A few random notes:
- Still time to enter our somewhat unconventional NCAA bracket contest.
- Izzo gets his first 2009 commitment: 6’10” Garrick Sherman from Kenton, Ohio. He chose MSU over Purdue and Notre Dame.
- Future Spartan Draymond Green’s Saginaw team took home its second consecutive Class A state title this past weekend. Green had 21 points and 19 rebounds.
- Former Izzo assistant Stan Joplin has been fired at Toledo. Somewhat surprising as he was the MAC coach of the year last season.
Before we take a statistical look at MSU’s first game of the NCAA Tournament, I think we need to go back and look at the loss to Wisconsin in the BTT one more time. None of us wants to do this, I know, but I think it may help us gain some emotional closure. Here are a couple links to help us along:
Bill James shares his formula for determining when a college basketball game is officially out of reach. (As baseball statistics were my first love, I’m pleased to be able to provide a link to a Bill James article here.) Here it is:
- Take the number of points one team is ahead.
- Subtract three.
- Add a half-point if the team that is ahead has the ball, and subtract a half-point if the other team has the ball. (Numbers less than zero become zero.)
- Square that.
- If the result is greater than the number of seconds left in the game, the lead is safe.
That’s fairly complicated, so he’s posted a calculator to figure it out for you. For a lead that isn’t “safe,” the calculator tells you how safe it is–what percentage of the way the team that’s leading is to locking up the game.
Applying this to the Wisconsin game, MSU led 53-41 with 8:15 left and Wisconsin in possession of the ball. James’ calculator says MSU’s lead was only 15% safe at that point. That number seems kind of low, but keep in mind that 100% means there’s absolutely zero chance the other team can come back–even under the most miraculous of circumstances.
Anyway, this just means that MSU’s collapse was bad, but not monumental.
Kalin Lucas is putting the blame on himself for the collapse–or at least not converting shots once the collapse had happened:
First, with the score tied, he started to drive and then tried to make a pass out to the perimeter to Neitzel. The turnover directly led to the Badgers’ winning basket.
“It was a bad decision on my part,” Lucas said. “I kept attacking (his defender) so when I tried to attack him again I thought he was going to (overplay) me and I was going to have Drew (open).”
On the next possession, with about 10 seconds left and MSU now trailing by two, Lucas got into the lane again only to miss an off-balance shot
“I left my feet,” Lucas explained. “I was going to try to pass it to Chris (Allen). His man went back to him. I got caught in the air.”
I appreciate Lucas’ drive to win. It’s a good sign that this is the Spartan player who will have the ball in his hands in clutch situations for the next three years. But I do think he’s being too hard on himself. As I noted in my recap of the game, Lucas had been forced to create shots late in the shot lock 3 or 4 minutes earlier than he should have been because MSU stopped pushing the ball on offense to try to protect the lead.
From the point of MSU’s lead getting shrunk to 58-57, Lucas scored MSU’s next 5 points (their final 5 points) on three consecutive possesions. He then missed a jumper and had the two turnovers described above. You simply can’t expect any point guard, let alone a freshman, to convert on six consecutive possessions against one of the elite defensive teams in the country.
The blame for the loss needs to be spread around to Izzo, the other players, and the refs (not necessarily in that order). Izzo obviously realizes this, saying, “You can’t fake that passion usually. He took almost sole blame. For a freshman, that is an oddity. It wasn’t, of course, his fault.”
There, does that feel better? No? Not for me either. No way around it, this was a stomach punch loss (or at least a monkey wrench game).
OK, let’s move on to the Temple game preview.
12:30 p.m., Thursday. Pepsi Center, Denver. CBS (Gus Johnson and Len Elmore).
I’ll let a couple outside resources do some of the basic preview stuff for me.
Temple finished 21-12 overall and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Owls finished second in the Atlantic 10 regular-season standings with an 11-5 record. As the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Temple defeated LaSalle in the quarterfinals, Charlotte in the semifinals and Saint Joseph’s in the championship. It marked the seventh Atlantic 10 Tournament title in Temple’s history. The Owls enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-game winning streak.
Temple is 3-4 vs. teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Owls defeated Xavier, took two of three from Saint Joseph’s, and also fell to Tennessee, Villanova and Duke.
When the South Regional No. 5-seed Spartans (25-8) take on the 12-seed Owls (21-12) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Denver, they’ll see a Temple team that likes to run, shoots 3-pointers in bunches and plays mostly man-to-man defense.
Chaney always seemed to have big, bruising players. Dunphy has two players above 6-foot-9 in his eight-man playing group; the rest are perimeter guys, and the Owls often go small with four guards and one true post player.
Rexrode notes that former Izzo assistant Brian Gregory, now head coach at A-10 school Dayton is helping with the scouting. Pays to have a big coaching tree, as Izzo does.
Temple’s tempo-free statistical profile indicates their strength lies on offense. They rank 43rd in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, compared to a ranking of 97th in adjusted defensive efficiency.
On offense, they exhibit some classic signs of being a perimeter oriented team:
- They don’t turn the ball over much (TO% of 18.7%, 52nd in the nation).
- They shoot a lot of threes (3PA/FGA of 39.4%, 59th in the nation).
- They make a pretty good % of their three-point attempts (37.2%, 82nd in the nation). But they actually shoot better inside the arc (53.6%, 18th in the nation). They also shoot well from the line (74.1%, 35th in the nation).
- They don’t get many offensive rebounds (off reb% of 28.4%, 299th in the nation).
Seven of their eight core players shoot better than 50% on 2-pointers. And only two of those players are taller than 6’5″. 7-foot junior Sergio Olmos leads the way at 58.4%.
But a relatively high percentage of Temple’s shots come from outside the arc. Leading the way in 3-point attempts is Temple’s leading scorer, 6’5″ junior Dionte Christmas (20.2 pts/game). He averaged 8.3 three-point attempts per game for the season and made 38.0% of those attempts.
The Owls’ second leading scorer is 6’5″ senior Mark Tyndale (15.9 pts/game). Tyndale’s statistics paint the picture of a pretty versatile player. He leads the team in assists (4.3 game), rebounds (7.2/game), free throw attempts (6.3/game), and steals (1.6/game). Izzo refers to him as a “point forward.” I’d expect to see Walton, with his combination of quickness and strength, matched up against Tyndale most of the game.
On defense, their statistical profile isn’t quite as indicative of a perimeter-oriented team:
- They don’t force many turnovers (def TO% of 19.1%, 274th in the nation).
- They allow their opponents to shoot a lot of 3-pointers (3PA/FGA of 37.5%, 263rd in the nation).
- Their opponents make a pretty good percentage of 3-point attempts (35.9%, 220th in the nation)–but don’t shoot as well on 2-pointers (46.2%, 82nd in the nation), despite Temple’s lack of size.
- The Owls are slightly better on the defensive glass than the offensive glass (opponent’s off reb% of 32.3%, 138th in the nation).
The second and third bullets above don’t process with the profile of a guard-oriented team that plays man-to-man defense. You’d think such a team would be vulnerable to bigger players scoring inside.
(Related link: Yet Another Basketball Blog backs up their upset special pick in this game with the following:
You need to make shots from the perimeter to beat Temple, and Michigan St. doesn’t have any reliable three point shooters outside of Neitzel.
In situations that have called for it (against zones), though, Lucas and Allen have also shown they can keep defenses honest from 3-point range.)
It will be interesting to see how the Temple defense operates. Based on the low defensive TO%, it doesn’t appear they play a particularly aggressive man-to-man. It may be more like Izzo’s brand of man-to-man: hold your ground and force a tough shot. Hopefully, this allows MSU to get into its offensive sets.
It’s hard to offer up keys to a game against a team you haven’t seen play at all, but what’s that to stop this intrepid blogger?
On defense, I’ll say the key is to play active defense all game long to stay out on their three-point shooters. Hitting a lot of three-pointers is the most common way for an underdog to win in the NCAA Tournament. And Temple is a team that likes to shoot the three.
On offense, the temptation is to say Morgan needs to take advantage of the size mismatch he should have for the entire game. But I’m afraid we’re past the point we can count on Morgan to be a key part of the offense in any given game; anything he brings needs to be gravy.
Instead, I’ll go with offensive rebounding. While MSU’s work on the offensive boards suffered a bit in Big Ten play, it’s still the shining jewel of their tempo-free profile. They rank 7th in the nation with an offensive rebounding % of 39.8%. Coming off the emotional loss to Wisconsin, it make take MSU some time to find their offensive rhythm. Getting some second chance points early in the game could help keep Temple out of striking distance for the upset.
Kenpom predicts a 71-63 MSU win, giving the Spartans a 79% chance of advancing to play the Pitt-Oral Roberts winner. In a 5-12 game, the goal is just to survive. Don’t let Temple get hot from the outside and make sure you use your size advantage to give yourself a margin for error on offense.
Let the madness begin–as long as the madness doesn’t interfere with our plans for a lengthy tournament run.