- AP: #9 (down from #7)
- Coaches: #9 (down from #7)
- Sagarin: #8 (steady from last week)
- Kenpom: #21 (down from #18)
- RPI: #5 (down from#3)
- Bracketology: #2 seed (steady from last week)
That loss to Northwestern didn’t hurt too much in any of the rankings. In the human polls, four teams (Syracuse, Clemson, Georgetown, UCLA) that were just behind MSU last week all lost this week, as well. And the numbers-based ratings all think Northwestern is a top-50 team.
Monday Night Links
- Spartans put final touches on stellar class
Non-basketball link of a positive variety.
- Conboy And Tropp Should Be Gone, Period
Non-basketball link of a negative variety. Everything I’ve read indicates these guys should get the boot. Any hockey fans out there care to weigh in?
- EXCLUSIVE! Prospectus Nabs Bo Ryan Impostor!
TAFKATBTW on the Badgers’ new-found proclivity to foul.
- Indiana’s Tough Man Defense Keeps Them Close
Apparently, the X’s and O’s aren’t quite as ugly for Indiana as the numbers are.
- On The Bubble
Dylan thinks his Wolverines need 5 wins in their final 11 games to make the Big Dance.
Bonus Link with Bonus Analysis
The Artist Formerly Known As The Big Ten Wonk has his first “Conference Check” of the season up at Basketball Prospectus. Here are your Big Ten tempo-free numbers:
Opp. Pace PPP PPP EM 1. Illinois 62.6 1.04 0.91 +0.13 2. Michigan St. 63.0 1.12 1.02 +0.10 3. Purdue 64.6 1.02 0.92 +0.10 4. Wisconsin 60.1 1.06 1.03 +0.03 5. Minnesota 63.8 1.02 1.00 +0.02 6. Penn St. 62.0 1.05 1.04 +0.01 7. Michigan 60.7 1.03 1.04 -0.01 8. Ohio St. 62.0 1.02 1.05 -0.03 9. Northwestern 63.1 0.98 1.07 -0.09 10. Iowa 58.7 0.99 1.08 -0.09 11. Indiana 63.0 0.89 1.09 -0.20
The ex-Wonk notes that Illinois’ top-ranked efficiency margin figure is partly a factor of a 31-point win against the hapless Hoosiers. Nevertheless, the Illini have clearly played in the same statistical league as the two preseason conference favorites to date.
As for Michigan State, they rank first in the league in offensive efficiency by a fairly wide margin of 0.06 points per possession. On defense, they rank fourth in the conference–but are well behind Purdue and Illinois in the stinginess department.
I thought we’d break down MSU’s tempo-free performance in conference play a little further by looking at where they rank in each of the four factors on the two ends of the court. Conference-only tempo-free stats are courtesy of StatSheet. Conference-only individual stats are from the official MSU site.
- Turnover percentage: 22.2% (8th in conference).
- Effective field goal percentage: 49.4% (6th).
- Free throw rate: 38.1% (3rd).
- Offensive rebounding percentage: 49.4% (1st).
MSU is making its living on the offensive glass, out-rebounding the second best team in the league (Minnesota) by over 12 percentage points. As noted in this space last week, six different Spartans are averaging at least one offensive rebound per game, led by Goran Suton with 3.6 per game.
To a lesser extent, getting to the free throw line has been an advantage. Kalin Lucas has gotten to the line 6 times per game in conference play, converting 88.1% of those shots.
Despite Chris Allen’s dismal 3-point shooting percentage of 24.3% (on a team-high 37 attempts), the team still ranks in the middle of the pack in 3-point shooting percentage at 35.2%. Every other Spartan to take more than one 3-pointer in conference play is shooting at least 36% from beyond the arc.
The turnover percentage figure is disappointing, but is almost entirely a function of the Illinois and Northwestern games. Those are the only two conference games in which MSU has posted a turnover percentage greater than 21%.
- Turnover percentage: 17.2% (10th in conference).
- Effective field goal percentage: 50.0% (5th).
- Free throw rate: 33.7% (7th).
- Defensive rebounding percentage: 74.0% (3rd).
Once again rebounding is the strength. No conference opponent has posted an offensive rebounding percentage above 31%.
The effective field goal percentage figure masks this dichotomy:
- MSU is holding opponents to a three-point percentage of 31.9%, second lowest in the league.
- MSU is allowing opponents to make 51.7% of their 2-point attempts (I’m too lazy to calculate the rank for that stat).
Post defense has been a problem for MSU. Jamelle Cornley, B.J. Mullens, and the Illini post players have all presented problems for the Spartan big men.
The perimeter defense has definitely tightened up since nonconference play, when five opponents made more than 35.0% of their three-point attempts. Ohio State on Sunday was the first conference team to pull that trick off against us.
Finally, we just aren’t creating any turnovers. Forcing turnovers has never been a trademark of Tom Izzo teams–he prefers his players to force a tough shot and get the rebound–but that number has to go up a little bit. The percentage is skewed down a bit by having played Northwestern twice; the Wildcats lead the conference in offensive turnover percentage at 14.7%.
In sum, MSU’s tempo-free numbers aren’t quite as impressive as their 6-1 league record might indicate. The good news is there’s room to improve. The rebounding dominance should continue, given that the rest of the conference tends to eschew crashing the glass on offense. Improved interior defense and a tad more pressure on the opponent’s ball-handlers would go a long way toward separating ourselves from Illinois and Purdue as the conference season approaches the second half.
(Note that I took about ten more paragraphs than Mr. Gasaway did to reach the same conclusion. His version: “If State’s D can just force a few more misses on the interior or a few more turnovers by opponents (or both), well, stay tuned.”)