Archive for the ‘coffee talk’ Category

I’ve decided not to post any commentary of a forward-looking nature until we get over to the new site. For now, let’s revel in the season that has been.

One of the things that made this season so special was the number of guys who stepped up at various times during the season to get the team to 31 wins, despite multiple injuries disrupting the regular lineup during the season.  For the season, nine different players led the team in scoring at least once, seven different players led the team in rebounding at least once, and five different players led the team in assists at least once (including ties in all three cases).

To look back at some of those contributions, I’ve put together a list of the top ten individual performances over the course of the season.  I’ve split the list into five regular season performances and five postseason performances.

Regular Season Performances

5. Raymar Morgan vs. Oklahoma State
29 points on 9-11 FG shooting and 11-13 FT shooting, 5 rebounds
Few MSU fans got to see this game, after MSU dropped the opener in the Old Spice Classic, but Morgan put up some huge numbers against a team that would eventually make the NCAA Tournament.

4. Delvon Roe at Michigan
14 points on 5-7 FG shooting, 10 rebounds
From the game recap: “Delvon Roe finally put together the kind of game we’ve been hoping for against a smaller lineup: 14 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes.  He took advantage of the mismatch against Zach Novak and the other guards that were matched up with him inside–and made 4 of 6 free throws to boot.”

3. Kalin Lucas at Illinois
18 points on 7-14 FG shooting, 4 assists, 1 turnovers
You could put Lucas on this list as many times as you wanted, but we’ll go with his extremely efficient performance in MSU’s best win of the Big Ten season.  That performance included a layup Lucas created out of nothing to put MSU ahead 60-58 with 5 minutes go after Illinois had rallied from a 7-point second-half deficit.

2. Durrell Summers at Ohio State
26 points on 6-9 three-point shooting, 4 rebounds
From the game recap: “The tale of the first half was Durrell Summers single-handedly keeping the team afloat, scoring 16 of the team’s 26 points as the rest of the team struggled with turnovers and 3-point shooting against the Ohio State 3-2 zone.”

1. Goran Suton vs. Wisconsin
16 points on 6-6 FT shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
From the game recap: “Suton was a warrior.  After not starting the game (apparently to reward Tom Herzog–he of the graceful reverse layup–for his hard work in practice), Suton posted 16 points and 10 rebounds–most of them in the second half.  He pulled down a couple huge offensive rebounds, as did Raymar Morgan (5 rebounds in 17 minutes), during the comeback from 12 down.  Give Suton credit for keeping his composure after the airballed 3-pointer (his third 3-point miss of the game) and leading the team to victory.”

Honorable Mention: Travis Walton’s back-to-back 16-point performances at the Old Spice Classic.  Marquise Gray’s back-to-back 12-point performances in the same setting.  Suton’s 18-point performance against Texas in just his second game back from the knee injury.  Morgan’s 22-point/13-rebound performance against Northwestern to help MSU open the conference season with two road wins.  Chris Allen’s 17-point performance (on 4-7 three-point shooting) in the same game, against the 1-3-1 zone.  Lucas’ 21-point performance against Purdue in the regular season finale.  And just for Mrs. SW: Austin Thornton’s 9-point performance (on 3-3 three-point shooting) in the opener against Idaho.

Postseason Performances

5. Goran Suton vs. North Carolina
17 points on 3-4 three-point shooting, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks
While the outcome of the game was a disappointment, let’s not forget Suton went toe to toe with one of the most celebrated post players in the history of college basketball and matched him almost play for play.

4. Kalin Lucas vs. Kansas
18 points on 7-7 FT shooting, 7 assists, 4 steals
From the game recap: “Kalin Lucas could not be any more clutch.”  I think this play will forever pop into my head whenever I hear the phrase “and one.”

3. Raymar Morgan vs. UConn
18 points on 7-13 FG shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 steals
From the game recap: “Raymar Morgan played the best game of his career . . . against the very epitome of the kind of tall, athletic opponent he normally struggles against.  I thought his confidence would melt away after he had his first shot of the game blocked by Thabeet, but MSU retained the ball (on a team rebound) and Morgan came right back and knocked down a shot.  From there, his confidence swelled.”

2. Goran Suton vs. Louisville
19 points on 3-5 three-point shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists
From the game recap: “Tom Izzo’s game plan in the half-court offense was to put Suton in the middle of the top two defenders in Louisville’s 2-3 zone and use Suton’s shooting/passing skills to break down the defense.  Suton responded beautifully, almost single-handedly keeping MSU even with the Cardinals through the first 20 minutes.  On defense, he completely shut down Samardo Samuels.  On his first three touches of the ball in the post, Samuels traveled, missed a shot, and got called for an offensive foul.  Samuels never bounced back and went scoreless for the game.”

1. Travis Walton vs. USC
18 points on 8-13 FG shooting, 2 assists, 2 steals
From the game recap: “On the first possession of the game–when USC came out employing the box and one–Walton got the ball about 18 feet from the basket in an open spot in the zone.  Usually, you’d expect him to hesitate at least briefly before shooting the ball so early in the game.  But, instead, he immediately squared up and knocked down the shot.  From their, his confidence ballooned; eventually he knocked down a couple shots where he had to adjust the arc of the shot due to an onrushing USC defender.”

Honorable Mention: Chris Allen’s 17-point performance against Minnesota in the conference tournament.  Korie Lucious’ 16-point performance to try to mount a comeback against Ohio State in the conference tournament.  Draymond Green’s 16-point performance against Robert Morris.  Suton’s 20-point/9-rebound performance against Kansas.  Lucas’ 21-point/5-assist performance against UConn.

Who would have thought that Travis Walton, of all players, would end up making having arguably the key offensive performance of the entire season?  And we’re not even talking about his defense.  The games in which he locked down A.J. Abrams, Manny Harris, and A.J. Price could have easily been included on the lists above.

Coffee Talk: What do all of you think?  Which performance merits top billing?  What great individual performances did I miss?


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Coffee talk question of massive cosmic proportions (and yes, I realize, “massive cosmic” may be redundant): For the last two games, I’ve worn the same green Nike dri-fit shirt with a block S on it (along with exactly the same white long sleeve shirt underneath, blue jeans, belt, socks, shoes, and underwear [washed between wearings, of course–I’m not (quite) that crazy]).  As you’re aware, the game results associated with this clothing combination have been very encouraging.  I feel this must now be my go-to shirt from a it’s-not-superstition-if-it’s-working standpoint.

BUT, MSU is now asking all its fans to wear white to tomorrow night’s game.  So what do I do?  Put the emphasis on solidarity with my Spartan brethren–which I value highly?  Or stick to the superstition thing?  I’m leaning toward door number 2, as changing course now could lead to years of regret should the team lose.  But I will definitely consider reader input as I get dressed tomorrow morning.

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Final Four Eve Links

Coffee Talk: Less than 20 hours to go, my friends. What does you gut say about the game outcome?

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It’s now been 30 hours since MSU punched its ticket to the Final Four.  And the buzz still hasn’t worn off.

Just over 115 hours remain until the team takes the floor in Detroit against the Huskies.  So we’ve got plenty of time to break down that match-up.

For now, let’s step back and savor the four-game run our Spartans have made to get to this point.  For some context, here are the per-game stats for the eight players averaging double-digit minutes in NCAA Tournament play:

Lucas 31.3 12.8 40.7 40.0 94.4 1.0 0.5 5.5 2.8 1.8
Suton 29.0 14.3 40.0 50.0 87.5 3.5 8.0 2.3 2.3 2.3
Walton 26.5 7.0 41.4 100.0 0.3 1.8 2.5 1.3 1.3
Summers 23.5 8.8 71.4 58.3 66.7 1.8 3.0 1.0 1.0 0.8
Green 21.0 9.0 63.6 66.7 1.5 4.3 1.3 1.3 1.3
Allen 20.5 6.8 30.0 33.3 100.0 1.3 1.3 2.3 0.5 0.0
Morgan 15.0 5.8 31.8 25.0 60.0 1.3 1.3 0.5 1.3 0.3
Roe 14.3 4.0 60.0 57.1 0.8 1.3 1.3 0.3 0.0

The amazing thing is the balance in statistical contributions.  Goran Suton has obviously stepped up his play–14.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game are well above his season averages–but beyond that it’s been a team effort.  Kalin Lucas’ scoring average is actually below his season average, although he’s scored efficiently and posted a respectable 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Other notes:

  • Three guys shooting 40%+ from 3-point range.
  • The free throw shooting has been very good.
  • Six guys averaging at least one offensive rebound per game.
  • Seven guys averaging at least one assist per game.
  • Only one of the eight players (Raymar Morgan) has more turnovers than assists.  (This is true of only 3 of the 8 players for the full season: Kalin Lucas, Travis Walton, and–you guessed it–Draymond Green.  Speaking of Green, did you know that, going into the weekend’s games, he led the team in charges drawn on the season with six?  No other MSU player has recorded more than three.)
  • That’s not enough, even more on Green: Fifth in minutes, third in scoring, second in rebounding, tied for third in steals.  I can’t come up with a good historical comparison for an MSU player who’s stepped up more from his regular season level performance to become such a major contributor in postseason play.  He’s basically offset Raymar Morgan’s lack of offensive production.
  • What a great time for Durrell Summers to find his shooting stroke: 80.0 eFG% on 19 FG attempts.
  • Look for Delvon Roe to be a factor on Sunday.  He’s played limited minutes, largely due to some bad match-ups in terms of smaller and more athletic opposing lineups.  But the numbers don’t indicate he’s playing poorly.

OK, with all that, let’s talk about what individual plays you’ve enjoyed the most over the past four games.  The Kalin Lucas and-one basket to break the tie against Kansas in the final minute has to be at the top of the list.  What other plays go on the highlight reel so far?

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Going into NCAA Tournament play, our starting lineup looks like it may finally be completely healthy.  Kalin Lucas, Travis Walton, Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, and Goran Suton should all be able to play 25-30 minutes per game at near 100%.  (Roe is perhaps the exception to this statement, but he’s certainly as ready to contribute effective minutes as he has been all season.)

That’s reason for optimism, as there have been only a few stretches of games when all five of those players have been fully available.  And we’ve been pretty good in those stretches.

The concern is what the guys coming off the bench will be able to contribute in any given game.  In particular, Chris Allen and/or Durrell Summers will need to play 20+ minutes per game as the first reserve options when the starters rotate out.  Allen has been erratic all year, mixing one or two solid games at a time with stretches of games in which he seems to be completely off kilter offensively.

Summers, meanwhile, became a major contributor when Morgan had to sit out with pneumonia, scoring more than 20 points in 3 games of a 4-game stretch at one point.  More recently, though, Summer’s scoring touch has disappeared completely.

Here are Allen’s and Summer’s key stats over the last 10 games:

Allen Summers
Mins/G 18.4 20.9
Pts/G 8.2 4.7
2pt% 48.3 35.7
3pt% 33.3 16.7
FT% 81.8 62.5
Reb/G 1.9 2.9
Ast/G 1.2 0.5
TO/G 1.2 1.5

Summers’ numbers are abysmal.  His 3-point stroke has gone missing, and there haven’t been many opportunities for him to score in transition.  The only thing he’s continued to bring to the table is the ability to rebound from the perimeter.

Allen’s stats actually look pretty good on a per-game-average basis–although they’re boosted somewhat by a 16-point performance in the home game against Indiana that began the 10-game stretch.  His shooting numbers are acceptable, his passing ability has been a factor in flashes, and–in my subjective view–he’s become a pretty solid man-to-man defender.

So which player do you prefer to see as the first player off the bench?  Do you continue to give Summers major minutes, hoping he can regain mid-conference-season form, giving the team a third 20-point scoring possibility to go with Lucas and Morgan?  Or do you give Allen the minutes, recognizing that he’s likely to give you a brief flash of scoring in each game, but probably isn’t going to be a game-changer?

The numbers point toward Allen, but his 2-11 shooting performance (0-6 from beyond the arc) against Ohio State in Indy remains fresh in our minds.  The third option, for which we don’t have much data, is Korie Lucious.  He was great in the Ohio State game, but he makes us really small on the perimeter and that game was the first time he’s played more than 15 minutes in a game as a collegiate player.  Assuming, he’s going to play 5-10 minutes at point guard when Lucas is out of the game, it’s hard to see him playing another 10-15 minutes on the wing.

Let’s hear it: Who should Tom Izzo point to when he makes his first substitution tomorrow night?  (And no fair saying Draymond Green.)

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The plan is to post a Robert Morris preview tomorrow night.  For now, here’s what other people are talking about as we head into the first week of the Big Dance–plus a question for us to talk about.

*Having announced I’m abandoning this blog, I feel compelled to retire the TAFKATBTW moniker, in hopes no one will now tag me with a cheeky nickname.

Coffee Talk: The players say they’re “humble and hungry.”  How hungry are you?  How many wins do you need to see in the next three weeks to consider this team’s season a success?

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Sunday is Senior Day.  Here’s your discussion question: What the first word that pops into your head when you hear the name of each of four seniors?

My (alliterative) answers are below.

Goran Suton


Suton’s key tempo-free numbers for the four years he was an active player:

Stat 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
OffRtg 95.0 98.2 113.8 119.2
eFG% 47.0 50.9 55.4 56.6
TO% 25.2 26.1 20.4 19.6
OffReb% 10.0 11.6 13.6 13.8
DefReb% 13.4 19.7 22.3 21.0

While most four-year players show improved efficiency over their careers, you’re not going to find too many that have followed that consistent an upward path of performance.  Suton came in as an unheralded big man from a local high school; he departs as the near-perfect Tom Izzo post player.  I once called him “indispensable.” This year’s nonconference results (unfortunately) proved me right.

I’m going to move on before I start tearing up.

Travis Walton


Walton has generated his share of angst from MSU fans on the offensive side of the court.  His offensive rating has never gotten above the 95-105 range.  Nevertheless, he’s been a Tom Izzo kind of a player from the get go.

And, as a senior, there are stats-based reasons to celebrate his contributions to the team: He’s turned the best perimeter scorers in the Big Ten into downright mediocre performers, and he’s reduced his turnover percentage from 30%+ in previous years to 20.9% this year–while at the same time picking up the slack creating scoring opportunities for his teammates as Kalin Lucas has focused more on individual scoring in conference play.

On a team that reflects Tom Izzo’s personality, Travis Walton has been Izzo’s on-the-court assistant.

Marquise Gray


On paper, Gray is the greatest disappointment of the Izzo era.  To some extent, that’s based on what was no doubt overly enthusiastic evaluations of Gray’s abilities by the recruiting gurus.  Injuries (another “I” word) have also been a factor.  And, quite frankly, even when healthy Gray just hasn’t had the capacity to put it all together for more than a game or two at a time.

Nevertheless, Gray has had moments of brilliance.  He’s been an all-conference-level defensive rebounder throughout his career (20%+ DefReb% the last three years).  And, to his credit, I have yet to see him pouting on the bench this year, even as his playing time has been decreased to a handful of minutes per game.  He’s held his head high, and I applaud him for it.

Idong Ibok


I’m 95% confident that Ibok has played the fewest minutes of any four-year scholarship player during the Tom Izzo era.  But I’m also going to say he fully earned his five years of scholarship funding in the five minutes he played against Illinois last Sunday.

Bonus stat: 3.1 blocks/40 minutes played for his career.

Your Turn: Let’s hear what the rest of you have to say about these four Spartans.  Bonus points for using words that start with the same letter for all four players.

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