When this blog first appeared, I promised “an occasional angst-filled rant about Dick Vitale and/or various sports columnists employed by the two major Detroit newspapers.” Well, Mr. Vitale has been cooped up for a bit (I have resisted the urge to put up a celebratory post on this topic). And the Detroit sports columnists have been much too wrapped up in that other major college sport where they play for something called a “Bowl Championship Series Championship.”
Well, Drew Sharp finally decided to grace us with his insights on Spartan basketball today. His major conclusion: Neitzel needs to shoot more. This is, of course, not a bad conclusion. I would note that a few other people have already reached this conclusion, including:
1) Tom Izzo, Head Basketball Coach, Michigan State University
2) Spartan Blogger, Editor-in-Chief, Spartans Weblog
So we’re not exactly talking about a fresh insight here.
Further, he proceeds to dramatically oversimplify the issues regarding the Spartan offense:
There are egos involved. Freshmen arrive today confident in their readiness to contribute immediately, but it’s counter-productive when integrating new players needlessly silences a pure shooter. That’s not getting the maximum out of the Spartans’ arsenal.
It’s up to Neitzel. He’s the leader. He must step up and assert his will because this is his last shot. If that means taking some shots away from others and potentially hurting a few feelings, then that’s the price for a championship.
Skiles didn’t care if teammates grew frustrated by the lack of shots they got.
1) Was Mr. Sharp concerned that super-confident freshman Kalin Lucas took three times as many shots as Neitzel in the Texas game? Seemed like the Spartans got “the maximum out of their arsenal” in that game.
2) It is really just a matter of Neitzel “asserting his will”? Most of his shots come off set plays and/or screens. If those opportunities aren’t there, should he demand the ball and take off-balance shots off the dribble?
3) How many Big Ten championships and Final Four appearances did MSU rack up during the Scott Skiles era?
My somewhat more nuanced take on Neitzel’s role in the MSU offense is this: In the short-term, MSU would benefit from running the offense through Neitzel more because Big Ten teams will force MSU into its half court offense more and Neitzel getting good 3-point looks is the most efficient option in that situation. But in the long term, pushing the ball on offense and developing a balanced scoring attack is key if MSU is going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament against opponents with equal talent and higher-paced playing tempos. This is a dilemna Izzo has to resolve. Neitzel certainly needs to shoot when the opportunities are there, but how many opportunities he gets is not something he controls to a high degree.
On the other hand, the whole “asserting your will” thing sounds a lot easier.