Saturday, January 3, 2009

Northwestern Preview

The Spartans look to follow up their impressive win over Minnesota with a victory at Northwestern today.

Northwestern (8-3 overall, 0-1 in the conference)

Key Wins:
vs. Florida State 73-59

Key Losses:
at Butler 57-53
at Stanford 65-59
at Penn State 61-57

Why they could win:
1. Statistically, they are playing really good defense. The Wildcats lead the conference in scoring defense allowing only 53.8 ppg. They are holding opponents to 39% shooting from the field which is second in the Big Ten, but 24th nationally. They are also second to Purdue in the Big Ten with regards to turnover margin with a +3.8 value.
2. Hot shooting. So far this season, the Wildcats are shooting 40% from behind the arc. Their best three point shooters are Kevin Coble and Craig Moore. They are shooting 40% and 47% respectively. Mix that in with the fact that Michigan State is notoriously bad at defending the three and this could be trouble. Northwestern is also making nearly 48% of their two-point shots.
3. Inspired play. Not only are the Wildcats playing to save the job of Bill Carmody, they also could be motivated by Craig Moore eclipsing the 1000 career point mark. This will most likely happen during the game.

Why Northwestern could lose:
1. Poor rebounding. Despite holding teams to poor FG percentages, the Wildcats are not rebounding very well, especially on the defensive end. They even rank worse than Minnesota with regards to cleaning the glass.
2. Lack of athleticism. If MSU gets out and running, Northwestern will have essentially no chance of winning this game. The Wildcats will need to slow it down, be patient, and run the Princeton offense effectively to beat the more athletic Spartans.
3. Their defense is likely overrated. Although statistically the Wildcats look amazingly competitive on the defensive end, their numbers are likely overinflated due to their lack of quality opponents. They are 0-3 against teams ranked in the top 50, but have played them all on the road and were extremely competitive in every game.

This contest has all of the hallmarks of being a trap game. The Spartans are coming off of their best performance this season and face the perennial doormat of the Big Ten in Northwestern on the road. But this Northwestern team on paper appears to be cut from a different cloth. They are shooting the ball very well and forcing their opponents to take bad shots. The key to the game will be how do these stats translate against the most athletic team they have seen all season.

In the end, I see the Spartans coming home with the victory, but unimpressively. It will be a grind it out game and the Wildcats will hang around because of excellent three point shooting.

MSU over Northwestern 68-61.

"There has to be a point in time, and the last couple years we haven't found it, where players realize that every single game is important if you are trying to win a conference championship" -Tom Izzo in a LSJ article found here.

"Hey SpartyBasketball, I could not disagree with you more about Dahlman. I think that Izzo needs to find a way to consistently get him on the floor. I think that he is long and more athletic than most people think. He could contribute to this team greatly."
-Chris, Lansing

Again with the Dahlman thing? Once again, he's a nice kid and I do not have anything against him. If I met him, I am sure that we would get a long well. The problem is that he just isn't a good basketball player. I have no idea how you would know how athletic Dahlman is. You definitely have not seen it during an actual game. Maybe you have been to some practices or and saw something that none of us have? In the end, I think Dahlman needs to stay on the bench but I don't think that this is going to happen. I am sure that Izzo will give him some unexpected PT sometime throughout the season. When he does, I can only hope that he comes through and proves me wrong.

Tomorrow: Northwestern Post Game.

ISpartyBasketball - A Michigan State Basketball Blog. The thoughts of one alumnus on Michigan State Basketball.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More Minnesota Post Game

Spartans everywhere are still feeling really good about that win on the road against the Minnesota. The Spartans played nearly flawless and are starting conference play on the right foot. Can they keep this up? Only time will tell.

More Game Notes:
1. Game time change. I love how the Gophers changed the time of the basketball game so that fans could watch the Insight Bowl. I knew that the time was changed recently, but didn't know why until they announced it on the broadcast. Way to play the game at 11 AM local time. That's like AAU ball. Maybe they ran it back with U of M -Duluth right after.
2. The other Smith. Did anyone else notice Sal Smith as a Minnesota assisstant coach? Can this guy do anything without his dad helping him? George W. thinks thinks Sal Smith is ridiculous.
3. I overlooked Al Nolen. In my preview of the Minnesota game, I ignored Al Nolen who clearly looks to be the leader of this team. He has a balanced game and leads the Gophers in both assists and steals. If he stays all four years at Minnesota, he could be a first team all conference player.

Related Michigan State News:

MSU football gets beat by Georgia 24-12. In the end, I was happy with the Spartans' effort. They played hard and made the final score respectable. I would have predicted a much more lopsided loss and we should be happy that it turned out to be a close game. The truth of the matter is, however, that Georgia did everything they could to give us this game. They made three key turnovers but the Spartans couldn't capitalize on them. Their punter missed the ball on a punt attempt for God's sake! I've never seen that before. It was truly hilarious. Anyways, they might have gotten the dubya, but we got their mascot.

Hopefully, Coach D'Antonio will use this bowl game appearance as a stepping stone to take our program to the next level.

"I'm not going to claim to know what was in Izzo's head, but I'm pretty sure he was playing because he's a good basketball player and Izzo thought having him on the court would help the team. Keep in mind, this kid is the all-time point scorer in Minnesota history. That's pretty impressive. Obviously, he has some skills. I highly doubt that Izzo put him in just because he's from Minnesota."
-Steve from Gladwin

I have received a lot of flack regarding my comments on Isaiah Dahlman. Let me just say, I don't have anything against the guy personally. He seems like a great kid who tries really hard. He just lacks the talent necessary to play in the Big Ten. It's that plain and simple.

Secondly, I wanted to address this "all-time point scorer in Minnesota [High School] history" business one more time. Like I have said previously, Isaiah is no longer Minnesota's career scoring leader. That record was broken early in 2008 by a guy named Cody Shilling. Do you know where he ended up? Not Duke, Carolina, or even Minnesota for that matter. Augustana College. A DII school! Is that "pretty impressive"?

Dahlman should have transferred early this year when he saw Thornton playing ahead of him. I think the players are about equal as far as talent goes, but Thornton has more elgibility and therefore, more potential to contribute in the future.

Side Note: The Michigan High School basketball career scoring leader is Jay Smith from Mio (1979). Smith most notably was the Central Michigan head coach from 1997-2006. He is currently an assistant at the Univ. of Detroit for Ray McCallum.

Tomorrow: Northwestern Preview

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spartans Pound Minnesota 70-58

I love it when I am wrong! The Spartans came out with an amazing effort and got a huge road win to start the Big Ten season. They played essentially flawless and flourished under the leadership of Kalin Lucas. While he was scoring easily throughout the game, the entire team clamped down on defense to keep the Gophers' high scoring offense in check.

Player of the Game: Kalin Lucas - Career high 24 points on 9-18 shooting.

What went well:
1) Tremendous rebounding. The Spartans outrebounded the Gophers 49-27, including a 23-11 offensive rebouding advantage. This is purely a result of Coach Izzo's emphasis on winning the battle on the boards.
2) Kalin Lucas played superb. He looked like a true floor general out there today. He pushed the ball effectively and used his quickness to get easy baskets. He is going to make me eat my words about how I thought he was on pace to tie Drew Neitzel for the worst offseason regression ever.
3) Chris Allen got hot in the first half. The box score doesn't adequately reflect Allen's impact on this game. He got hot quickly and set the tone for the Spartans early in the game. You have to admire the confidence that this kid has despite not shooting the ball well so far this year. He has never seen a shot that he didn't like.
4) Great defense. We held the Gophers to a season low 39% from the field.
5) Superior Athletes. Newsflash: The team with the best athletes normally wins. That was us today. Minnesota just couldn't keep pace with our boys.

What didn't go well:
1) Raymar Morgan's Offense. He tried his best to disappear in this big game, but ended up with one of the ugliest double-doubles I have ever seen. He did not travel however, so I am thankful for that.
2) Contributions from the bench. Aside from Allen, we didn't get much from our bench today. Other than his olley-oop and his thunderous dunk, I didn't like what I saw from Summers gain. He continues to rely on an outside shot that I don't believe is legit. Even with Roe hurt, Marquise didn't find his way onto the court after he played a total of seven minutes despite not being in foul trouble. Why doesn't Izzo just tell Gray that he hates him? I mean, this guy is a basketcase, but why play Draymond Green over him? That makes no sense.

Post Game Quotes:
"When a team beats you by 22 on the boards, you have no chance of winning" - University of Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith

"....I'd say this was one of our best games"- Tom Izzo

That's ridiculous!
1) Booing Dahlman is ridiculous. The only thing more ridiculous was the fact that he got on the floor at all. Why was he playing? Because he is from Minnesota? Give me a break Coach! Everyone knows that Dahlman can't do anything without the chemistry of his fellow practice squad teammates Mike Kleber and Jon Crandell.
2) Durrell Summers' dunk not being replayed on the live broadcast. I think it was the best dunk I've ever seen him do, but I'm not sure because I can't remember it. I think he dunked right on a Gopher but if that were the case, it seems like he would have been fouled. So far, I can't find that highlight anywhere.
3) University of Minnesota Sweeper Logos. Did you notice how the University of Minnesota logo'd up their court mops with their weird block M?
4) Goran Suton getting stuffed by the rim. For all of those fans out there who wonder why he doesn't dunk more, that is why. He looked hideous!
5) This picture of Draymond Green. What could have he done that warrented this pose? All I saw him do was make a nice steal only to be caught from behind and stripped on his way to the basket.
6) Anthony Crater leaving OSU after listening to his AAU coach. This coach was quoted as saying that Noopy always had a "two- or three-year plan" at OSU and then off to the NBA. Now it is a two- or three- year plan at Mott.
Full articles here and here

Post Game Quotes:
"When a team beats you by 22 on the boards, you have no chance of winning" - University of Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith

"....I'd say this was one of our best games"- Tom Izzo

Great blog, enjoyed it. I think you have to add "make free throws" to the Spartans' keys to success. We're getting killed at the line and this could really cost us.
-ShowtimeSparty in Ferndale.

Undoubtedly, that belongs on my keys to the Spartans' success. I have mentioned before on this blog, but somehow left it out of my Big Ten Preview. The good news is that yesterday, we were 12-13 from the charity stripe. Thanks for the email.

Tomorrow: More Minnesota Post Game

Minnesota Preview

The Spartans travel to The Barn to open Big Ten conference play today.

Minnesota (12-0) Ranked #21 in both polls

Key Wins: vs. Louisville
Key Losses: None

Why they could win:
1. They have a potent offense. Minnesota has been very successful on the offensive end so far this season. They are led by junior guard Lawrence Westbrook who is averaging 13 ppg. He is joined in the backcourt by Blake Hoffarber who is a deadly three point shooter and most notably known for the amazing pair of shots posted here and here. He is a human highlight real and is currently converting on 46% of his shots from behind the arc.
2. They can block shots. Three players on the team are averaging right around 2 blocks per game. Damian Johnson has the highest average at 2.7 pg despite being only 6-7. The more traditional shot blockers are Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson.
3. Great Coaching. Tubby is a legend and will have his team ready to play. Can he get more out of his players than Izzo?
4. It's a Big Ten opener on the road for the Spartans. In Big Ten openers on the road, Tom Izzo is 2-6.
5. Delvon Roe is injured. You would think that losing a freshman wouldn't be that big of a deal, but this could be devistating. He provides a sound basketball presence and a solid ability to rebound the basketball. Without him, we will have to rely on Marquise Gray waking up and realizing that if he doesn't start producing in the next two months, he will be on his way back to Flint forever.

Why Minnesota could lose:
1. Suspect defense - Despite their shot blocking statistics, they have struggled on the defensive end. They are ranked 8th in the Big Ten with regards to scoring defense and to make things worse, this has been against a very weak schedule. The Spartans will put them to the test as they currently lead the Big Ten in scoring offense.
2. MSU is a better rebounding team - This will be put to the test without Roe in the line up, but I anticipate winning this battle. Suton should provide a good inside presence and hopefully gets some easy offensive boards.
3. Lack of athleticism. Undoubtedly, the Spartans have better athletes. The question is can Izzo get them to produce a win. I anticipate Tubby going to his bench often as he currently has 10 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
4. Good coaching. Izzo can go toe for toe with Tubby.

Like all road games in the Big Ten, this one is going to be difficult to win. Minnesota appears on the schedule at probably the worst time as they are beaming with confidence and ready to make a name for themselves. In order for the Spartans to win, they will need superb leadership from Kalin Lucas and another great game from Goran Suton. Morgan cannot disappear and Chris Allen will have to utilize any minutes that he might see.

In the end, I see the Spartans losing a heart breaker.

Minnesota over MSU 77-72.

Other Big Ten Notes:
1. Illinois upsets Purdue - This was a great game. In my opinion, Illinois should have won but almost blew it. JuJuan Johnson missed a go-head FT with one second left in regulation for the Boilermakers. Illinois then went on to win in overtime.

Tomorrow: Minnesota Post Game.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Big Ten Preview Part 3

3. Michigan 10-2
Just when God blessed all Spartan fans with Rich Rodriguez, he had to start what appears to be a dramatic turnaround to the Michigan basketball program. At 10-2, the Wolverines have already matched their win total from one year ago. John Beilein has this team playing well on both sides of the ball lead by Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. The "Detroit Connection", as they are being promoted by the U of M athletic department, has become one of the best inside-out duos not only in the conference, but nationally. It's difficult to say what has sparked this tremendous turnaround so far this season. I directly attribute it to the dramatic improvement of Sims during the offseason. He has essentially doubled his rebounding average this year and increased his scoring average from 12 to 17 ppg. If he were to keep on this pace through conference play, he would be the conference player of the year.

I would love to say that Michigan's success has been against lackluster competition, but this is not the case. Unlike many recent Michigan teams that have had hot starts, the '08 Wolverines have the most impressive wins among all of the Big Ten teams. They beat UCLA convincingly early in the season at MSG and eventually split a rare non-conference pair of games with Duke beating them at home. Non-believers would argue that UCLA isn't that good and that the Duke game was a fluke. I could see that argument.

Why they can beat MSU:
1) The 1-3-1 Defense. After watching the UCLA game, it was obvious how the 1-3-1 was dramatically improved. Beilein has extended it to nearly half court and it has a very high pressure presence. The first thing I thought of was that this is the type of defense that has plagued the Spartans for a decade. I can see us turning the ball over a ton.
2) The "Detroit Connection" could get hot. Let's be honest, the Spartans wanted both of these guys and couldn't get it done. They are tremendous players that could take over a game against anyone in the country.
3) Laval Lucas-Perry is now playing. I was skeptical that he would contribute the way Wolverine fans thought that he would, but so far, he has scored in double figures every game.
4) Superior FT shooting. As a team, they are shooting over 80% from the line. Mix that in with the only game at Crysler this year and we are in trouble.

Why MSU will win:
1) We have a deeper bench. We don't clutter our bench with brothers of overhyped football players or former transfers from Rutgers. We will hopefully wear out the starters for the Wolverines and get some cheap baskets.
2) Better rebounding. Aside from Sims, the Wolverines are average rebounders at best. This is one of our strengths and we will exploit it.
3) We will exploit their defense. Michigan has been efficient on offense, but not on the defensive end. Currently their defense is ranked 136 nationally in Pomeroy rankings. They will have to improve on this to beat the Spartans.
4) Izzo is a better coach. While Beilein is approaching 500 wins, Izzo has the clear advantage.

In the end, I was hesitant to place the Wolverines so high in my rankings. They could very easily finish as low as 8th in the conference. They could also win it all. I'll hope for the fomer, rather than the latter.

Predicted Record: 11-5

1. Purdue (Tie) 11-3
Unlike last year, Purdue has the bullseye on their back as the conference favorite. My heart tells me that they won't live up to the hype since they will not be surprising anyone this year, but my mind tells me that they are really good. What impresses me most about Purdue is their great pressure defense that causes a lot of turnovers. They lead the Big Ten with a +6 turnover margin and are second in steals. Defense is the staple of this team and should provide a great deal of consistency throughout the year.

Offense will be the limiting factor for the Boilermakers this year. Although they have the capability to put points on the board, I don't know how well they will respond when everyone knows they have been picked to win the conference. So far this year, Robbie Hummel has continued to be a force averaging 14 points and nearly 8 rebounds per game. E'twaun Moore on the other hand has struggled somewhat so far this season. While his ppg are up, his shooting percentage is down. He shot nearly 44% from three point land one year ago and is currently shooting 32%. In order for them to be a contender for the conference title, he will have to play better.

Why they can beat MSU:
1. Aggresive defense. Like I said about Michigan's 1-3-1, Purdue plays an aggressive, in your face defense that has historically given MSU problems. I have faith in Kalin Lucas' ability to break their full court pressure, but I am unsure about the rest of the Spartans. I think that Lucious has the ability to push the ball up, but he is only a freshman and that is a lot to ask.
2. Hummel, Moore, and Johnson. These guys have the capability to put big numbers up in a hurry. If they get hot offensively, Purdue's defense will carry them to a victory.

Why MSU can beat them:
1. An efficient offense. If we play to our potential, I think we are capable of putting big numbers up on anyone.
2. Superior rebounding. As a team, we are better rebounders although JuJuan Johnson is a force individually. We will need all the second chance points we can get.
3. Deeper Bench. We can legitimately play 9 or 10 deep and with Purdue's style of play, I anticipate both teams needing to go to role players due to foul trouble.

Predicted Record: 14-4

1. Michigan State (Tie) 9-2
It is very hard for me to put the Spartans on top this year. Mainly because they have consistently let me down during conference play throughout this entire decade. Certainly I think that winning a share of the conference is a lofty prediction, especially with the way they have played so far. I know they were picked by the media and coaches to finish second, but like every other year, this is because of our success during the previous year's NCAA tournament and how we were returning most of our starters. This team is not playing as well as a #10 ranking suggests.

Keys to success:
1) Chris Allen needs to find his shot. He is really struggling right now to find his shot. His defense is weak as it is so if he isn't hitting shots, he might as well not be on the floor. He also is the only true three point shooter we have. I don't buy Summers being a legitimate threat from the perimeter although he has shot the ball well from distance so far this year.
2) Raymar Morgan needs to be consistent. No more dissappearing in big games. No more travelling in transition. He needs to continue to pound the ball inside and stay away from perimeter shots.
3) Limit turnovers. I was surprised to see that MSU is only average among Big Ten teams in turnovers and turnover margin. It seems like they have taken care of the ball better this year, but the statistics do not show this. It's probably because in recent years, their turnovers have been ridiculously high so now when they are average, I think they are doing well.
4) Lucas needs to be a consistent penetrator. Hopefully the Oakland game is the turning point for him and he starts to find his shot. If he can add some scoring to his terrific assist/turnover ratio, we will have a great shot at winning this league.
5) Avoid injuries. The conference season is off to a rough start with Roe on the bench probably for the first two games. Like everyone in the Big Ten, this team will need everyone to be 100% in order to win.
6) Consistent Rebounding. The Spartans lead the conference in rebounding margin with +7. This is solid and slightly exceeds my expectations since we don't have a dominant rebounder. We clean up on the boards because of Izzo's philosophy more than anything.

Predicted Record: 14-4

Later Today: Minnesota Preview.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Big Ten Preview Part 2

7. Illinois 12-1
Statistically, Illinois is the most well balanced team in the Big Ten so far this year. On offense, they are shooting almost 49% from the field and nearly 40% from three. They lead the nation in assist percentage at 72% and are not turning the ball over. On the other side of the ball, they have shut down their opponents and are ranked 5th nationally in scoring defense. Only Clemson has scored more than 64 points against them. The Tigers were also the only team to shoot higher than 46% from the field against the Illini.

After all of that, one would think that Illinois is unbeatable. But, Bruce Webber has his work cut out for him from here on out. The Illini have a brutal Big Ten schedule that is terribly front loaded. In their first six games, they travel to Purdue, play Michigan twice, at MSU, and at home against Ohio State. That is tough. If Illinois is going to have a breakout year, they will have to be successful early on in conference play.

Why they can beat MSU:
1) MSU can't win at Illinois. Izzo rarely wins in front of the Orange Crush. Last year was the exception.
2) They have the ability to hit shots
3) They are playing great defense
4) Great coaching

Why they will lose to MSU:
1) They have to play at the Breslin
2) I question their ability to rebound (although they are outrebounding opponents right now)
3) They lack depth

Predicted Record: 8-10

6. Minnesota 12-0
It is probably a stretch to put the Golden Gophers this high, but they are undefeated and have an excellent coach in Tubby Smith. Of course, they haven't really played anyone either. Even their win over Louisville is probably overvalued as I don't think that the Cardinals are that good. Nonetheless, the Gophers' success thus far has been great for the conference but I don't expect it to last. I don't think that they can continue scoring over 75 points per game in the Big Ten. I think that they will have a good year for Minnesota and may sneek into the tournament.

Why they can beat MSU:
1) Momentum. They start the Big Ten season in The Barn against the Spartans and are riding one of the best winning streaks that they have seen in recent years. Tubby will have his boys ready to play.
2) Ability to score. So far the Gophers are averaging 75 points per game which is second in the Big Ten. I don't think that this will last in conference play, but it could
3) Good coaching. Everyone knows Tubby Smith is an elite coach. Just not the University of Kentucky.
4) Shot Blocking. They lead the Big Ten in blocked shots with more than 7 per game.

Why they won't beat MSU:
1) Suspect Defense. They have not been shutting down teams defensively so far this year despite their cupcake schedule. They will have to force more turnovers and rebound better to beat quality opponents.
2) Lack of athleticism.

Predicted Record: 9-9

5. Wisconsin 12-3
With their success during the Bo Ryan era, I consider the Badgers to be our most intense, recent rival. They probably don't look at it that way since they have pretty much dominated us during that time. While most Spartans hate Bo Ryan, you have to respect this guy's ability to coach. Unlike Izzo, he rarely has a team favored to win the Big Ten, but seems to seriously contend for the conference title year in and year out. So far, the Badgers have been quiet on the national stage. They do not have a win against a quaility opponent, but played the Texas and Marquette close. They were blown out by UConn earlier in the year.

It's hard for me to predict Wisconsin finishing fifth in the conference, but that is just the way it shook out. If not for what I think is the easiest Big Ten schedule, I might have put them even lower. Maybe it is because subconsciously that is where I want them to finish. My argument is that they don't have any quality wins so far and that they aren't rebounding the ball as well as they normally do. It is not inconceivable that they end up winning the Big Ten, but I prefer not to think that way.

Why they could beat MSU:
1) Bo Ryan owns Tom Izzo. Like it or not, it is fact. The best part of this is that they obviously don't like each other. When they both get old and senile, I could see them going John Chaney on each other.
2) Experience. Landry and Krabbenhoft have been there for freakin' ever! When will they leave? Travon Hughes is also an excellent leader as a junior and Jason Bohannon was the Sixth Man of the year last year.

Why they won't beat MSU:
1) They do not play the Spartans in Madison this year. That sucks for them, but is even better for us. It's difficult for us to win there.
2) Turnovers. Although the Badgers are known for taking care of the ball, their turnover margin this year is essentially zero and ranks 10th in the Big Ten so far. It will be interesting to see how this plays out during conference play.
3) Poor transition game. Wisconsin is better at grinding games out and if we can score in transition, I don't think they have a chance.

Predicted Record: 10-6

4. Ohio State 9-1
In contrast to Wisconsin, I was hesitant to place the Buckeyes fourth in my conference preview. Despite quality wins at Miami, at home against Butler, and against Notre Dame in a neutral site game, I do not have a ton of confidence in the way this team is playing. When I break down each of these games, I see flaws. At Miami, their best player gets kicked out for being an idiot and swinging at Anthony Crater. They barely got past Butler at home which is a good team, but not as good as they have been the last two years. They beat Notre Dame without Harongody and then most importantly of all, West Virginia went UNC on them this past weekend at home.
There is not doubt that the athleticism is there in Columbus, but how far will that get them. I don't think that their players have polished their skills enough to seriously contend for the Big Ten title. They will win some games against the league's best teams, but I don't think that they will do it consistently.

Why they can beat the Spartans:
1) Athleticism. I think they are the most athletic team in the Big Ten. Evan Turner has been dominate so far this year. He probably won't be around next year.
2) BJ Mullins could step his game up and be the big time recruit that he was supposed to be. It hasn't happened so far.
3) Defense. They are playing pretty well on the defensive end so far this year. They are only giving up 55 ppg and WV was the only team to hit for 70 or more this year against them.

Why they won't beat the Spartans:
1) Inconsistency.
2) Lack of depth.

Predicted Record: 12-6

MSU Related News:
1) Delvon Roe Doubtful. He probably won't play for MSU at The Barn on Wednesday. Ideally, I would like to go to a small line up, putting Morgan at the PF position, and play a three gaurd lineup with Lucas, Walton, and Allen. But, since Allen is struggling, I think I would put Summers at the SF. Izzo may opt to stay big and put Marquise in at the PF which would be fine, but you never know what he is going to give you.

2.) Spartans ranked No. 10 in AP; No. 15 in ESPN/USA Today. Although I don't think that we are playing as well as a top 10 team should, I take comfort in the fact that Texas is more overrated than we are. We will see if we live up to our ranking on Wednesday.


"We're making progress as we get guys back. And if there is a team that is prepared for road games, it should be us." -Tom Izzo on Wednesday's matchup against Minnesota.

-Okay coach. I'll hold you to this although we have had more difficult non-conference schedules in the past with better Spartan teams that didn't translate to success on the road. He must be counting the games at Ford Field and The Palace as being away games.

Tomorrow: Big Ten Preview Part 3 and Preview of Minnesota.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Big Ten Preview Part 1

Today, I will run down what I think will be the bottom four teams in the conference.

10. Indiana 5-7
We all knew that they were going to be bad, but I'm not sure we knew it would be like this. While it is common knowledge that they lost most of their team last year, including all 5 starters, most people don't realize that their freshman class was pretty typical for IU. Sure, they lost Devin Ebanks and Terrell Holloway, but they still had a very strong incoming class. They were led by Tom Pritchard who was a teammate of Delvon Roe and led their high school team to the Ohio State Championship game without him. They also got Devon Dumes via the JUCO route who was going to go to Ohio State before Ebanks and Holloway decomitted. These two guys have become the leaders of this young team.

Why they could beat MSU:
1) They could out hustle the Spartans. Coach Crean is a great motivator and he has them playing with 100% effort.
2) MSU could play down to the level of their opponents.

Why they won't beat MSU:
1) They are inexperienced, lack chemistry, and are just not physically mature.
2) They lost to Lipscomb and Northeastern at home

Projected record: 2-16

10. Northwestern 8-2
This may be Bill Carmody's final year at Northwestern after he has failed to live up to the high expectations he brought to Evanston 8 years ago. His best finish in the Big Ten has been tied for 5th in 2003 and even then he only went 8-8. His team has been off to a pretty good start this year although most of their wins have been against cupcakes. When facing teams in the top 50, they are 0-2 but have had impressive outings in each of these games on the road. During Carmody's tenure, Northwestern has had similar records as they do now and then go onto win 2 or 3 games the rest of the entire season. I don't see it being any different this year. I think they will split with Indiana and then also pick up an unexpected win somewhere in the regular season.

Why they could beat MSU:
1) They could catch us playing to the level of the competition
2) Bill Carmody needs some big wins this season

Why they won't beat MSU: Because they are Northwestern and we are Michigan State. Evan Eschmeyer isn't walking through that door anytime soon.

Projected Record: 2-16

9. Iowa - 10-3
Todd Lickliter has his team off to a solid start so far this season. This will be his second tour through the Big Ten after a miserable year last year. The Hawkeyes have played a pretty balanced schedule with some quality opponents like West Virginia, Boston College, Kansas State and Drake. The problem is that they only won one of these games. Their schedule will only get tougher as conference play begins and I don't see this year being much better than last.

Why they could beat MSU:
1) Good three point shooting. So far they are shooting over 40% from three lead by freshmen Anthony Tucker and Matt Gatens.
2) Over Officiating. They are shooting over 74% as a team from the free throw line.

Why they won't beat MSU:
1) Inexperience. The top two scorers, Tucker and Gatens, are both freshman and Cyrus Tate is not having the senior year that many expected. He is only averaging 7 points and 7 boards a game.

Predicted Record: 4- 14

8. Penn State 11-2
It doesn't feel right to move Penn State all the way up to 8, but I have one reason: Talor Battle. He has reached double figures in every game this year and is averaging 19 ppg. He also has 5.5 apg along with 5.6 rpg. That is amazing even despite their lack of quality opponents. Maybe Talor Battle can lead the Nittany Lions to the promise land. I doubt it.

Why they could beat MSU:
1) A strong individual performance from Talor Battle
2) They could catch us playing to the level of the competition
3) Because they somehow did it last year

Why they won't beat MSU:
1) Lack of athletes
2) Lack of experience

Projected Record: 6-10

Other Notes:
1) Anthony Crater is transferring out of Ohio State. Apparently he wasn't happy with his role as a back up point gaurd for the Buckeyes. "Noopy" is from Flint and attended Flint SouthWestern through his junior year, but then transferred to a high school in New Hampshire during his senior year. Many Spartan fans wanted him to wear the green and white, but somehow Ohio State landed him. Unfortunately for him, there's no room on this squad for a back up PG. Kalin Lucas is the now and Korie Lucious is the future. Maybe Crater will go to Mott Community College. They win national championships there.

2) Eric Devendorf has been reinstated. Apparently, if you spend 40 hours picking up trash, you get a free pass to punch a woman of your choice in the face. We are so glad that this guy stiffarmed MSU during his junior year by decommitting and eventually going to Syracuse. I could not have dealt with another high profile recruit that didn't live up to expectations. Especially some guy from Bay City.

3)Maurice Joseph is not tearing it up at Vermont. Although he just had his best game as a Catamount with 18 pts, he is averaging just 8.7 ppg. He has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1:2.8. Yeah, that isn't written backwards. 1:2.8!!!! Interestingly enough, he isn't getting much more playing time than he did at MSU (23 min/game vs. 16). In the end, I think both he and MSU are better off apart. I can't deal with Raymar's turnovers as it is, let alone MoJo's. I do miss the Rec Specs though.

Big Ten Preview Part 2.


Oakland Postgame

Well, it wasn't as close as I thought it was going to be. At least if you look at the final score anyway. But, the Spartans didn't handle Oakland as easily as I think most people thought they would have. They are a pretty decent team and gave Michigan State some trouble during this game.

Player of the Game: Goron Suton 16 pts, 9 rebounds.

Why MSU won:
1) They dominated the boards on both ends of the court, but especially offensively. They had 34 rebounds, with 12 of them being offensive. Compare that to 19 and 4 for Oakland and they don't have a chance.

2) Superior senior leadership from Goran Suton. 16 points on 7 for 9 shooting and 9 rebounds. He was also 2 for 2 from behind the arc.

3) Excellent 3-point shooting lead by Kalin Lucas who was 3-4. Who knows what would have happened if the Spartans didn't go 11-20 from 3.

4) Good Tempo - They pushed the ball relatively well and didn't allow Oakland to slow it down. Give Lucas credit for playing a great game with 6 assists and only one turnover.

What didn't go so well:
1) Oakland's 15 unanswered points early in the first half. It was so nice to see the Spartans cleaning up on the offensive glass early in the game and go out to a 9-0 lead. But then, to have that followed up with 15 straight from Oakland was disgusting. Michigan State cannot afford runs like these in the future. They shouldn't happen against anyone, but especially against a school like Oakland. Did you notice the Morgan turnover during this run while he was in transition? That guy cannot finish a break to save his life!

2) Despite scoring his 1000th point, Raymar Morgan didn't seem to have a very good night. He was 4-11 with 4 turnovers. He finished with 8 points. Normally with a stat line like that, the Spartans lose but not tonight. Not with our hot three point shooting.

3) Chris Allen still struggled with a 1 for 6 shooting night despite 21 minutes.

I must say that I wasn't able to watch this game as I was travelling for the holidays, but I heard most of it on the Spartan Radio Network. Did anyone catch that? I was about to wring Gus Ganakas' neck during the pregame as he kept mentioning how MSU has undefeated Minnesota waiting for them on New Years Eve. I was worried that he set the tone for the Spartans to overlook the Golden Grizzlies. Then, they had this NBA-like introduction of the starting lineups. I couldn't tell you who the PA announcer was, but I felt like he was auditioning to be the next Mason for the Detroit Pistons. I'm not sure if it was televised or not, but I am picturing a dark smoke fillied Palace with laser lights everywhere and Sirius playing loudly in the background and then, out of no where, a Greg Kampe halogram appears at center court.

If anyone was there, I would love to know exactly what was going on while the PA announcer was yelling into the mic. This was a rare exception where I missed a game.

Post Game Quotes:
"Some guys that were okay shooters got comfortable, they made some shots, and then they went on an 18-4 run to end the half, and that was the game." -Greg Kampe

-I completely agree. I don't like seeing Suton and Summers shooting threes, but they have been going in so how can you argue against it. As the season progresses, the same Spartan fans than applaud these threes will be screaming at both of these guys to go inside more often.

"Record-wise, we're where we want to be, but basketball-wise, we are not even close." -Tom Izzo

-I couldn't have said it any better.

Tomorrow: Part one of my Big Ten preview. I will run half of the teams in the conference.