Monday Night Links
- How to Think About the (Not So) New Three-Point Line
TAFKATBTW has a second cyber-residence.
- Big 10 Efficiency Rankings of 2008, Courtesy of Football Outsiders
FO’s numbers say the MSU football team was, wait for it, a more efficiency passing team than running team this season. Unfortunately, that may say more about the running game than about the passing game.
The two major polls’ respective opinions about us diverged this week. The AP voters have us at #11; the coaches have us at #18. Usually the coaches are a little kinder to us than the writers. I’ve always assumed that’s a function of the level of respect Tom Izzo has in the coaching fraternity. In this case, the disparity may be a function of the fact that the writers probably watch more games involving ranked opponents than the coaches do and have made the judgment that the team that beat Texas Saturday is not the same team that lost to North Carolina by 35 points.
Minnesota (#23) and Michigan (#24) both moved into the AP top 25 this week, giving the Big Ten five ranked teams, with Illinois and Wisconsin lurking in the “Others Receiving Votes” category.
Moving on to the numbers-based ratings, neither set likes MSU as much as the human voters do at this point. Sagarin has us at #21. Kenpom has us even lower at just #41, with our defensive numbers (particularly TO% and 3pt%) continuing to drag our rating down.
As Spartalytical noted the other day, the predictions for rest of MSU’s schedule generated by the Kenpom ratings are pretty ugly at this point. We’re the underdogs in the first nine games after the Oakland game, and the mean projected outcome of conference play is a 9-9 record. It’s not in my nature to ignore quantitative data, but at this point I think you have to tell the statistics to shut up and instead have faith that (1) Goran Suton makes us significantly better that our pre-Texas results would indicate and (2) the Big Ten isn’t quite as deep as it looks on paper at this point.
Speaking of our prospects in conference play . . .
Pushing the Tempo
Long-time* readers of this blog know that I’ve advocated in the past for MSU to push the ball more on offense. And, after pondering my advice during the offseason, Tom Izzo decided to go ahead and follow it.
*”Long-time” equals approximately 10 months.
So how are we doing in the pushing-the-tempo category? The table below shows “adjusted tempo” for the 11 Big Ten teams for both last season and the beginning of the current season. Adjusted tempo (from Kenpom) accounts for the average pace of the teams you’ve played and should, therefore, smooth out most of the differences between nonconference play and (much slower) Big Ten play. The teams are sorted based on last season’s adjusted tempo, from fastest to slowest.
So far, the numbers would indicate that MSU has been successful in pushing the ball more on offense this year. And we know from actually watching the games that Kalin Lucas takes every opportunity to see if a basket can be generated in transition. MSU has gone from finishing 6th in the conference in adjusted tempo last season to being just 0.2 possessions/game behind #1 Purdue this season.
So that’s the good news.
The bad news is that the rest of the conference doesn’t look like it’s following suit. Purdue and IU are both playing even faster than they did last season (in IU’s case, that’s a function of being ranked in the bottom ten nationally in offensive TO%), and Illinois has crept up slightly, too.
But three teams whose coaches have reputations for preaching a methodical approach to the game–Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin–have all gotten somewhat slower this season. (For Michigan and Iowa, that’s probably a function of taking much better care of the ball this season.)
The net result is that the Big Ten, outside of our Spartans, looks to be as plodding as ever. The question is whether Michigan State can impose its will on other teams and create transition scoring options. If we can’t, the results may be ugly, given our inconsistent perimter shooting. (The low-post game, with Suton, Morgan, and Roe, does provide some hope in the half-court game. But it’s hard to build an offense around low-post play at the college level.)
Creating fast break chances starts on defense–forcing tough shots and rebounding the ball. (I don’t expect us to create a ton of turnovers.) Defense creates offense. That sounds a bit too glib. But just because something is glib doesn’t mean it isn’t true. If Tom Izzo can get the guys to play defense like they did against Texas (and rebound the ball a bit better) for the next two and a half months, they just might make a run at ending that seven-year conference title drought.