With all the recruiting talk and football-related ranting around here, we’ve got a serious case of mission creep. Time to get back to what this blog has been known for over its long, storied, five-month existence: statistical analysis. Previously, we had been taking a look back at each Spartan player’s statistical performance over the 2007-08 season. The two regular contributors we hadn’t gotten to were Chris Allen and Durrell Summers.
Because their minutes were more limited, I’ve broken the stats out for these two freshmen into just two periods: the nonconference season and the conference season/postseason. We’ll start with Summers:
Summers got quite a bit of playing time in the nonconference season–just under 15 minutes per game–and used that time efficiently. He shot a high percentage from 2-point range, 3-point range, and the free throw line. And he rebounded the ball extremely well for a perimeter player. 3.8 rebounds in 14.4 minutes/game equates to 7.6 rebounds for a player playing close to 29 minutes/game.
Summers played at least 10 minutes in all but one of the 13 nonconference games and scored in double digits in five of those games–including 11 points vs. UCLA on 2-2 FG shooting and 7-7 FT shooting.
Both his minutes and production fell off quite a bit in conference and postseason play. He played 10 minutes or more in just 8 of those 23 games and scored in double digits just once–15 points vs. Purdue in MSU second conference game (a game Allen missed due to injury). His 2-point and FT shooting percentages dropped substantially and his rebounding numbers fell even more than his minutes played.
The obvious explanation is the tempo of games: Summers is an athlete who excels in open-court situations. There were a lot more of those in the nonconference season than in the conference season. To contribute next season, Summers will need to become more productive in the half-court offense. The goods news is that he has shown the ability to shoot from the outside, so that may not be a big leap. And he has the potential to be the next among a line of Spartan guards who can rebound (Bell, Thomas, Torbert).
Allen’s stats were more consistent across the season. He averaged about 14 minutes per game in the 32 games he played (he missed 4 games due to an injury in December and early January). He took about two fewer shots per game in conference/postseason play than he did during nonconference play, but his scoring average only dropped by 0.9 points/game due to a 10-point increase in his 3-point shooting %.
Allen provided an edge for MSU in a number of conference games vs. teams that employed zone defenses, giving the Spartans another 3-point option to complement Neitzel. He hit two or more 3-pointers in conference games against Ohio State (twice), Northwestern, Indiana (twice), and Penn State–all of whom used the zone defense for a significant amount of the time vs. MSU. Allow me to take a moment to pat myself on the back for boldly predicting this on January 18:
Summary: I think Summers’ and Allen’s opportunities for minutes are going to get squeezed, particularly against tougher opponents. Izzo will have to decide if Summers deserves more minutes due to his production–with the potential payoff being playing him and Morgan together in smaller lineups come NCAA tournament time. Alternately, I can see him shifting the minutes toward Allen in the hopes he’ll adjust his three-point stroke to the college level to give the offense more ability to adjust to zone defenses.
What? You don’t think a sentence beginning with the phrase “Alternately, I can see . . .” qualifies as a bold prediction? Anyway, Izzo gave Allen 10+ minutes in all but two of MSU’s 21 games after Allen returned from injury.
Going into next season, Allen becomes MSU’s #1 three-point shooting threat. Allen will need to be a consistent outside shooting threat to keep defenses honest against Lucas, Morgan, and Suton. And he’s shown flashes of the ability to create mid-range looks when teams play him too closely outside the 3-point arc.
One positive statistical note is that Allen seemed to excel when given more minutes on the court to get into a shooting rhythm. In the five games he played 20 or more minutes (two of which were in the NCAA tournament), he averaged 13.8 points. Of course, part of the reason he played more minutes in those games was that he was scoring well. But, at minimum, he’s shown the potential to be a 15 point/game scorer as a starter. I’d go so far as to give him a decent shot at being MSU’s leading scorer next season.
Drew Neitzel’s graduation frees up 32 minutes per game of playing time. The lion’s share of those minutes will fall to Allen and Summers. I griped quite a bit this year about the multiple-point-guard lineups we kept running out on the court. There should be a lot less of that next year. Allen, Summers, and Morgan will fill the two wing slots in more traditional Izzo lineups. Allen and Summers will need to quickly transition from being spare parts as freshman to being productive core players as sophomores.