After a freshman season in which he quickly emerged as MSU’s second most effective offensive option, Raymar Morgan came into the 2007-08 season with high expectations. This blogger went so far as to predict he’d be a first-team all-Big Ten pick and declare him a candidate for conference player of the year. As it turned out, he was a second-team pick–and I was only willing to award him third-team status.
Let’s take a step back and see what the stats say about his performance this season. I’ve broken out the 2007-08 stats into the same four groups of games I used to look at Walton’s and Lucas’s production (although I’ve changed a few of the categories that are displayed).
If you look at just the changes in the season totals from last year to this one, Morgan’s production looks pretty good:
- 2-point shooting percentages increased by almost 9 percentage points.
- Scoring increased by over 2 points per game.
- Pulled down an extra rebound per game.
- Turnovers held steady.
The problem is that the averages don’t tell the full story. There were two related problems with Morgan’s statistical performance this season. First, his production decreased substantially as the season progressed.
- His average points per game dropped by over 50% from nocnonference play to postseason play. He became much less aggressive, as his FG attempts per game dropped by nearly 3 shots his FT attempts per game were chopped in half.
- His rebounding numbers, particularly on the offensive end, fell substantially as the season progressed.
- He did reduce his turnover numbers over the course of the season, but that was probably a function of his decreased aggressiveness on offense as much as it was better decision making.
Related to this problem, Morgan’s stats were inflated by big performances against weaker opposition, while he tended to struggle against better opponents, particularly away from home.
Morgan scored in double digits in 27 of MSU’s 36 games. Of the 9 exceptions, 8 were road/neutral-site games. And all of them were against conference or NCAA tournament opponents (Ohio State, @Minnesota, @Indiana, @Wisconsin, @Illinois, Ohio State in BTT, Wisconsin in BTT, Pittsburgh, Memphis).
Against weaker opponents, Morgan could use his size and athleticism to create good shots around the basket. Against more athletic opponents, Morgan struggled. His outside shot disappeared in the second half of the season, allowing defenders to sag off him a bit and prevent good scoring chances. This seemed to effect his overall confidence, leading to less aggressive rebounding and undisciplined defense (his average personal fouls per game increased from 2.2 in nonconference play to 3.6 in postseason play).
Michigan State had a record of 19-1 in games in which Morgan scored at least 13 points. In games in which he scored 12 points or fewer, their record was just 8-8. This is, of course, the cheesy kind of stat TV producers can put up on the screen for just about every basketball’s teams leading scorer. Naturally, top scorers score fewer points against better opposition.
But in this case, the results are pretty exaggerated and do reveal that Morgan is a key indicator of Michigan’s State success in any given game. In my game previews, I was almost always tempted to make him the key player of the game because he nearly always represented an offensive match-up advantage against opposing teams. Going into next season, he has to be more consistent against teams where the size/athleticism advantage is smaller and/or the opponent players better help defense. To make that happen, he needs to hit the mid-range jumpshot consistently to force defenders to guard him closely, opening up the ability to drive to the basket. His offensive production needs to become a cause, rather than a symptom, of MSU’s success as a team.
And he needs to keep his head up when the shots aren’t dropping. Morgan has the ability to make major contributions on the boards and on defense. He can’t allow his entire game to be negatively impacted on nights when he’s struggling offensively.
The expectations for Morgan will be even higher going into next season. He’ll be expected to be MSU’s leading scorer and will almost certainly be a preseason all-conference pick. He has the skills to be the best player in the league. If he plays with an attitude to match those skills, it will go along way toward a successful Spartan campaign.