Archive for the ‘michigan state basketball’ Category

To avoid paying any more monthly server costs, I’ve moved the SW archives back over to the free WordPress platform.  I think the only major loss is the Java-based StatSheet charts.  Other than that, everything should be here for your browsing pleasure.  If anyone finds any other major glitches, shoot me an e-mail.

For fresh Spartan blogging content, of course, head over to The Only Colors.

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SI.com’s Luke Winn has a breakdown of the winners and losers from offseason developments, with NBA early-entry decisions having been finalized yesterday. The biggest winner, of course, is North Carolina, which returns all three guys who had been looking at the NBA draft plus player of the year Tyler Hansborough (who didn’t even explore the draft). This means their starting lineup from this season’s Final Four team remains fully intact.

With three McDonald’s All-Americans arriving to supplement the returning players, UNC Basketball Update ponders whether this could be the most talented college basketball team ever. The Tar Heel Fan Blog, meanwhile, is feeling confident enough to declare UNC “the prohibitive favorite” to win the national title and drop a Tombstone quote in the process.

So our Spartans’ work will definitely be cut out for them when they face the Tarheels at Ford Field in December.

Regarding other teams on MSU’s upcoming nonconference schedule who had players looking at the NBA:

All in all, the nonconference slate looks to be as tough as any that MSU has ever played.

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Izzo is reportedly in the hunt for 6’7″ shooting guard Russell Byrd out of Fort Wayne (a 2010 recruit), as is John Beilein. Byrd’s father indicates Iowa is currently the leader, though. This quote from Mr. Byrd is enlightening regarding Izzo’s plans for the next two recruiting classes:

“They said they had three scholarships for that 2010 class and wanted to make sure that he knew that he was one of the three,” Mr. Byrd recalled. “They talked about the point guard. They need a point guard, a shooting guard and a big man. It sounded like they had already made some progress. They seemed pretty high on (Detroit Pershing guard Keith Appling) and they felt like he and Russell would make a pretty good pair in that 2010 class.”

This would seem to indicate Izzo plans to bank one of the four scholarships available for the 2009 class so he’d have three available for the 2010 class. That leaves only one more spot for 2009 then; hard to figure what Izzo does about top target Jamil Wilson, who doesn’t plan to announce his college choice until next March (which isn’t to say, I suppose, that Izzo and the other coaches involved won’t have a good sense what his plans are before then).

Regarding the two 2009 verbal commitments already on board (Garrick Sherman and Derrick Nix), they’re apparently enough for ESPN.com to anoint MSU’s class the 9th best in the country at this early date. Illinois is #2; Purdue is #10.

Izzo recently pontificated on a number of topics at a recent community event in Fort Wayne (a coincidence?). He talked about the tough task ahead for Crean at IU and was pretty blunt regarding the state of college basketball recruiting:

“Cheating’s getting worse,” Izzo said. “Everybody feels they have to get a player for a year and win big. …It’s kind of too fast of a track right now, if you ask me.”

An explanation as to why Steven Lavin–the #1 college basketball commentator in all the land, as judged by the Spartans Weblog–has such an extensive vocabulary: his Dad was an English teacher.

Apparently, Drew Neitzel’s doing OK in Orlando:

Amongst the wings, Drew Neitzel (9 pts, 1 reb) and Robert Vaden (13 pts, 2 reb) shot the ball relatively well, but showed a stark contrast in shot selection. Neitzel did a great job taking what the defensive gave him, while Vaden seemed more content shooting with a hand in his face after a rhythm dribble.

That would be the Robert Vaden formerly of the Indiana Hoosiers and more recently of the UAB Blazers. The Indy Star puts a better spin on Vaden’s offensive performance and quotes Neitzel as follows:

Vaden spent most of his time in the backcourt with Michigan State point guard Drew Neitzel.

“I’ve known Robert since high school. We played against each other in some camps,” Neitzel said. “He’s got the smoothest shot I’ve seen. It’s a lot of fun playing with him because he gets you a lot of assists.”

If you want to be an undersized NBA point guard, I suppose a few assists can’t hurt.

Finally: The “Going on the Fritz” Part

So the plan is to migrate the blog to a paid hosting site over the next week or two. I’d expect this may result in some downtime at some point and that posting will be fairly light. (Do note that I’ve posted three straight days, though, by golly.) I really don’t have a great sense of how this will work. I think this address ought to get you to the existing content during the migration:


Eventually the new whizbang site should be here (note the use of vague “whizbang” modifier since I really can make no promises there will be, you know, actual improvements):


Once everything is up and running, we’ll do some historical research on MSU’s tempo-free tendencies over the years. I know the anticipation will be killing you . . .

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With the Tigers’ odds of contending for a playoff spot rapidly dwindling to naught, the five months until the 2008-09 MSU basketball season begins are looking even longer to me than they otherwise would. Nonetheless, let’s look ahead to how the team fits together, at least on paper.

I’ve now provided my thoughts on all the returning scholarship players:

Goran Suton

Travis Walton and Kalin Lucas

Raymar Morgan

Durrell Summers and Chris Allen

Isaiah Dahlman, Idong Ibok, and Tom Herzog

Marquise Gray

Putting these 10 guys in with the three incoming freshman and preferred walk-on Austin Thornton, I see the depth chart looking something like this next season:

Starter Bench
Point Lucas Walton Lucious
Wings Allen Dahlman Thornton
Morgan Summers
Bigs Roe Gray Green
Suton Ibok Herzog


  • That starting lineup looks awfully explosive in a transition game. Of course, the trick is getting into a transition game. Failing that, a key will be taking advantage of mismatches that are bound to happen in the half-court offense with a frontline of Morgan/Roe/Suton.
  • The depth is pretty good across the roster. There’s one proven back-up in each of the three categories (Walton/Summers/Gray; I’m giving Gray the benefit of the doubt) and everyone ought to be able to at least hold down the fort in a pinch. If Dahlman were to redshirt, they could be a tad thin at the wing positions, as Thornton probably won’t be ready to contribute and Morgan will likely play some at the 4 spot again.
  • Also, we’ll probably see 10-15 minutes per game (hopefully no more than that) of two point guards on the floor, which will reduce minutes for wing players.
  • There’s 30 fouls there to be absorbed by big men.
  • I haven’t read anything about freshman redshirts. Roe certainly won’t. Izzo hasn’t redshirted guards historically, so Lucious probably won’t. Green could be a candidate, but I’d tend to doubt given that Izzo can’t be sure how many minutes he can rely on Gray for.
  • In terms of playing time distribution, the question is how Izzo will fill in Neitzel’s 30+ minutes/game and Naymick’s 20+ minutes/game. Hopefully, Roe is healthy enough to take up Naymick’s minutes right away. I’d guess Allen will increase his PT pretty dramatically–somewhere around 25 minutes/game. The team will need his pure shooting ability on the floor more often than not. Hopefully, Lucas, Summers, and Morgan can all become reliable perimeter shooters, as well, as Allen won’t be able to fill Neitzel’s shoes alone.

Here’s how I’d project playing time for the full roster:

  1. Lucas: 25-30 minutes
  2. Morgan: 25-30 minutes
  3. Suton: 25-30 minutes
  4. Allen: 25 minutes
  5. Roe: 20-25 minutes
  6. Walton: 20 minutes
  7. Summers: 15-20 minutes
  8. Gray: 15 minutes
  9. Green: 5-10 minutes
  10. Lucious: 5-10 minutes
  11. Ibok/Herzog: 0-5 minutes
  12. Dahlman/Thornton: Minimal PT

Averaging out the ranges, these figures add up to 200 minutes per game. They imply that Morgan would slide to the 4 spot for just 5 minutes per game and the team would have two point guards on the floor for 15 minutes.

Projecting the freshman is obviously the hardest, having not seen them play. There don’t seem to be a lot of minutes there for Lucious with two established point guards ahead of him. He is supposed to be a better pure shooter than Lucas, though, so maybe that gets him some time on the floor. Green would seem to have a shot to take some minutes away from Gray.

Coffee Talk time: What do you think? Who do you see stepping up to replace Neitzel? What excites/worries you most about this roster?

Speaking of Neitzel . . .

He’s been invited to the NBA pre-draft camp, which began in Orlando today. Other Big Ten players participating are Jamar Butler, Brian Butch, and Othello Hunter. (Eric Gordon is there for a physical only; D.J. White and Kosta Koufos aren’t in Orlando. White may or may not think he’s a lock to be a Piston.)

We’ll keep our eyes open for updates on Neitzel’s performance. His lack of size still seems like a huge obstacle to making it in today’s rough-and-tumble NBA, but I hope he gets every opportunity to find a niche with a team looking for an efficient ball-handler with shooting range. We do tend to forget how good a passer he is, given that those skills were underutilized during his college career as he was relied on as the primary scorer for the last two years.

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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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This is the last in the series of posts looking at each returning scholarship player’s performance this past season. And we’ve saved the most enigmatic Spartan for last: Marquise Gray.

Gray came into the program in 2004 as a 5-star recruit expected to use his off-the-charts athleticism to become a major star. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. Instead, he’s shown very little development over his four years on campus (including a redshirt year), as indicated by his playing time:

  • 2005-06: 12.9 minutes/game
  • 2006-07: 18.7 minutes/game
  • 2007-08: 13.1 minutes/game

Given the relatively small amount of playing time Gray received this season–particularly in conference and postseason play–we’ll look at trends in his statistical performance over his career, rather than within the context of the past season. Most of the stats below have been pulled from the fabulous statsheet.com.


  • 2005-06: 3.0 points/game, 52.1 FG%, 36.8 FT%, 14.0 Shot%
  • 2006-07: 6.8 points/game, 57.8 FG%, 59.0 FT%, 20.6 Shot%
  • 2007-08: 4.3 points/game, 60.7 FG%, 65.0 FT%, 16.5 Shot%

Most of these numbers actually look pretty good. Gray has increased both his field goal and free throw shooting percentages in each of the last two seasons. The problem is that he hasn’t shown any ability to expand the types of shots he can take. That last stat above is the estimated percentage of the team’s FG attempts he’s taken while he’s on the floor. After an uptick in this number as a sophomore, the figure fell back to 16.5% this last season. This implies that the shot’s he’s taking are mostly dunks and other high-percentage attempts–most of which he hasn’t created himself.


  • 2005-06: 5.8 Assist%, 23.9 TO%
  • 2006-07: 6.7 Assist%, 25.9 TO%
  • 2007-08: 4.9 Assist%, 31.0 TO%

The second problem that Gray’s shooting percentage numbers mask is his increasing propensity to turn the ball over when he gets anywhere near the basket. A turnover rate of 31.0% implies Gray gave the ball up every 16th possession he was on the floor this season. Those are bad numbers for a point guard, let alone a big guy who rarely touches the ball in a contested position. Gray has shown flashes of ability to score in the low post over his career, but those instances were overwhelmed by the propensity to turn the ball over when he got the ball in offensive sets.


  • 2005-06: 14.4 OffReb%, 19.6 DefReb%
  • 2006-07: 14.5 OffReb%, 22.1 DefReb%
  • 2007-08: 11.2 OffReb%, 21.4 DefReb%

Gray did continue to do the one thing he’s always done well this season: rebound the ball defensively. He would have ranked third in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage (just behind Suton) if he had played enough minutes to qualify. His offensive rebounding % fell off but was still top-ten quality.


  • 2005-06: 1.1 Steal%, 4.4 Block%
  • 2006-07: 1.9 Steal%, 4.3 Block%
  • 2007-08: 1.3 Steal%, 2.2 Block%

Gray’s block and steal numbers have never been great for a player with his athleticism, and both numbers dipped this past season from the prior year. Further, there’s no stat to show what I’d anecdotally say was Gray’s biggest problem this year: mental errors on defense that resulted in easy baskets for the opposition. This is what I had to say about Gray after the Big Ten Tournament game against Ohio State:

Marquise Gray is now officially a complete liability on the court. He played only 6 minutes after leaving Koufos wide open in the first half for a 3-pointer and long 2-pointer for absolutely no reason other than apparently not realizing Koufos could shoot the ball.

If not for the lack of defensive intensity, Izzo could probably live with Gray’s offensive limitations–particularly in light of his rebounding prowess. But Gray basically played himself out of the playing rotation this year. His average minutes per game fell from 17.5 in nonconference play to 11.8 in conference play (including the BTT).

Gray played a total of just 7 minutes in the 3 NCAA Tournament games, partially due to a sprained toe and a knee injury for which he underwent surgery after the season. Those injuries were the latest in a string of injuries Gray has suffered as a Spartan–something Izzo has pointed to as a factor in Gray’s disappointing play relative to his talent.

Gray still has a chance to be a major contributor in his senior season. Suton will man one of the big man spots for 30 minutes a game. We hope Delvon Roe will be ready to play most of the minutes at the other spot right off the bat, but you can’t take that for granted. Neither Ibok nor Herzog seem likely to regularly play 15-20 minutes as the first big man off the bench. Gray’s likely competitor for playing time will be freshman Draymond Green. If Gray can just limit the mental errors at both ends of the court, his rebounding ability alone should earn him a decent amount of playing time.

Whether Gray can finally find a consistent level of mental intensity in his fifth year in the program is a pretty big question mark, though. He’s clearly a guy with a passion for the game (as evidenced by his sometimes overexuberant celebrations after dunks) and a willingness to play hard (as evidenced by his rebounding stats). Putting it all together in a year when MSU has high hopes for hanging a banner or two would be a great finish to what has been a fairly underwhelming college career to date.

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Much-maligned Detroit Country Day center DaShonte Riley has committed to Georgetown. Riley plummeted to #111 in Rival’s latest ranking of 2009 prospects. Nix is #108. Sherman is #130. As previously indicated, I’m not a recruiting expert by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems like Izzo needs a wing player in the 2009 class to balance out perimeter players vs. inside guys over the next few years.

On the topic of Rivals rankings, Hoops Marinara (a Wisconsin basketball blog) has a breakdown of the Big Ten’s 2008 recruiting class. The introductory paragraph sums things up:

When Rivals.com released its final Class of 2008 rankings, the Big Ten sat fifth among conferences with 16 of the Top 150 recruits. That number is especially interesting because of how much talent the region produces. There are a total of 30 players from states that contain a member university . . .

The post notes that the IU decommitments following Sampson’s ouster hurt these numbers somewhat. Regardless, the apparent exodus of talent from the Midwest is disconcerting–although less disconcerting for MSU, which got one top-150 guy each from Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

On a positive note for the Big Ten, the conference already has 15 verbal commitments from the Rivals Top 150 for 2009–the most of any conference.

The LSJ had a profile of Jamil Wilson in Sunday’s paper.  Not a lot of new information.  Wilson certainly has an impressive list of top four schools at this point: Duke, UCLA, Kansas, MSU.

Now for something to make you feel really creeped out about college basketball recruiting–and the sport generally: this piece by Mike DeCourcy on the O.J. Mayo situation.  DeCourcy’s conclusion is basically that the entire sport of college basketball is corrupt.  College athletes have become commodities and there’s not much anyone can do anything about it, like changing the one-and-done rule or expecting 18-year old kids to resist being treated like  celebrities.

While DeCourcy may overstate the case somewhat–people are ultimately responsible for their decisions–his fundamental point, I’m sad to say, is correct.  Big-time college sports is on a collision course for disaster at some point (example: a team potentially having to forfeit a national championship due to an eligibility issue).  You simply can’t expect to generate as much revenue as Division 1 football and basketball do today and, at the same time, keep the athletes themselves in some sort of bubble of unadulterated amateurism.

It’s not about whether athletes deserve to be paid.  (I don’t think they do.)  It’s about the fact that the system is simply unsustainable from the standpoint of basic human behavior.  And I’m not sure how you adjust the system to make it sustainable without completely throwing out the notion of the amateur student-athlete.

OK, I really need to stay focused on statistical analysis before I swear off college sports altogether.  We’ll look at Marquise Gray’s numbers later this week.

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