Michigan State plummets from 10/9 in the AP/coaches’ polls to 19/17. Their national ranking among Big Ten teams is now consistent with their place in the conference standings: 4th. Wisconsin is 11/10. Purdue and Indiana are 14th and 15th–Purdue higher in the AP poll, Indiana higher in the coaches’ poll.
Oddly, the Sagarin rankings have not been updated to account for the weekend’s games. MSU was 16th through Friday’s games (i.e., before the loss to IU).
The Kenpom ratings have MSU all the way down to 25th (down from 19th a week ago). This reflects that they not only lost two road games against quality opponents this week, they lost badly.
Kyle Whelliston’s Basketball State ratings still has MSU at #10. I think this is a function of those ratings putting a premium on defending your home court, where MSU is still undefeated this season.
MSU has finally fallen a bit in the RPI (courtesy of StatSheet.com), but remains at a respectable #14. Hopefully, the NCAA tournament committee puts an emphasis on RPI in determining seeds this season.
Speaking of which, since we’re less than a month from Selection Sunday, here are a couple of projections of MSU’s tournament seed:
Stewart Mandel has the Spartans as a #5 seed in the Detroit Regional. This would be fantastic–except that I’m pretty sure the odds are zero MSU will be allowed to play in Detroit unless they make a run to earn at least a #3 seed.
. . . except that Joe Lunardi has MSU in the Detroit Regional, too, as a #6 seed. So maybe this is a theoretical possibility. Of course, as a#5/6 seed, the road to get through the first two rounds in order to play at Ford Field would be significantly tougher than it would be as a #1/2 seed.
Lunardi still has five Big Ten teams in the dance, but has dropped Ohio State down to a #10 seed following yesterday’s loss in Ann Arbor. (Note that the win by Maize and Blue was enough to briefly interrupt the football recruiting recap blitz and ongoing Terrelle Prior watch at MGoBlog.)
Assorted Spartan-Related Links
Speaking of Brian at MGoBlog, he offers up a fairly skeptical take on recent reports a BTN-Comcast deal is imminent on his AOL blog.
Dave Dye discusses the plethora of problems haunting MSU these days: Morgan’s slump, a lack of focus, and an inability to win on the road.
TAFKATBTW concurs with the a-lack-of-toughness-can’t-explain-everything line of thinking with regard to MSU’s turnover problem.
D.J. White is “iffy” to play tomorrow night against Purdue (7:00, ESPN) due to the sprained knee he suffered against MSU. It’s a shame those two teams won’t be able to square off at full strength.
Depressing Internet fact of the day: The Spartans Weblog is the third website listed when you do a Google search for “unforced turnovers.”
Thoughts on the Week Ahead
MSU has home games against the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes on the slate this week. Those two teams, of course, represent the two great black marks on MSU’s record this season. Nevertheless, playing them at home, MSU should win both games comfortably. Kenpom predicts wins by 12 and 11 points, respectively. MSU certainly won’t be taking them too lightly this time around.
Thinking back about the IU loss, here’s the one theme that strikes me: After the first 10 minutes, MSU looked like it simply forgot how to play basketball. Witness:
- Raymar Morgan’s complete lack of confidence in his outside shot.
- MSU guards passing the ball around the perimeter with no obvious purpose.
- The IU guards realizing this and picking off multiple simple passes between MSU guards 35 feet from the basket.
- The complete inability to create scoring opportunities near the basket.
Here’s my arrogant-know-it-all-blogger advice for this week: Just play basketball. Tell the players to attack the basket, either with the dribble or the pass, and see what happens. Obviously, you’re not going to abandon set plays entirely. But don’t try to beat Penn State and Iowa merely by taking advantage of their schematic weaknesses. See if your players can make plays.
This is a talented group of players. We have three Big Ten-quality starting point guards–including the best creator off the dribble we’ve had since Mateen Cleaves. We have a physically gifted forward who can exploit match-up problems with his size and quickness against almost any team. We have a big man who can rebound, pass the ball, and score in the post when he gets the ball consistently. We have two gifted three-point shooters. Give them some freedom and see what happens. Can it be worse than what we’ve seen to date?
What is confounding Izzo is that the turnovers are of every type imaginable, from traveling, to illegal screens, to stepping on the boundary line, to bad passes, to simply having the ball taken away.
“How would you devise a drill to stop that?” he said, noting that the number of illegal screens set by MSU have actually dropped dramatically since he made them a coaching point earlier in the season.
The thing is that not everything can be solved through a drill. At some point, it’s about just playing the game based on athletic ability and intuitive decision making. My opinion is that Izzo needs to not get so worked up about turnovers where someone’s trying to make a play to create a basket: lob passes that go over a player’s head, offensive charges, etc. At least there’s a potential payoff on those plays. It’s the turnovers that serve no purpose whatsoever that are the most costly. And those generally result from players NOT trying to make plays toward the basket. We need less passes around the perimeter with no purpose. We need more players using their natural abilities to attack the basket.
In the last game recap, I said I was “out of answers.” But what’s the point of having a blog if you don’t have answers, right? So there’s mine: Just let ’em play.