georgetown was good). We shall see what we shall see.

John uses fewer decimal points on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 is now available on Amazon.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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