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Archive for the ‘big ten’ Category

Purdue Game Recap (2/17/09)

Purdue wallops MSU 72-54 in a 70-possession game.  StatSheet box score.

After 3 of MSU’s 4 losses, I’ve downplayed the result.  I’m not going to downplay tonight’s loss.  MSU’s performance was extremely disappointing, both in terms of their lack of composure and their inability to take advantage of Purdue’s weaknesses.  The two sets of bars on the left side of this graph are u-g-l-y:

MSU’s lack of composure is shown both by the horrific turnover percentage and by the tentativeness in shooting from the perimeter.  Kalin Lucas, who was (rightly) named the front runner for Big Ten Player of the Year by Dan Shulman early in the game, epitomized these problems.  He turned the ball over 6 times and made just 2 of 11 shots from the field.  The fact that he lost his composure, getting rattled by Lewis Jackson’s quickness, is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this loss.  Izzo pulled Lucas for a long stretch in the second half, allowing Korie Lucious to run the team during a period MSU still had a chance to get back into the game.

Additional expressions of disappointment in bulletpoint form:

  • I’ve never seen such a series of poor entry passes–partially caused by Purdue savvy post defense.
  • A 37.5% offensive rebounding percentage doesn’t get you anything if you can’t turn those offensive boards into points.
  • Same thing with forcing a bunch of turnovers early.
  • Brilliant use of Robbie Hummel by Matt Painter.  He gave them a spark early, knocking down two 3-pointers to give the team some confidence shooting the ball.  He didn’t play as much in the second half, presumably because his back started bothering him.  But he’d already made the contribution he needed to.  (Note: With most players shooting 3-pointers, I can tell immediately when the ball leaves their hand whether the shot is good.  Not so with Hummel.  Every shot looks good leaving his hands.  It’s a miracle when the shot doesn’t drop.)
  • The Hightower-led officiaing crew was, of course, painful to watch once again.  But you can’t blame the offiiciating for this loss.  We ended up shooting 2 more free throws than they did.  Kalin Lucas shot 12 of our 20 free throw attempts; I thought he got the benefit of a couple questionable calls, too.  He couldn’t stop using his off arm against Jackson.
  • Chris Kramer: 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks.  He’s exactly the player Purdue needs him to be: a combo point guard/power forward.
  • How does Lewis Jackson pull down 6 rebounds?
  • JaJuan Johnson was as good as advertised.  17 points on 7 FG attempts.  He’s gotta be right in the conversation for conference player of the year.
  • Hard to find a bright spot for MSU on offense.  Durrell Summers, I guess.  He, at least, didn’t look intimidated.  And Suton was Suton: 10 and 7 rebounds.  Three turnovers for both players, though.  In fact, a total of 5 MSU players turned it over at least 3 times.
  • Raymar Morgan looked like he could make a difference early, but obviously ran out of gas.  1-5 FG shooting in 14 minutes.  Hopefully, another 4 days of recovery time will mean he can contribute more against Wisconsin.
  • I really don’t know what to say about Chris Allen at this point.  His decision making is completely out of whack.  He puts the ball on the floor when he should shoot, and he shoots when he should put the ball on the floor.  Not sure how to fix that.  Izzo can’t give up on him because we need a consistent 3-point shooting threat beyond Summers.

Bottom line: It’s gonna be a good old-fashioned dogfight for the conference title.  Nothing worth having comes easy, as the cliche’ goes.

I hope this game turns out to be an anomaly (Morgan still not 100%; playing one of  the elite defensive teams in the country on the road).  But we can’t afford any more anomalies from here on out.

Next up: Our Badger friends visit the Breslin Center Sunday afternoon (3:00, ESPN).

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AKA They’re numbers and they’re MSU basketball-related, so I must analyze them.

Despite once again selling out every home game, MSU ranked just 17th in the nation in average home attendance this season (from the page I’ve linked to, there’s a link to a Word file with all the details). This is, of course, a function of the relatively small size (14,759) of the Breslin Center relative to the arenas of other major programs. What’s say we knock out a wall and add some more bleachers?

Other attendance nuggets:

  • MSU ranked 8th in the nation in average attendance for all games (home/road/neutral). Helps that we played only one true road game in nonconference play, while playing several nonconference games in NBA-sized arenas.
  • The Big Ten ranked 1st in the nation in average home attendance for the 32nd consecutive season. (Solid evidence for the conclusion of Hubert’s theory on conference recruiting/standards.)
  • Five of the top 17 teams in average home attendance hailed from the Big Ten.

Here’s a complete list of Big Ten average home attendance figures (capacity figures, courtesy of this article, are in brackets):

  1. Wisconsin: 17,190 [17,142]
  2. Indiana: 16,876 [17,456]
  3. Illinois: 16,618 [16,618]
  4. Ohio State: 16,587 [19,500]
  5. Michigan State: 14,759 [14,759]
  6. Minnesota: 12,452 [14,625]
  7. Purdue: 12,345 [14,123]
  8. Iowa: 10,761 [15,500]
  9. Michigan: 10,034 [13,751]
  10. Penn State: 8,041 [15,261]
  11. Northwestern: 4,579 [8,117]

I’d expect that Purdue number to go up next year. And kudos to Illini fans for selling out all their games despite the team’s substandard results this past season.

Site News

  • I’ve added a permanent page to the list of links at the top of the site with a projection of the team’s roster for the next five seasons. I’ll update this page as events warrant for future reference.
  • The primary address for this site has changed from the clunky “spartansweblog.wordpress.com” to the sleeker “spartansweblog.com.” For now, the change is just a cosmetic one and the old address will still get you here. Eventually, I’m planning to move off the free WordPress service to a paid hosting service to increase flexibility in terms of formatting and other blogging features. So you might as well update your bookmarks/links now to the shorter address. That having been said, it’s an open question when I’ll actually work up the gumption to move the site. I’ve barely learned how to do some simple HTML coding, let alone deal with the acronyms like CSS and FTP that keep showing up when I research what’s involved with paid hosting services. (With a little more work, I could have turned this in to an excellent “I’m just a caveman” spoof.)
  • This is my 200th post! It’s a bicentennial!

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With the transfers of Udoh and Freeman, the dismissal of Bassett and Ellis, and the decision by Kosta Koufos to hire an agent, the conference landscape for next season appears to be relatively well settled. So–with just 8 short months to go before 2009 conference play begins–let’s take a look at how the 11 Big Ten men’s basketball teams stack up.

I’ve ranked the teams according to my own subjective judgment of their relative strength. For each team, I’ve listed the players who are leaving–due to either graduation, transfer, or early draft entry–as well as a projected starting lineup. As indicated in the title to this post, the lineups are pretty back-of-the-envelope, based on minutes played this past season for returning players and recruiting ratings for new players. Players who have both their first and last names listed are new to the program. In some cases, I’ve listed two players for one starting slot where a positional battle appears to be taking shape or two players will likely be sharing minutes evenly.

Off we go . . .

1. Purdue

  • Departing players: Martin (transfer), Crump
  • Projected lineup: Kramer, Moore, Grant, Hummel, Calasan/Johnson
  • Comment: Have to make them favorites with their entire starting lineup back and their steady improvement over the past season, but will conference opponents adjust to their smaller lineup the second time around?

2. Wisconsin

  • Departing players: Flowers, Butch, Stiemsma
  • Projected lineup: Hughes, Bohannon, Krabbenhoft, Landry, Jared Berggren
  • Comment: They lose their two best players, but I simply refuse to drop them any lower than #2 based on their history of never missing a beat after star players graduate. And it appears Ryan has already stocked his cupboards with talent for the next three years.

3. Michigan State

  • Departing players: Neitzel, Naymick
  • Projected lineup: Lucas, Walton/Allen, Morgan, Roe, Suton
  • Comment: Best team on paper again; can the team play consistently enough to leapfrog Purdue and Wisconsin? Discuss.

4. Ohio State

  • Departing players: Butler, Hunter, Koufos (early entry), Terwilliger
  • Projected lineup: Anthony Crater/Jeremie Simmons, Turner, Diebler, Lighty, B.J. Mullens
  • Comment: Plenty of talent for next season, with another top-notch recruiting class and some juco help. Matta has shown the ability to mesh talent quickly; replacing Butler’s leadership at point guard is the big challenge.

5. Minnesota

6. Illinois

  • Departing players: Pruitt, Randle, Alexander (transfer)
  • Projected lineup: McCamey, Meacham, Alex Legion/Jamar Smith, Tisdale, Stan Simpson
  • Comment: A decent bet to move back up the standings based on their efficiency numbers. Legion and Smith will be counted on to return Illinois to a productive offensive team; there’s not a lot on the front line to fill Pruitt’s shoes. Looks like Weber will be reloading the next few years, though.

7. Michigan

  • Departing players: Udoh (transfer), Coleman
  • Projected lineup: Grady, Harris, Wright, Sims, Gibson
  • Comment: They’ll have a pretty well-rounded starting lineup and a year of Beilein’s system under their belt, but the loss of Udoh makes them paper thin up front.

8. Penn State

  • Departing players: Claxton, Walker, Hassell
  • Projected lineup: Battle, Pringle/Morissey, Jackson, Cornley, Jones
  • Comment: Are their returning players better than Indiana and Iowa’s new players? They’re likely to improve on offense as their young players continue to develop, but the numbers don’t point to any improvement at all on defense.

9. Iowa

  • Departing players: Freeman (transfer), Johnson, Gorney, Loobey
  • Projected lineup: Peterson, Matt Gatens, Kelly, Tate, Cole
  • Comment: Influx of six new players, including two juco players; yet another team that looks a little thin up front.

10. Indiana

  • Departing players: Gordon (early entry), D.J. White, Ellis (dismissal/transfer), Bassett (dismissal/transfer), Stemler, Mike White, Thomas (dismissal/transfer), Holman (transfer)
  • Projected lineup: Devon Dumes, Nick Williams, Crawford, Taber, Tom Pritchard
  • Comment: Jordan Crawford becomes their likely go-to scorer. Crean has found some perimeter players that should be able to contribute right away; but Pritchard (a high school teammate of Delvon Roe) will have to bear a very large burden up front for a fairly unheralded incoming freshman.

11. Northwestern

  • Departing players: Okrzesik
  • Projected lineup: Thompson, Moore, Williams, Ryan, Coble
  • Comment: The good news is they’re losing less than 10% of minutes played from this season; the bad news is these are the same players that went 1-17 in the conference this season.

Conclusion: Three teams look like NCAA Tournament locks at this point, with Ohio State a good bet to join them. Minnesota and Illinois are the two other teams that appear to have enough pieces in place to potentially make the jump to the Big Dance. The bottom of the conference looks weaker than it might have a month ago, with the departures of Udoh and Freeman and the exodus of players from Blomington.

A lack of front-line depth is evident across the conference. Maybe, just maybe, Suton and Roe can take advantage of this by scoring consistently down low, thereby stabilizing MSU’s offensive performance.

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Ekpe Udoh is no longer a Wolverine. Opportunity knocks for Zach Gibson.

Tony Freeman is no longer a Hawkeye. Opportunity knocks for Todd Lickliter’s son?

Armon Bassett, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas, and Eli Holman are no longer Hoosiers. Opportunity knocks for five brand new guys.

The Big Ten didn’t have a great recruiting year:

In the 2008 recruiting sweepstakes, the Big Ten (nine) ranked behind the SEC (20), Pac-10 (16), ACC (15) and Big East (14) in number of top-100 commitments.

Possible reasons: snow, academics, a bunch of new coaches. At least two of the nine top-100 guys are Spartans.

A Comcast-Big Ten Network deal appears to be drawing close. According to the linked article, an announcement will come in either (1) 2-3 weeks or (2) August. Both time periods are prior to the beginning of football season, so I suppose there’s no reason to get too specific.

One More Link: Delvon Roe is ahead of schedule on his knee rehab and should be ready to start working out next month, according to a WILX interview with Tom Izzo.  Izzo plans to bring him along slowly.

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We’ve been waiting to hear (1) who MSU would play in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge next season and (2) whether they’d play a nonconference game at Ford Field. Today, both questions we’re answered: They’ll play North Carolina at Ford Field on Wednesday, December 3, as part of the challenge. The full list of match-ups can be found here.

The other obvious marquee match-up is Duke-Purdue in West Lafayette, a match-up that would have occurred in this year’s NCAA Tournament if both teams had won one more game. The Washington Times manages to find an angle to connect the two teams in each of the 11 match-ups (NC State, MSU’s challenge opponent this past season is the odd ACC team out).

Ford Field is the site of the Final Four next year, so both MSU and UNC will be hoping to use the game to gain experience playing there in hopes of returning four months later. Whether North Carolina is in a position for a repeat Final Four run will hinge to a large extent on whether Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and/or Wayne Ellington decide to declare for the NBA draft. At the moment, it appears they odds may tilt slightly toward all three staying, as none are projected as definite lottery picks. If the trio does remain, North Carolina will be the consensus #1 team in the country going into next season.

The Spartans and Tar Heels have played each other twice previously in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. MSU prevailed 86-76 in Chapel Hill in 1999 and won by a score of 77-64 in East Lansing in 2000. You’ll recall that the 1999 game is the one in which Morris Peterson scored 31 points to lead MSU to victory in the absence of an injured Mateen Cleaves. MSU turned it over 17 times in 72 possessions (23.6%), but pulled down 20 of 39 offensive rebounding opportunities (51.3%).

At 5-3, MSU is the only Big Ten team with a winning record in the nine-year history of the challenge. Surprisingly, UNC is just 4-5 all-time in the challenge.

It will be interesting to see whether they use the court-in-the-center-of-the-field arrangement at Ford Field to mirror the seating arrangement for the Final Four or if they move the court to one side to improve viewing angles, given that a sellout seems unlikely. The Lions play home games the previous Thursday (Nov. 27) and the following Saturday (Dec. 7), so it will be a busy week and a half of logistical changes inside the stadiums.

With the announcement of this game, MSU is now slated to play at least three of this year’s Elite Eight teams (UNC, Texas in Houston or Dallas, Kansas at Breslin). That number could conceivably grow to four, as Memphis may still participate in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Update: The seating configuration hasn’t been determined yet.

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We’ve been waiting to hear (1) who MSU would play in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge next season and (2) whether they’d play a nonconference game at Ford Field. Today, both questions we’re answered: They’ll play North Carolina at Ford Field on Wednesday, December 3, as part of the challenge. The full list of match-ups can be found here.

The other obvious marquee match-up is Duke-Purdue in West Lafayette, a match-up that would have occurred in this year’s NCAA Tournament if both teams had won one more game. The Washington Times manages to find an angle to connect the two teams in each of the 11 match-ups (NC State, MSU’s challenge opponent this past season is the odd ACC team out).

Ford Field is the site of the Final Four next year, so both MSU and UNC will be hoping to use the game to gain experience playing there in hopes of returning four months later. Whether North Carolina is in a position for a repeat Final Four run will hinge to a large extent on whether Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and/or Wayne Ellington decide to declare for the NBA draft. At the moment, it appears they odds may tilt slightly toward all three staying, as none are projected as definite lottery picks. If the trio does remain, North Carolina will be the consensus #1 team in the country going into next season.

The Spartans and Tar Heels have played each other twice previously in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. MSU prevailed 86-76 in Chapel Hill in 1999 and won by a score of 77-64 in East Lansing in 2000. You’ll recall that the 1999 game is the one in which Morris Peterson scored 31 points to lead MSU to victory in the absence of an injured Mateen Cleaves. MSU turned it over 17 times in 72 possessions (23.6%), but pulled down 20 of 39 offensive rebounding opportunities (51.3%).

At 5-3, MSU is the only Big Ten team with a winning record in the nine-year history of the challenge. Surprisingly, UNC is just 4-5 all-time in the challenge.

It will be interesting to see whether they use the court-in-the-center-of-the-field arrangement at Ford Field to mirror the seating arrangement for the Final Four or if they move the court to one side to improve viewing angles, given that a sellout seems unlikely. The Lions play home games the previous Thursday (Nov. 27) and the following Saturday (Dec. 7), so it will be a busy week and a half of logistical changes inside the stadiums.

With the announcement of this game, MSU is now slated to play at least three of this year’s Elite Eight teams (UNC, Texas in Houston or Dallas, Kansas at Breslin). That number could conceivably grow to four, as Memphis may still participate in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Update: The seating configuration hasn’t been determined yet.

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In case you’re getting tired of staring at boxes of numbers . . .

I missed this last week: Devin, the winner of our nontraditional bracket contest, is also the proprietor of College Basketball Chronotope, an IU basketball blog. To reward him for his prognosticating acumen (unlike traditional pools, picking all four #1 seeds didn’t guarantee success in our contest), click through and read his thoughts on the national championship game and Tom Crean, among other topics.

Early on, it appears Tom Crean’s move to IU may actually be improving MSU’s recruiting outlook. The Spartans are now in the mix for 6’7″ junior Jamil Wilson of Racine Wisconsin, a top-ten recruit nationally. The article includes speculation that Izzo may have backed off previously since Crean was recruiting Wilson. (Hat tip: UMHoops.)

Lake the Posts pays homage to the “One Shining Moment” tradition, noting how it neatly encapsulates why college basketball’s postseason is superior to college football’s. On a related note, I was disappointed there were no Spartans in this year’s video. Neitzel’s shake-and-bake 3-point make against Pitt would have fit in nicely. Here’s the consolation prize:

Paging Jim S has been reviewing the Gopher basketball season. His latest post breaks down the Gopher defense under Tubby Smith, noting the increased turnovers. The tempo-free numbers indicate their defensive TO% increased a full 5.6 percentage points from 2007 to 2008–a sign that Smith’s system is taking hold even before he has the talent to go with it.

Wisconsin Badger Sports asks the opposite question of the one we Spartans are usually left pondering: Why do Bo Ryan teams perform so well in the regular season but seem incapable of making a long run in the Big Dance?

Badgercentric looks at Ryan’s use of the redshirt season, asserting that Brian Butch’s redshirt season proved worthwhile. I’m working on a spreadsheet to look at MSU’s roster trends over the course of the Izzo era. One preliminary note: He’s never redshirted a scholarship guard as a freshman, while’s he’s redshirted a majority of the big men. Ponder this; we’ll discuss it later.

In terms of how the Big Ten basketball scene will look next year, the first domino to fall wasn’t a surprise: Eric Gordon went pro. The remaining big question in terms of early departures is whether Koustos Koufos will bolt to play for money, either in the NBA or in Greece. Eleven Warriors speculates that recruiting developments may indicate Koufos’ departure is more likely than not. In other developments, Michigan’s Ekpe Udoh and Illinois’ Rodney Alexander may be considering transfers.

Last but not least, MGoBlog posted a sociological analysis of Spartan nation last week. I won’t do a full rebuttal here since (1) MGoBlog is an Official Benefactor of the Spartans Weblog due to the amount of readership he’s directed here and (2) a good portion of his commentary deals with things not related to the extremely narrow topic of, you know, sports. But I do want to comment on a couple of the items he says “Green and White people like.” The first item:

Basketball. This is natural when you’re the “state” — or, like, “commonwealth” in Virginia — school in any state with a flagship U-of that consistently beats the hell out of you in football, but State fans take it to a preposterous extreme. Anecdotal evidence from just last week: after Michigan took out Clarkson we decided to hang around the bar we were at for a while to catch a portion of the CC-Michigan State game, Michigan State being the one team Michigan did not want to face at any point during the tournament. At the same time, Derrick Rose and company were busy beating the everliving hell out of Michigan State.

Ann Arbor is the reluctant home of many Spartan fans and the owners of this place are alums, I believe, so the place was packed with brahs, all of whom looked like… well, probably a lot like I did during this year’s Ohio State game. They were purely miserable. Meanwhile, the hockey team was a huge underdog — a third place CCHA team playing the WCHA champs at altitude on an Olympic rink on their home ice — and scored. No reaction whatsoever from anyone except the Michigan fans still around. They scored again. No reaction. At this point we start pointing at the televisions carrying the hockey game and begging them to pay attention to their very successful hockey team that’s about to pull off a killer upset.

(Note: Apparently, I’m supposed to know what “brah” means.)

The implication of the paragraphs above is that the hierarchy of Division 1 sports looks like this:

1. Football

2. Basketball, hockey, and all other college sports

In the real world, of course, the NCAA tournament is, arguably, the one American sporting event that captures the attention of any person living in this country with any sort of marginal interest in sports for a multi-week period every year (example: the secretary at your office who won $100 in the tournament pool last week). Yet somehow the level of interest we Spartans take in the sport is “preposterous.”

Brian is a big hockey fan, which is fine. I wouldn’t for a moment bash fandom of any particular sport (as it happens, both he and I are soccer fans). I would conjecture, though, that I fall into the category of the majority of people who identify themselves as MSU or Michigan fans: we don’t follow or care about hockey.

When Michigan falls behind in the Rose Bowl, do their fans go channel surfing for other Wolverine sports teams in action that day? Or do they stick it out and watch the team they really care about, hoping against hope for a miracle comeback?

Anyway, yes, we like basketball. And, yes, we probably like it to a “preposterous extreme,” in light of the fact we’re pretty good at it. But liking major sports to a “preposterous extreme” is a pretty standard activity in modern America, no? Without such activity, the sports blogosphere would, I dare say, not exist.

A second item we Spartans apparently like too much is the movie 300. Now, I’ll concede that, at some point, we should probably stop producing youtube videos interspersing clips from the movie with highlights from recent athletic seasons. Of course, the other extreme is to basically disown one’s mascot. Try this experiment: Go to a retail outlet carrying Michigan sports paraphernalia and see how many items you can find with a picture of a wolverine on them. I’ll bet if someone made a movie with a giant Block M as the hero, the Ann Arbor movie theaters would be packed.

At the end of the day, I’ll cut our friend at MGoBlog a little slack. He does concede this:

I’m not sure if this is a compliment or an insult or what, but at this point State basketball fans are basically Michigan football fans, except with more brah, brah.

(On the other hand, I’d say Michigan State football fans are a tad more passionate than are Michigan basketball fans . . .)

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