(The asterisks make a fence. Clever, eh?)
As promised, here’s a (hopefully more concise) statistical look at the MSU defense. Let’s start with what things looked like last year. Whereas the MSU offense was pretty average in conference play–finishing 7th in the Big Ten by scoring 1.01 points per possession–the defense was a clear strength. They allowed just 0.95 points per possession, good for 4th in the conference and only 0.03 points per possession behind conference leader Illinois.
Breaking things down into the same three major categories we looked at on the offensive side (all stats based on conference play only):
- MSU wasn’t quite as good on the defensive boards as they were on the offensive boards, but they were good enough to finish 4th in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage. They pulled down 69.7% of available defensive rebounds.
- They were fairly average in terms of creating turnovers; their opponents gave up the ball on 20.4% of possessions.
- The strength of the defense was in holding opponents to a low shooting percentage. MSU was first in the conference in opponent’s “effective field goal percentage.”
Effective field goal percentage is comparable to regular field goal percentage, except it take account of the fact that–big quantitative shocker coming here–three-points are worth more than two-pointers! So, for example, shooting 40.0% on three-pointers is equivalent to shooting 60.0% on two-pointers:
If you make 4 out of 10 three-pointers, you score 12 points.
If you make 6 out of 10 two-pointers, you also score 12 points.
MSU’s Big Ten opponents put up an effective FG percentage of 44.6% last year, as compared to Penn State’s last-place figure of 58.3%.
This, along with defensive rebounding, is a trademark of a good Izzo defense. He wants his team playing solid, straight-up man-to-man defense (resorting to zone only when the bench is shallow). He doesn’t want his players gambling to create turnovers or block shots. He wants them to force a low-percentage shot and then secure the rebound.
So how are things going this year?
- Defensive rebounding percentage is down substantially at 62.8%. As asserted in the Oakland post below, this is a concern but is hopefully a function of (a) man-child Kevin Love, (b) the Grizzlie offensive rebounding menace, and (c) Mr. Gray only playing 6 minutes vs. Oakland.
- Opponents are not giving up the ball: opponent’s turnover percentage is down to 17.4%. MSU has recorded only 17 steals, compared to the 37 heists their opponents have pulled off.
- But MSU’s opponents are not shooting very well when they do hold on to the ball. Their effective FG percentage is a dismal 44.1% (dismal for the opponents, of course; bright and cheery for us).
As long as they continue to hold opponents to low shooting percentages, I think they’ll be pretty good defensively–particularly with the added depth that will allow them to put more pressure on the ball. When MSU has applied full-court pressure under Izzo in the past, the goal has been not so much to create turnovers, as to use up shot clock and wear out their opponents.
Defensive rebounding is clearly a concern, but maybe as much for offensive reasons as defensive reasons. Izzo wants to feature an up-tempo offensive attack this year with the added depth in the backcourt; solid defensive rebounding to start the fast break will be important if that’s going to happen.