Following last night’s win, MSU now stands at 7-0 at home in conference play vs. just 2-4 on the road. That’s a 4.5 game difference in home and away performance. The next biggest spread in home-vs.-away records is Ohio State’s at just 2.5 games (5-1 at home; 3-4 on the road).
And this is actually an improvement from last season, when MSU went 7-1 at home and 1-7 on the road. In the 2005-06 season, the split was only slightly less extreme: 6-2 at home, 2-6 on the road.
So what explains the Spartans’ dual personalities inside and away from the Breslin Center? Let’s check out the tempo-free stats. The table below shows MSU’s averages for the major tempo-free indicators in home and away games, looking at conference games only.
|MSU 2008 Conference-Only Tempo-Free Stats|
|Home Avg||Away Avg||Difference|
|Offensive FT Rate||39.8||33.8||6.0|
|Opponent’s Eff FG%||42.5||50.0||(7.5)|
|Opponent’s Off Reb%||26.6||30.9||(4.2)|
|Opponent’s FT Rate||27.3||45.8||(18.5)|
The Spartans have been substantially better on both ends of the floor when playing at home–but the difference in efficiency is actually larger on the defensive end than on the offensive end: 14.9 points per 100 possessions vs. 11.3 points per 100 possessions. And if you remove the two outlier games this season (Iowa on the road and Penn State at home), their offensive efficiency is actually equalized between home and away games.
This is somewhat odd given the focus on turnovers as MSU’s major problem this season. While MSU has turned the ball over slightly less at home than on the road, 21.4% vs. 25.7%, they haven’t exactly been models of efficient ball-handling at the Breslin Center. They’ve turned it over on more than 22% of their possessions in 4 of 7 home games (vs. 5 of 6 road games).
Their shooting is only slightly better at home than on the rood, while they’ve had more success getting offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line when playing in East Lansing. In terms of overall offensive efficiency, they’ve scored over 1.0 points per possession in 5 of 7 home games. They’ve managed to do the same in 3 of 6 road games. So they’ve been better on offense on the road–but not consistently better.
On the defensive end, the differences are more distinct. They’ve held 6 of 7 opponents below 1.0 points per possession at home, while managing that feat in just 2 of 6 road games. And removing the two outliers from the defensive comparison (Illinois at home and Penn State on the road) still leaves a sizable gap between average home and road defensive efficiency.
The major contributor to MSU’s defensive prowess at home is forcing tough shots. They’ve held all 7 home opponents to an effective FG% under 50%. They’ve done this against only 2 of 6 road opponents.
There’s almost no difference in MSU’s ability to create turnovers home and away, they’ve rebounded just slightly better on the defensive end at home, and the Penn State and Iowa losses have driven up their opponent’s average free throw rate on the road.
So maybe there is something to be said for this team needing more “toughness”–at least in conference road games. The Spartans seem to buckle down on the defensive end and force their opponents to work harder for good shots when playing in front of the boisterous Izzone faithful. If they could translate that ability to some road games, it could have the added benefit of fueling more offensive transition opportunities off defensive rebounds.
For reference, here are the same home-vs.-away splits for last season:
|MSU 2007 Conference-Only Tempo-Free Stats|
|Home Avg||Away Avg||Difference|
|Offensive FT Rate||49.0||31.4||17.6|
|Opponent’s Eff FG%||41.5||47.6||(6.1)|
|Opponent’s Off Reb%||31.7||29.7||1.9|
|Opponent’s FT Rate||36.9||48.8||(11.9)|
MSU was also significantly better at forcing tough shots by their opponents at home last season. There were, however, also larger differences in offensive rebounding and creating turnovers. I’d also note there were similar outliers in terms of offensive efficiency last season: a home win against Iowa (81-49) and road loss against Purdue (62-38).
The road games against Illinois and Ohio State to close the regular season will be illuminating. Can MSU play well defensively in two hostile arenas against two pretty average offenses? If they can, it will provide some hope they can step up on defense in pressure-packed conference and NCAA tournament games.
Reader Feedback Thursday
Rob Parker tries to throw some cold water on our mini-buzz after last night’s win. He points to (1) MSU’s struggles on the road the last three years, (2) the turnover problems, and (3) the improved coaching around the Big Ten in recent years. He implies, but never directly says, that Izzo may be past his prime relative to the rest of his conference.
So here’s this week’s reader feedback questions: Which Big Ten coaches, if any, do you think are on par with or better than Izzo? Which program threaten’s MSU’s place as the most nationally-respected program in the Big Ten over the next five years?
To spark some discussion, here’s my own view on how the current batch of Big Ten coaches rank in terms of expected conference and NCAA tournament performance over the next 5 years. I’ve excluded Izzo and soon-to-be-not-in-Bloomington Kelvin Sampson. Numbers 4 through 7 are the toughest to rank–a potentially-fading Weber and the three new guys.
|1. Matta: Best combination of recruiting and coaching; steady rise since taking over in Columbus
|2. Ryan: Track record of conference success; can he get the talent to get to final fours?|
|3. Painter: Conference title favorite relying almost entirely on freshman/sophomores; future is bright
|4. Smith: National title on resume; getting the most out of little talent this year|
|5. Weber: Program fading since 2005 title game appearance with Self’s players, but good recruiting base
|6. Beilein: System will work eventually; question is getting enough talent to win big|
|7. Lickliter: Could be higher, arguably; offensive/defensive systems fit Midwest tradition|
|8. DeChellis: Nothing to indicate program is on rise through first five seasons in State College
|9. Carmody: Probably not in Evanston much longer|
It’s an impressive list. There are solid reasons to think the first seven guys on the list could all be positioned for success down the road. Plus Izzo’s not going away. And IU will certainly get a highly-qualified coach to succeed Sampson. Only Penn State and Northwestern fans have reason to be pessimistic about the futures of their programs.
I’d put Izzo no lower than 2nd on this list. Have at it . . .