Saturday, February 14, 2009

Odds and Ends

College Basketball Notes
1) Illinois Wins a Game We Can't - I happened to catch the Illinois/Northwestern game on Thursday night and I had mixed feelings on it. Going into the game, I wasn't really pulling for either team. An Illinois victory would be better for the conference in general, but if Northwestern could pull off the upset, it might help MSU more since the Illini are tied for second place and we have yet to play them again. Well, you know how that game turned out. Illinois made a dramatic comeback on clutch shooting and stifling defense that created multiple Northwestern turnovers late in the game. All I could think to myself was, why couldn't we do that when we played the Wildcats? Lake the Posts (NW Blogger) says that this was the most painful loss NW has ever endured. It seems pretty drastic to me, but then again it is Northwestern.
2) Media Members Give Spartans #2 Seed in Mock Selection Committee Meeting - The mock process involved 20 media members who spent 12 hours simulating what the actual selection committee does during the week preceding March Madness. The article is here. Their final pairings had Michigan State as the #2 seed in the Midwest Regional with a potential matchup against #1 seed Pittsburg. This blogger likes everything about this. First of all, they would play in Indianapolis and secondly, if they could get to the final, it should be a rematch of last year's second round game.
Other interesting things that came from the meeting were how Michigan was left out, the number of teams from a particular conference doesn't matter, and Greg Doyle of CBS thinks that Davidson should have an edge over other mid-majors because of their dramatic run last year in the tournament.
3. Big Ten Coaches Best in the NCAA Tournament? - Check out this blog from the Big Ten Geeks. Through their analysis, the Big Ten coaches outperform all other coaches when it comes to the post-season. They were followed by the Big East, the ACC, and then the SEC. It's worth checking out.

That's Ridiculous
1) Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman- Yeah, it's old, but if you didn't see the clip, check it out at the bottom of this post. This is what we can expect from Michael Phelps in a few years.
2) Falcons Will Trade the Rights to Michael Vick - I'm sure that the Don King of dog fighting will get another shot in the NFL, but I don't expect any teams to trade for him. What would you offer for him? Maybe Al Davis will try to trade his new coach for Vick, similar to how he traded Jon Gruden in 2002.
3) "Tim Tebow Will Kick the Living **** Out of a Defensive Lineman" - This is a quote from Jon Gruden in his first interview since being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The only way that Jesus would "kick the **** out of a defensive lineman" would be if Satan himself suited up. He later went on to say that Tebow is the "wildcat" with an arm, which is a pretty good take. You can find the entire article here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Should I Buy 'Em?

The Spartans had a day off on Wednesday, thus I don't really have any real things to write about today. So, instead, I thought that I would ask you all where you see Michigan State ending up with regards to seeding for the Tournament. Will they get the final number one seed after North Carolina, UConn, and Oklahoma? If so what region will they be in?

Should I Buy 'Em?
I think in the end, the Spartans will be a #2 seed. With that in mind, I can only hope that they end up in the Midwest Region. You see, your blogger lives in the host city for the Midwest Regional Finals, Indianapolis. Tickets are $120 for the weekend and I am thinking about getting two. Should I pull the trigger?

Vote in the poll listed on the right.

Tomorrow - Look for little tid bits here and there until next Monday. I may take a short break while the Spartans are off.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Delvon Roe Leads MSU Past Michigan 54-42

Michigan State grinded out their sixth consecutive road win in the Big Ten as they defeated Michigan 54-42. Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 15 points, while Delvon Roe had a career high 14 points. DeShawn Sims paced the Wolverines with 18 points.

Player of the Game: Delvon Roe 14 points, 10 rebounds

What Went Well For the Spartans
1) Emphasis on Getting the Ball Inside - From the opening tip, it was clear that Michigan State was going to take my advice and pound the ball down low. They tried to exploit Michigan's lack of height by getting Roe and Suton involved early. Delvon ended up being the biggest beneficiary with his career night while Suton struggled somewhat (8 pts on 2-7 shooting).
2) Great Defense - Led by Travis Walton, the Spartans played great pressure defense. Recognizing Michigan's tendencies to chuck up threes from all over the court, they extended their defense out a few feet further than they normally play and harassed their shooters all night. Walton held Manny Harris to 7 points on 2-10 shooting, including 1-6 from the 3-pt line.
3) Free Throws - MSU unexpectedly performed better at the free throw line than the Wolverines. The Spartans cashed in on 15 of 19 attempts while Michigan converted only 6 of 11. Michigan came into this game hitting 77% of their free throws.
4) Lack of Turnovers - I thought MSU did an excellent job of taking care of the basketball, especially against Michigan's high pressure defense. The Wolverines hasselled us all night and look really athletic in that 1-3-1 zone. It truly was a great performance by the Spartans.

What Didn't Go So Well
1) Rebounding - This is the most concerning aspect of this game. The Spartans only managed to grab a +3 rebounding margin against the Wolverines. Michigan actually grabbed more offensive rebounds than MSU as they had 9 and we had 8. This was the second straight contest where Michigan State has not blown away their competition in the rebounding margin. We were +5 against Indiana.
2) Durrell Summers - Summers got the nod from Tom Izzo in this game, presumably due to his height on the perimeter to guard against three point shots. But, he really didn't do much on the offensive end finishing 3-8 with 8 points in 31 minutes. I didn't think that Durrell Summers was playing good enough to limit Chris Allen to 9 minutes in this game.
3) Marquise Gray - As you know, I think we should try to get Gray more involved in the offense, but his two minutes of playing time last night illustrate why Tom Izzo is reluctant to do so. Immediately after he entered the first half of the game, he let Zack Gibson blow right by him for a layup. Then in Michigan State's following possession, he turned the ball over down in the post. I thought he had another turnover in that span too, but the official box score only listed him as having one. Personally, I think Izzo did the right thing here. I would manage Gray the same way. Let him play early and if he plays great, keep him in there. If he plays like a basket case, sit him down.
4) Poor Substitutions - As tradition, I have to get my regular criticism of Coach Izzo's substitutions in right here although, in general Izzo did a great job. Aside from Durrell Summers getting too many of Chris Allen's minutes, the only gripe I had was why did we need Austin Thornton in the game with 11 minutes to go? The only possible explanation is that he wanted some height on the perimeter for defense, but even then, I would have still went with Chris Allen as he isn't a bad defender and he can give you a lot more on the offensive end. Luckily, Thornton's two and a half minutes didn't hurt us, but it could have.

Post Game Analysis of My Preview
Without question, this was a weird game. Both teams strayed away from how they normally perform. Michigan State narrowly outrebounded the wolverines who are normally horrible on the boards. Michigan also uncharacteristically missed free throws and was more turnover prone than the Spartans.

Yesterday, I thought that the key to a victory would be Michigan's three-point shooting versus a stellar performance from either Durrell Summers or Chris Allen. Well, as it turns out neither team had success in these areas. Michigan went 4-24 from behind the arc and both Michigan State players really failed to make an impact. In the end, I think it came down to MSU's defense out playing the Wolverine defense.

Post Game Feelings
After watching the game last night, I was surprised by how unexcited I was with our victory. It had nothing really to do with how we played, but more about how in reality, it was just another game on our schedule that we were supposed to win. Yes, it was a rivalry game, but a rivalry game where we were the favorite for what seems like the 15th consecutive time. I would imagine that this is how Michigan fans feel each autumn when they beat us in football.

Tell me how you all feel.

"Everybody loves to beat Michigan on its own court, and it's a big thrill to do that, but it's not the highlight of our season." --Delvon Roe

"A lot of it had to do with their defense," Harris acknowledged. "They were really tough." --Copperyale Harris

Tomorrow - More Michigan Post Game

Monday, February 9, 2009

Michigan Preview

The Spartans head down to their little' sisters house tonight to try and extend their lead over second place Purdue to three games. It's a big game for Michigan also as they are coming off of their annual January collapse and are in danger of not making the NCAA. Their season started off very strong as they had the most impressive non-conference resume with wins over Duke and UCLA. But, once Big Ten play started, they have struggled mightily and they will look to get it going as their biggest rival comes to town.

Michigan (15-9 Overall, 5-6 in the Big Ten)

Key Wins:
vs. UCLA 55-52 (Neutral)
vs. Duke 81-73
vs. Illinois 74-64

Key Losses:
vs. Duke 71-56 (Neutral)
at Maryland 75-70
at UConn 69-61

Why Michigan Could Win
1) Turnover Margin - Michigan currently is third in conference in regards to turnover margin at +1 per game. As we have seen so far this year, the 1-3-1 has given us trouble at times. Without question, Michigan's will be the most athletic and most difficult version that we face. Then, to top it off, the Wolverines don't really turn the ball over themselves. If Michigan State has more than 15 turnovers, I don't see how they win this game.
2) Three Point Shooting - Michigan is the definition of a team living and dying by the three. Although they rank 10th in the conference with regards to 3-pt % (30%), they also shoot more from behind the arc than any Big Ten team. In fact, so far this season, 47% of all shot Wolverine shot attempts have been three pointers. That is amazing. The large number of three point attempts that Michigan will put up combined with how hot opposing teams seem to get against Michigan State makes me nervous. If the Wolverines do not shoot well, it could be blow out city for the Spartans.
3) Free Throws - Spartan fans can only hope that this game is not decided by the referees as Michigan is second in the league when it comes to team FT% (75%). I don't think that Tom Izzo will be fouling these guys with three minutes left if we are somehow losing this game.
4. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims - Both of these guys have the potential on offense to take over a game. Manny Harris is their primary scoring option and is averaging 15.3 ppg. He also is a surprisingly good rebounder and leads the team with 7 rpg within the Big Ten. Sims is essentially their lone inside presence and has real talent. Unfortunately for him, he has seen a significant drop in his numbers since conference play has started. I think this is a combination of Michigan being too reliant on three-point shooting and him not being aggressive enough rebounding the ball. Hopefully they don't get this straightened out in time for us.

Why Michigan State Can Win:
1) Rebounding - The backbone of MSU basketball will be essential to winning this game. The Spartan's lead the league with a +13 rpg margin while the Wolverines are 7th at -1 rpg. The fact that Michigan will be playing their 1-3-1 defense makes me think that Michigan State will improve on this impressive stat even more. If we do not rebound well, we have no chance of winning.
2) Inside Presence - The Spartans clearly have an advantage over the Wolverines when it comes to points in the paint. I expect the Michigan State forwards to have their way with Michigan's 4 guard lineup. We have to exploit their lack of size down low offensively and get easy baskets. I am hoping that Marquise Gray gets significant time as this could be his last game against Michigan. He may be a liability, however, if he has to guard a smaller player on the perimeter.
3) Kalin Lucas - The thing I like most about Kalin is that whether or not he shoots well, he always impacts the game. The question is how much of an impact will he have tonight? If he can effectively run the offense and limit turnovers, we will win this game convincingly.
4) Durrell Summers/Chris Allen - If one of these guys comes to play tonight, the game is over. If both play average we will still win. But if Summers has another 0-8 night from the three point line coupled with a poor performance from Allen, we will lose miserably. As we will see through the rest of the season, our fate rests on the backs of these two young men.

For me, tonight's game comes down to whose offense is going to play better. While Michigan State's is more consistent, I think that Michigan is more capable of going off for 90 points in an intense rivalry game. If the Wolverines are fortunate enough to get out to a big lead, Michigan State must find consistent ways to counter offensively and not just rely on defense to get them back into the game.

With regards to the offenses, there are two keys to the game. The first is how well will Michigan shoot from behind the arc. If they shoot close to 40% or better, I think that it will be a long night for the Spartans. The second key will be the play of Chris Allen and Durrell Summers. As mentioned above, we need one of these guys to step up and play well in order for our offense to truly work.

In the end, I see the Spartans grinding this one out in a hostile environment that they haven't won at since 2005. I expect a big swing in the score at some point due to Michigan's streaky shooting but MSU will hold on.

Michigan State over Michigan 68-62

Other Game Notes
1) No MSU Player Has Won In Ann Arbor - Just to warn you before the announcers say this over and over tonight. This has been due more to scheduling than how good Michigan is. MSU hasn't played in Crysler Arena since 2006.
2) 97% Chance Morgan is Out Tonight - Knowing this, I will say that I there is a 100% chance that Morgan might play.
3) Travis Walton Has a Cold - He is expected to play, but revealed the illness to the LSJ today.
4) Manny Harris Can't Play D? - Dan Dackich, IU's ex-interim coach who now has a radio show in Indianapolis, told a story earlier this year about Manny Harris' lack of defense. He explained that before IU played Michigan last year, Kelvin Sampson made a highlight reel exclusively featuring Manny Harris' lack of defense. Apparently it was full of opponents breezing by Harris and Sampson told his guards that they all should have career nights against him. Obviously, Harris has gotten better on the defensive end over the last year. This is evident by his 7 rebounds per game within the conference, but I still thought that was funny. For the record, Dan Dackich blasted an email of mine on his show last week when I questioned him on whether or not he thought Izzo got too much attention nationally. Add him to the list of haters I guess.
5) Copperyale Harris - How do you get Manny from that? He must have just realized how stupid a name like Copperyale is.

"This is still the biggest rivalry for Michigan State -- no question. I want it to be a good rivalry. Hell, the media members need something to write about. I want that for all of you."
--Tom Izzo

Hey coach, the Spartan Nation has spoken and they have said that they want Michigan to be our bitch, not our rival.

"I ain't got the Raymar, just a little stuffy nose." -- Travis Walton

God only knows what "The Raymar" is.

Tomorrow - Michigan Post Game

Michigan State Game Notes

No real news on the Spartans so far today. Look for speculation on Raymar Morgan's status later in the print media.

Around the Big Ten
1) Illinois Hammers Purdue - Purdue had their worst outing of the year and suffered a rare blow out under Matt Painter. I worry that the Spartans might be too aware of the Boilermakers' recent losses. Especially as we head down to Ann Arbor tomorrow.
2) Devan Dumas Suspended Indefinitely - Kudos to Tom Crean for doing the right thing, although it's a lot easier to suspend a guy when you are a shorthanded team like IU that essentially doesn't have a chance of winning another conference game anyway. Iowa isn't on the schedule again.

That's Ridiculous
1) Jamal Anderson Is a Dirty Bird - The ESPN analyst was charged with felony cocaine possession and for smoking the chronic. The funniest part of this story was ESPN reporting their own comments on the situation. Crazy.
2) A-Roid - You all know, so I will just tell you the most surprising thing I found about this story. A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, has a doctorate in industrial pharmacy. Coincidence?
3) Cold Play Best Rock Group? - The English band even admitted that they were miscategorized. They said that instead of hard rock, they were "like limestone." To put them up for an award against artists like Kid Rock and Metallica is ridiculous.

Green had a great game no doubt and was a huge help off the bench. I just hope it wasn't a fluke and when games are close especially against tougher opponents, he can step up and come through with some help.
--Glass-Half Full, Sterling Heights, MI

While I applaud Green's performance on Saturday, I don't want to be like the print media and say that Draymond all of sudden gets it because he had a great game. Unfortunately, going forward, I anticipate Green getting closer to his current season averages (2.5ppg, 2.9rpg) than the 15 and 12 he got on Saturday. I will also go on record and say that I would go with Gray over him just because I think he has a higher immediate upside to his game. Green will be a solid player in the future.

Tomorrow - Michigan Preview (It may be late in the day)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Michigan State's Strong Second Half Lifts Them Past IU 75-47

Michigan State won much less impressively than the final score showed. Indiana hung around in the first half and at one point, was only losing 33-30 before Michigan State pulled away. The Spartan offense looked uninspired with the exception of Draymond Green and Chris Allen. These two provided bench support for our starters who struggled.

Player of the Game: Draymond Green 15 points (5-5 FG), 12 rebounds in 20 minutes

What Went Well For the Spartans
1) Draymond Green - This was the game where Izzo's reluctance to go with Gray for significant minutes paid off for Draymond Green. He was a monster out there and provided an inside force for the Spartan attack. He was perfect from the floor finishing 5-5 and had 12 rebounds. I never thought that he would be capable of a game like this in his first year.
2) Turnovers - The Spartans took good care of the rock during this game. They turned it over just 10 times, while Indiana coughed it up 21 times. That will help our horrendous in conference turnover margin.
3) Points In the Paint - Michigan State outscored IU 30-18 in points in the paint. There seemed to be an emphasis to dump it down low to the big guys this game. I think we need more of this to become an efficient offense.

What Didn't Go So Well
1) Durrell Summers - He is starting to look like Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hyde. He finished 1-11 from the field incluiding 0-8 from behind the arc. Chris Allen's 4-6 performance from behind the 3-point line helped overshadow Durrell's poor performance. Kudos to Izzo for recognizing that Allen was feeling it and for sticking with him.
2. Kalin Lucas - It was his second straight game where he struggled with his shot. He finished 4-15 from the floor. Hopefully he finds his shooting touch as we will need it on Tuesday in Ann Arbor. It's an interesting time for the Free Press to come out with this article saying how Lucas could be the next Mateen. It also, for no obvious reason, mentions the city of my high school's biggest rival in it. Weird.
3. Delvon Roe at the Line - Note to all announcers: We know that his form is good. We don't care how good he looks if he doesn't make the shots. He finished 3-9 from the line and if he doesn't improve, we won't be able to have him on the floor late in games.
4. Rebounding - Of course this is all relative, but IU did a very good job rebounding the ball against us. Going in, I recognized that they were a good rebounding team. MSU edged Indiana 38-33 for the game. If I knew that the rebounding margin was going to be this close before the game started, I don't know if I would have picked us to win.

"We didn't have a lot of energy coming out -- it's not that we underestimated them, but that's just sometimes how it is. Coach always tells guys coming off the bench that they have to bring energy, so that's what I tried to do."
--Draymond Green

It's a great place; it's a great atmosphere. I was really overwhelmed. There were cheers, and that meant a lot. To be here and be part of building that program back up ... greatest memories of my life."
--Tom Crean

That's Ridiculous
1) Devan Dumes - The only thing worse than him throwing three elbows in one game was the fact that it took three occurences before he got tossed. What was he thinking? Was he just that flustered that he had to resort to that? In my opinion, the second and the third elbows were just as bad as Devin Harris' last week.
2) IU Attendance - The announcers mentioned several times about how IU's attendance had actually increased during their latest losing streak and what an accomplishment that was. Well, why don't they mention that IU has made all balcony seats $5 for the first time ever in school history. Can you imagine it only costing $5 to get for the Spartans? That would be great.

Tomorrow - More Indiana Post Game.