First, a few links:
Izzo may start Lucas, Neitzel, Morgan, Gray, and Naymick tonight. This would be work for me. As expressed in the last game recap, Lucas needs to be on the floor from the outset of games. Could get Suton more minutes with White off the floor to grab a few offensive rebounds.
Stat from previous link: “Neitzel and Gordon are having the exact same season from 3-point range. Both are 60 of 150 (40 percent).”
Kalin Lucas does not lack for confidence:
Ask Kalin Lucas who the best freshman guard in the Big Ten is this season, and he answers without hesitation just as anyone who has paid even the least amount of attention to the league most certainly would.
But just as your inner ear sets up for the standard — and anticipated all-too modest answer — the flashy Michigan State point guard doesn’t say “Indiana’s Eric Gordon.”
Instead, Lucas requested and got clarification.
“Including me?” he said. “OK, then.
Luke Winn drops the Spartans from his power 16. His entry on Wisconsin confirms a perpetual truth about the Badgers: they always make the big 3-pointer when they need it. Funny bit on the Wisconsin-IU game:
Brian Butch banks in a trey with five seconds left for a 68-66 win, ending a horrible day for the Hoosiers that began with the NCAA alleging major violations against Kelvin Sampson. In the locker room afterward, coach Bo Ryan told Butch that his three had been waved off “because he didn’t call it and that we lost and the game was over.” Said Ryan, “There was silence for two seconds and then somebody yelled ‘let’s get on the plane.’ And that was it.”
Seth Davis thinks IU will play like their season depends on it and win by 6 tonight.
On to the Tempo-Free Stats
With all the angst we’ve experience lately about our team’s performance in conference play this year, I thought we should step back and answer a big-picture question: Is this team at least better than last year’s team was in Big Ten play?
Through 11 conference games last season, MSU stood at 5-6. They won 3 of their last 5 to finish at 8-8 in conference play.
With the exception of Maurice Joseph, all of the scholarship players from last season are back this year. The major changes in playing time are the addition of Lucas’ 20-25 minutes per game and the replacement of Joseph’s and Dahlman’s 10-15 minutes each with roughly the same amount of playing time by Allen and Summers.
Here’s a comparison of this season’s conference-only team tempo-free stats with last season’s stats:
2007: 60.8 (#8 in conference)
2008: 64.8 (#3)
MSU’s playing at a faster tempo this season, as is the entire conference. Last year, Purdue let the conference in pace at 64.0. This year, 6 of the 11 Big Ten teams are at or above that pace.
Offensive Points per Possession
2007: 1.01 (#7)
2008: 1.02 (#5)
Despite the addition of Lucas, there’s been only a minimal increase in overall offensive production.
Defensive Points per Possession
2007: 0.95 (#4)
2008: 0.95 (#4)
Defensive efficiency is exactly the same as last season.
2007: +0.06 (#4)
2008: +0.075 (#5)
We’ve dropped one spot in efficiency margin–the difference between offensive points per possession and defensive points per possession. This stat is the best measure of overall team performance.
2007: 51.9 (#2)
2008: 51.3 (#3)
Slight drop here, largely as a result of 3-point shooting.
2007: 34.1 (#5)
2008: 32.2 (#10)
Neitzel’s % has dropped from 40.5 to 34.7 in conference play. Lucas and Allen are shooting decently: 36.8 and 36.0, respectively. Morgan’s 1-11 pulls the team stat down to 32.2.
Free Throw %
2007: 71.9 (#5)
2008: 69.0 (#4)
Morgan’s % dropped from 68.8 to 59.0. Neitzel’s only getting to the line 2.0 times per game–vs. 4.3 times per game last season–so his 86.4 FT% hasn’t helped as much.
2007: 26.0 (#11)
2008: 24.4 (#10)
Hard to believe they’ve actually improved slightly in this category
2007: 38.9 (#1)
2008: 36.8 (#1)
Still leading the conference, but a slight percentage drop.
2007: 44.6 (#1)
2008: 45.2 (#2)
Still doing a good job forcing tough shots . . .
2007: 29.7 (#2)
2008: 31.6 (#2)
. . . including shots from beyond the arc.
Free Throw %
2007: 70.2 (#6)
2008: 64.6 (#2)
We’ve been luckier this season, with our opponents missing 6 percent more of their free throw attempts.
2007: 20.4 (#6)
2008: 18.2 (#9)
Our opponents are giving up the ball less often.
2007: 69.7 (#4)
2008: 70.2 (#4)
The defensive rebounding still isn’t as good as the offensive rebounding.
1. On defense, MSU has managed to maintain a solid efficiency level despite phasing in the three freshman. The biggest area for improvement is creating more turnovers.
2. On offense, MSU has managed only a marginal increase in efficiency, despite adding a talented creator at point guard and a pure shooter in Chris Allen. The areas needing improvement are (1) holding on the ball and (2) making more shots from 3-point range.
3. The fairly stagnant statistical levels from last season to this season are particularly sobering when you realize:
- MSU played a very difficult schedule last season. They played the three worst teams in the conference (NW, Minn, Penn St) only once each.
- The 11 games MSU has played to date this season have been much easier than their final 7 will be. They have played only 3 games against the other 4 top-tier teams in the league, and 2 of those were home games. Four games against top-tier conference foes remain, 3 of them on the road (starting tonight).
If we could adjust for scheduling differences between the two seasons, my guess is a lot of the stats above would actually show significant declines from last season.
The lineup changes for tonight will be largely symbolic; the number of minutes players spend on the floor probably won’t shift more than 5 minutes either way. But maybe, just maybe, the change will spark the team to play with more confidence from the opening tip-off, take full advantage of their depth, and play to their potential against a good conference foe.