Good news for those of us that will be driving down to the MSU-UNC game at Ford Field after work on Wednesday, December 3: The start time is 9:15, so we’ll have extra time to get down there. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. The other top-notch match-up is Duke-Purdue. That game will be played at 9:00 on Tuesday and also shown ESPN.
The Timberwolves summer league team played it second game last night. They lost to the Lakers, 95-93. I watched this game off and on at NBA.com–mostly the parts when Neitzel was in the game. He finished with 4 points on 2-3 shooting; zero assists, zero turnovers; 13 minutes played. His role on offense basically consisted of (1) bringing the ball up the floor, (2) passing off to a teammate, and (3) never getting the ball back. Hard to tell whether he’s been told to run the point like that or it’s a funcion of not being able to create. Both his FG makes were long 2-pointers. Pooh Jeter had a good game, scoring 15 points and adding 3 assists. Kevin Love put up 18 points and 17 rebounds–a man among boys.
There’s not a lot of passing in these games (just 22 assists on 66 FG makes for the two teams combined last night), so I’m not sure this is the best setting for Neitzel to make an impression. And his defense looks about the same–drifts off his man to help on the perimeter a bit too much and taller players can shoot over him.
Morris Peterson is running a youth basketball camp in Flint. Jason Richardson is holding a forum on “bridging the gap between fathers and sons” in Saginaw. And he played some golf yesterday to raise money for the United Way. Good to see former Spartans giving back in their local areas.
The Title Question
Turnovers have been a sore spot the last two seasons for MSU. For over a season and a half, they inexplicably turned the ball over on roughly 25% of their possessions on an ongoing basis. They finally got the problem under control at the end of this past season, turning it over on less than 20% of their possessions in 9 of their final 11 games.
Picking back up on our series looking at MSU’s historical statistical tendencies under Tom Izzo, I thought we’d look at offensive turnover percentage next to see if this has been an issue with earlier Izzo teams. Here’s a graph of MSU’s year-by-year team turnover percentage for the last 12 years, courtesy of statsheet.com:
(Note: For some reason, I can’t get the Flash version of this graph to work. And the labels at the bottom of the image file embedded above are shifted one year to the left.)
(Update: The Flash version is working now.)
For the most part, turnovers have not been a big problem for Izzo teams. On only three occasions has MSU ranked in the bottom 100 nationally in offensive turnover percentage:
- 1996-97: Turnover percentage of 23.4. Freshman season for Cleaves, Peterson, Thomas, and Granger. Cleaves turned it over 4.0 times per game. Thomas Kelley turned it over 2.0 times per game, even though he played only 20 minutes per game and averaged only 2.1 assists per game.
- 2001-02: Turnover percentage of 23.0. Freshman season for Hill, Tobert, and Anderson. Marcus Taylor was the point guard. Six guys turned it over 1.6 or more times per game: Taylor, Anderson, Anagonye, Wolfe, Hill, Torbert.
- 2006-07: Turnover percentage of 24.1. Freshman season for Morgan and Dahlman. Travis Walton was the point guard. Four guys turned it over 2.3 or more times per game: Suton, Morgan, Walton, and Neitzel. Using the Kenpom method of calculating individual turnover percentage, Neitzel and Maurice Joseph were the only guys with percentages under 20.
(Note the five-year intervals between the three seasons. Clearly, we’re OK until 2011-12.)
So the first two bad seasons were the freshman years of the first two major batches of perimeter players to come in under Izzo. As those players developed, the team’s turnover percentage tended to decline over the 3-4 years following each of those peaks.
The atrocious turnover numbers of the 2006-07 season remain hard to explain. Not surprisingly, all three of the high-turnover seasons above were bad-depth years.
On the flip side, Michigan State has never been an elite team in terms of taking care of the ball under Izzo. There were only two years in which the team ranked in the top 100 nationally in turnover percentage:
- 2000-01: Turnover percentage of 20.3. Marcus Taylor (as a freshman) and Charlie Bell (as a senior) split time at point guard. They were the only two players to average more than 1.6 turnovers per game.
- 2004-05: Turnover percentage of 20.0. Chris Hill (as a senior) and Drew Neitzel (as a freshman) split time at point guard. No player averaged more than 2.0 turnovers per game (Paul Davis averaged 2.0).
Both season were good, but not great, depth years. And both were years when the team had two legitimate point guards, which was rare for the first ten years of the Izzo era. Of course, a big part of the mystery of the team’s turnover problems the past two seasons is that they’ve had at least two starter-quality point guards each season (three this past season). Also, note that both teams had good senior ball-handlers playing in the paint (Hutson in 2000-01, Anderson playing power forward in 2004-05).
In sum, offensive turnover percentage has not been a defining feature of MSU under Tom Izzo. For the most part, the team has been pretty average in this area. I think this reflects two competing aspects of Izzo’s offensive philosophy. On the one hand, he likes his teams to push the ball on offense, which will tend to lead to some turnovers. On the other hand, he wants precise executive in the half-court offense without a lot of individual playmaking, which should theoretically reduce turnovers. (Another paradox of the recent turnover problems, though, is that it seemed like the turnovers were much more prevelant in the half-court game.)
Hopefully, the end of the 2007-08 season marked the end of the Great Spartan Turnover Scourge. Next year, Kalin Lucas will have a full season under his belt, Walton and Lucious will provide depth at the point, and Suton should provide a good ball-handler in the paint. One key will be whether Morgan can eliminate his traveling problem.
The tentative plan for this series is to look at the remaining offensive stats (which are the shooting stats, since we already did rebounding) next. Then we’ll move on to defense.