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Archive for June, 2008

The title of this post is my meager way of thanking Mr. Kaltz for supplying the nifty new banner at the top of the blog on a pro bono basis. Hopefully, some future employer/potential date/creepy stalker will Google his name and be suitably impressed by his graphical work.

Thanks a bunch, Zach. The Pantheon of great Spartan guards will now keep watch over this humble blog. (Also, note that it takes just one Spartan blog reader to do the work of a few dozen Wolverine fans!)

I’ve also installed a new theme, the main benefit of which is two sidebars. Hopefully, this will make accessing links and other features a little more convenient. And it allows me to put some ads at the top of the blog without feeling too guilty. Let me know if you find any quirks with the new theme or have any suggestions on additional features you’d like to see (recognizing that it took all the technical savvy I could muster to change the colors in the new theme to green, white, and gray).

I anticipate using the rest of this week to tinker with the site some more before heading out of town for the long holiday weekend. So I don’t think there will be any new content up until next week, when we’ll pick up again with more historical tempo-free stats.

Finally, with the spring recruiting season and the NBA draft now out of the way, blogging may be lighter for the next couple months before we gear up in September and October for the beginning of the 2008-09 basketball season–and maybe squeeze a little football talk in, too.

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Neitzel feeds himself to Wolves

Drew Neitzel will play for the Timberwolves’ summer league team next month in hopes of making the Minnesota roster.  I’m not up to speed on the nuances of the NBA contract system, but I assume the fact he hasn’t actually signed a free-agent contract with the team isn’t a positive sign for whether the Wolves have serious intentions of putting him on the roster.

There is a bit of hope for Neitzel in looking at Minnesota’s current roster, though.  Randy Foye is the only point guard currently under contract with the Wolves.  Sebastian Telfair, who started the majority of the games at point guard for Minnesota last season, is a free agent.  And O.J. Mayo, the #3 pick in the draft, could have played the point for the Wolves, but was almost immediately traded to Memphis in an eight-player deal that included Kevin Love.

The Minnesota Star Tribune says that point guard is the biggest question mark on the Timberwolves’ roster.  Presumably, that factored into the decision of Neitzel and his agent to set their sights on Minneapolis.

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Neitzel goes undrafted

For anyone who hasn’t taken the time to scour the draft list from last night, Drew Neitzel went undrafted.  As noted by Joe Rexrode (and previously asserted here), this may be for the best, as Neitzel will be able to find the best fit for an NBA team to try out for over the summer.

The only three Big Ten players drafted were all in the first round: Eric Gordon (#7 to the Clippers), Kosta Koufos (#23 to the Jazz), and D.J. White (#29 to the Pistons; traded to the Supersonics).

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Thursday Morning Links

Special Edition NBA Draft Day Graph

MSU players drafted during the Tom Izzo era:

  • 2000: Cleaves (1st round; 14th pick), Peterson (1; 21)
  • 2001: Richardson (1; 5), Randolph (1, 19), Hutson (2, 23)
  • 2002: Taylor (2; 23)
  • 2006: Brown (1; 25), Ager (1; 28), Davis (2, 4)

I had forgotten that Hutson was drafted.  Charlie Bell, of course, was not but has gone on to some success in the NBA.

Coffee talk question: Which current Spartans (if any) do you foresee being NBA draft picks?

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Most of our Big Ten blogging brethren are devoting all their attention to that sport with the oblong ball these days, but there have been a few interesting basketball-related posts:

Black Heart Gold Pants posted a nice rundown of Iowa’s basketball roster for next season.  My take after reading the post: Iowa will have players who are (1) less experienced but (2) a better fit for Lickliter’s system.

The Chris West Basketball Journal has taken a look at what’s become of the 2003 McDonald’s All-Americans five years down the road.  The exercise was conducted to see how Brian Butch has fared compared to his high school all-American colleagues (summary: worse than LeBron James, better than Ndudi Ebi).  Two Spartan recruits are on the list: Shannon Brown (whom Mr. West ranks 13th most successful out of 24 players) and Brandon Cotton (who was only briefly a Spartan and is still holding out hopes of playing in the NBA).  Interesting that a lot of guys in the bottom half of the list went pro early only to end up playing in Europe or the NBDL; would they have been better off if they didn’t enter college with the hype of being a McDonald’s All-American?

MGoBlog asks a question that we all want the answer to: “Why does Drew Sharp still have a job?

One final pre-draft Drew Neitzel link: He worked out for the Trail Blazers on Tuesday.  That’s at least five workouts for NBA teams, which seems like a decent number (I don’t normally follow this stuff very closely).  But I’d still guess his odds of getting drafted tomorrow night are less than 50%.

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A couple Drew Neitzel links

The NBA draft is Thursday night.  Based on this interview with NBA.com from last week, after working out for the Timberwolves, Drew Neitzel hopes to be drafted somewhere in the low 40s.  Minnesota has the 31st and 34rd picks, so maybe there’s a slight chance Neizel goes early in the second round–or the Wolves are thinking of trading down, I suppose.

NBA numbers guy John Hollinger has developed a system to predict NBA performance based on college stats and other quantiative indicators.  The system rates Neitzel in the “Better update that passport” category–but he is the highest rated player in that category, ranking ahead of Sean Singletary and Jamal Butler, among others.  As the ratings appear to be calculated separately for point guards, I wonder if the fact that Neiztel rarely played point guard last year hurt his rating.  Of course, his defensive limitations aren’t going to show up very distinctly in a quantitaive system, either.

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SI.com’s Luke Winn has a good piece up looking at the probable impacts of the longer three-point line next season. The line is being moved back a foot–from 19’9″ to 20’9″. I thought we’d take a moment to speculate on how the rule change is likely to impact our Spartans.

The simplest way to look at this rule change is that it will almost certainly reduce three-point shooting percentages by at least a half a point or so, all things being equal. Team that shoot a lot of three-pointers, therefore, will suffer. And teams that don’t shoot many three-pointers should benefit.

Under that line of thinking, Mr. Winn predicts the deeper line will hurt a number of mid-majors (Butler being a prime example) that rely heavily on three-point shooting for scoring. And he thinks North Carolina and UConn–two teams likely to be in the title hunt next year–shouldn’t be affected much, as they relied on three-pointers for the lowest percentage of their scoring among the 65 teams in the most recent NCAA Tournament.

Similarly, we should expect Michigan State to be OK, as they had the 4th lowest percentage of points scored from beyond the arc among the 65 tournament teams. You’ll recall that MSU ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in the percentage of field goal attempts taken from 3-point range. With the loss of Neitzel–and the addition of Roe’s inside scoring abilities–there’s no reason to think that percentage is going to increase substantially next season.

On the defensive end, Winn points to Basketball Prospectus’ seminal work on shooting percentages by shot distance, which concluded that the best defenses force a lot of mid-range two points attempts.* Winn uses the percentage of points given up by a defense from three-point range as a proxy for the ability to force tough shots. I’m not sure that’s a great measure, since it could be a function of a team giving up too many easy baskets inside. (Note: I used the graph in the BP piece to come up with my highly scientific “half a point or so” estimate for the likely reduction in three-point shooting percentage with the deeper line.)

MSU allowed quite a few three-point shots last season–ranking 250th in the nation in the percentage of field goal attempts taken by their opponents from three-point range (the assumption in the rankings is that allowing more three-point shots is bad). But they ranked 21st in the nation in holding opponents’ three-point shooters to a 31.2% shooting percentage. If the Spartans can continue to force their opponents to take a lot of low-quality shots from three-point range, the longer line could benefit them on defense.

(Note: All of the MSU statistics listed above are pretty consistent with their numbers from the last several seasons, reflecting some basic tendencies of Izzo’s offensive and defensive systems.)

Finally, Winn notes that the longer line may hurt teams with a high number of “marginal” three-point shooters on the roster. This does concern me a bit as far as MSU’s shooters go. Lucas, Morgan, and Summers are all guys who shoot the three on occasion, but are more comfortable taking mid-range shots. Taking another step back may have a larger impact on their shooting percentages than it would on purer long-distance shooters like Neitzel and Allen.

Here’s the wild card I don’t think anyone can predict at this point:

The key question for both of them [Duke and UCLA] this season will be whether the extra foot that their defenses extend on the perimeter opens up too many easy scoring chances in the paint.

If defenses feel obligated to guard outside shooters, even the marginal ones, closely behind the longer line, that could provide extra room for post players to maneuver inside the paint. This would be good for a team with a front line of Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, and Goran Suton.

On the other end of the court, playing Izzo’s man-to-man defense with an emphasis on help defense will require that much more hustle in getting back to cover outside shooters. Of course, this will also be true for teams that play a zone defense, with defenders required to cover a slightly larger area within the half-court area.

All in all, this is relatively minor rule change, and I don’t see the longer three-point line as a big area of concern for MSU. It will be interesting to see whether the extra foot creates any perceptible statistical changes across college basketball.

*Mini-rant: Luke Winn’s work is among the best in the realm of national college basketball writing. And he’s a heavy user of tempo-free stats. So I have no particular gripe with him.

But allow me to complain about this: While relying on Basketball Prospectus’ work to make one of his arguments, Winn’s article does not include a link to the BP piece. For as much some critics of the blogosphere cite the fact that bloggers ultimately rely on mainstream media sources for a lot of their material, you’d think Sports Illustrated could take the time to link to the Basketball Prospectus piece (which I still think of as being fairly bloglike) to allow SI.com’s readers to easily access it.

OK, mini-rant over.

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