Saturday, March 7, 2009

Purdue Preview #2

The long anticipated regular season finale is finally here except it lacks all of the attention that it once had received. Instead of playing for the conference championship, both teams will be playing to pad their resume for the NCAA tournament. Personally, however, I am looking forward to seeing how the Spartans respond to the Boilermakers' victory down in West Lafayette. Will they come out and show that they are a different team or will Purdue prove to everyone that, if healthy, they would have won the conference.

Purdue (22-8 Overall, 11-6 in the Big Ten)

Why Purdue Could Win
1) Pressure Defense - Purdue's in-your-face, high pressure defense tore us up in the last contest. It obviously frustrated our players as it forced a season high 22 turnovers. Michigan State will have to play with better focus this time around.
2) Three Point Shooting - Although the Boilermakers finished only 6-22 from behind the line, the majority of those three balls came in the first half off of open looks. The Spartans will have to tighten up their perimeter defense and not let Robbie Hummel get hot again.
3) JuJuan Johnson - Robbie Hummel's early outside shooting opened things up on the inside for JuJuan Johnson in the first game. He finished 5-7 from the field with 17 points. This can't happen again.
4) Efficient Offense Purdue still ranks second in the Big Ten in FG%. They are converting on over 46% of their shots from the field.
5) Defensive Rebounding - The Boilermakers are excellent defensive rebounders, despite their team's +0.6 rebounding margin. Earlier in the year, they even had more defensive rebounds that Michigan State. If they can limit Michigan State's second chance points, the Spartans will be in a world of hurt.

Spartan Keys to Victory
1) Let 'Em Play - With the conference championship wrapped up, I think it is time to let the horses run. Even with regards to seeding, this game is much more important for Purdue than it is for us. Let's counteract their pressure with an all out Y-ball attack. If they are going to be in Lucas's face the entire length of the court, then let him go all out. Don't make him run a robotic, structured offense that they have been preparing for all week. Maybe even throw some high pressure defense back at Purdue and see how they respond.
2) Limit Turnovers - As always, we have to take care of the ball.
3) Convert Offensive Rebounds - In the last game, we dominated the offensive glass with 15 boards, but we convert on less than a handful of them. Not converting on an offensive board might as well be categorized as a turnover. And, as you know, we already have too many of those.
4) X-Factors - Step up Allen and Summers. We need you.
5) Seniors - If it's me, I'm starting all of them. Izzo is worried that our lineup would be too big. Hey Coach, you started Herzog against Wisconsin because he didn't get into garbage time in the previous game. You can squeeze four seniors into the starting lineup to play the first two minutes. If you don't think they can match-up with Purdue, run some zone. Go with a 1-3-1 with Ibok out on top. That would be great.

Before the first game, I said that both teams had great defenses and that the game would be won by the team with the best offense. Unfortunately, on that night, it was Purdue. For this matchup, I'm going with the same philosophy.

In the last two games, I have been pleased with our offense. We countered Illinois high pressure defense well last weekend and executed to perfection. We also shot over 50% from the field against Indiana despite almost losing down in Bloomington. Our defense, on the other hand, has not been as stellar as it had been earlier in the year.

To beat Purdue, we will need to find ways to score consistently. I think dribble penetration is going to be key in this game as it will either lead to lay-ups or free up our big men for points in the paint. If nothing else, it will open up what should be the third option (an outside shot).

In the end, I think Michigan State rides their recent offensive success and finds a way to beat Purdue's pressure defense.

Michigan State over Purdue 68-58

Other Notes
1) Calipari Takes Shot at Michigan State, Others - The Memphis coach was defending Conference USA in this ESPN Article. Here is a quote from him:

"Ask UCLA and Michigan State if this league hurt us when we played them last year. We were up 50-20 on Michigan State. We beat Texas by 18 [85-67] in Houston. Teams in our league played us tougher than that."

Oh yeah....."You're a lousy f'ing softball player, Cal".

DVD Giveaway - Please Send Me Your Scores
I don't have many entries, so your chances of winning are really high. If you haven't seen it, it is a really nice DVD. It retails for $24.95 on

Tomorrow - Purdue Post Game

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Big Ten is Who We Thought They Were

First of all, I want to say that I am so proud of this team and happy that we have won our first outright title in 10 years. It has been long overdue. Of all the teams that we have had during that time span, I am surprised that this team was able to grab the conference crown when more talented Spartan teams could not. The only logical explanation is that the Big Ten is not as strong as it usually is.

Remember the 2005 team? Paul Davis, Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, and Drew Neitzel? They couldn't get it done. They finished 13-3 in the conference, two games behind Wisconsin. Two games!

What about last year's team? Don't you think that we would be better off if we were able to get Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick back in exchange for our three current freshmen? Well, that team didn't even come close. They finished 4 games out of first place.

So what's different? Why has the 2009 team whizzed through the conference schedule and have a chance to win the league by a four-game margin? Is it because they are that much better than the other teams we have had? I don't think so.

Rather than just go off of what I think is true, I decided to look into some statistics to see if they backed me up. I used Pomeroy Ratings to support my case, and I must be honest, some of his data is way too complicated so I excluded some of it. Using the data, I was able to compare this year’s team to the last 5 Michigan State teams. If you look at the table below, it is pretty easy to see the difference between this year’s team and the previous 5.

First, let's look at our current team's Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. As you can see, it ranks last among all Spartan teams since 2005. This is not that surprising as we have struggled offensively all year. The next column shows the team's adjusted defensive efficiency where a lower value actually means that a team plays better defense. This seems to be our team's strong point as they only trail the 2007 team in that category. That team finished 8-8 in the conference, however, despite a better offensive rating.

Next let's look how our team compares to the last 6 Big Ten champions:

Using the Ken Pomeroy rating, it’s fitting that only the 2006 Ohio State team ranks lower. Our offense, again, is the worst and our defense is at best, average. Also similar to the Ohio State team of 2006, we played easier teams as their strength of schedules (SOS) are also the two lowest.

Lastly, the argument that most people give for why they think the Big Ten is better this year is because of the success that perennial bottom-dwellers Northwestern and Penn State are having. So, instead of focusing solely on the leaders, I took a look at the entire Big Ten. Luckily, Pomeroy averages the Pomeroy ratings of each team within a conference to come up with an overall conference average. The table below features these values.

As you can see, only 2004 had a worse overall average rating, thus defying the arguments of even the biggest Big Ten fans. If, however, you get exclude Indiana and Iowa, who are both horrible, the conference rating goes up to 0.87, which would be at least average.

In the end, we should just be happy that we have won a Big Ten title. Like this past Tuesday, a win is a win, and a championship is a championship. But, we need to realize that our conference isn’t exactly your mom and dad’s Big Ten.

Michigan State Basketball Notes
1) Travis Walton Selected For Seth Davis's All-Glue Team - Find the article here. Finally some recognition for T-Walt. Maybe Walton will win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Chris Kramer was not on Davis's list.
2) Goran Suton One of Eight on Cover of SportsIllustrated - They picked MSU to make the final 8. That's funny since they picked Purdue to win the Big Ten and they aren't in their great eight.
3) Izzo Punks Out - Not going to shave his head until after the tournament. That's not cool. Why not wait to do it until it all falls out?
4) Izzo Now Reconsidering Big Ten Celebration - Initially I was thrilled when I heard Izzo say that there wasn't going to be a celebration on Sunday because he had learned from his mistakes in the past. Well, apparently he hasn't, because he now "may" have some kind of ceremony after the game. Well, you better win the game then coach.

Other Michigan State News
1) Mushin Muhammed's House on Ebay - It looks like the economy is affecting everyone. He listed it for only 1.9 million.

Exerpts from an email I received:

Once you watch the replay, you'll see that the ref walked into MSU's huddle and baited Izzo into that technical ("I'm tired of you effing screwing me" is what Coach said).

The loudest I ever remember the Brez was the Kentucky game in 2000 during winter break, with no Izzone. 46-45, MSU.

I'll never understand how they lost to Wright State on Dec 30, 1999, either, but I know why they lost to Hawaii -- Leg cramps. That's why we lost to Hawaii and why we lost to Gonzaga in 3OT after we beat Chaminade, too.

Eric, CA

1) Thanks for the insight on Izzo's technical. I saw the replay and I think you are 100% correct. That referee should receive some kind of punishment.
2) I remember the Kentucky game, but unlike you, I wasn't there. All I know is that Assembly Hall was rocking. I was really impressed.
3) We should never lose to Hawaii. I don't care if our players are forced to go murderball and play in wheelchairs. That leg cramp excuse was over played.

DVD Giveaway
I'll be giving away another "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for Sunday's game against Purdue. The correct prediction of the winner and closest margin of victory will take the DVD home. Please email me or post a comment to the website to be entered.

Tomorrow - Purdue Preview #2

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Big Ten Champs!

Michigan State relied on another hot shooting performance to outlast Indiana 64-59 to win its first outright Big Ten title since the 1998-1999 season.

Player of the Game: Raymar Morgan (14 points, 7 rebounds)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Shooting - This was our second consecutive game where our offense came ready to play. The Spartans shot over 50% from the field finishing 22-43. We especially played really well in the first half by establishing Roe down low early in the game. He had all 7 of his points in the first 5:30. For some reason we got away from that later in the game. Instead, we relied on jump shots, which luckily for us, were falling in this game. If we didn't have one of our best shooting nights of the year, we wouldn't have won this game.
2) Raymar Morgan - Raymar played great yesterday. Like I said after last game, he looks like he is finally back although he still only played 22 minutes last night. He hit all of his shots from the floor, including a huge monster jam to seal the victory. How is that not on ESPN's top plays? It was a great play, and unlike most that usually make it to the highlight reel, it was a play that mattered. Ridiculous.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Defense - Indiana essentially dominated this game offensively. The Hoosiers dictated the tempo and were able to get any shot that they wanted in this game. Their long, drawn out possessions wore us down and we had many mental lapses that led to uncontested layups for Indiana. Shockingly, the Hoosiers won the points in the paint battle 28-22 despite their best weapons being Kyle Taber (a walk-on) and Tom Pritchard (a freshman).
2) Turnovers - The raw number of 14 isn't really that bad, but when you consider how the total number of possessions was lower than normal, you recognize how careless we were with the ball. Of the 14 turnovers, only 6 of them came off of steals, meaning MSU just threw the ball away, or more likely, travelled with it.
3) Technical Foul - Being at the game myself, I don't know what exactly Izzo did. Talking with friends, he was giving it to the refs, presumably about the travelling call on Lucas. Whatever the reason, it was a horrible mental mistake. Sure, the refs were calling every little ticky-tac foul, but it went both ways and to argue with them to the point of getting a technical is irresponsible. It lead to a monstrous comeback and I would have liked to have heard from Tom Izzo if we lost that game.
4) Too Many Jump Shots - Aside from the first 5 minutes, we didn't emphasize getting the ball down low enough. Once again, Indiana outscored us in the paint. Regardless of what our defense did, Suton should have dominated in the paint, and he didn't. Even Raymar, who had a great game, couldn't post up Brett Finkelmeier, a 6-1 guard. Did anyone see this? That little guy was pushing the hell out of Raymar down on the block and really frustrated him. His feistiness didn't allow a single point from Morgan in the paint and even created a turnover.

Having went to the game, I have to say, it was more of a nerve-racking experience than it was fun. For most of the second half, all I could think to myself was "Why does this always happen to us? Why do we lose these games?" How could we lose to Northwestern, Penn State, and potentially Indiana in the same year? How did we lose to Iowa and Penn State last year? Or what about at Hawaii in 2005? Or, for god sakes, how did the national championship team ever lose at Wright State in 2000? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you.

But, on this night, we somehow managed to pull out of the second-half tailspin we were in. Raymar Morgan rose to the occasion and his spectacular put-back dunk finished off what was otherwise a poorly designed play to win the game. I probably will always remember how I felt when he slammed it home. Instead of jumping up and down in excitement, I gave a strong fist pump, belted out a cheesy "Yeah!", and then calmly watched the rest of the game in silence. At that time, I wasn't happy, but I was relieved. Relieved that we didn't blow a Big Ten championship in dramatic fashion.

Post-Game Quotes

"It's probably the most rewarding (championship) because of what we went through. It just doesn't feel like it tonight."
--Tom Izzo

"That play was just on instinct. I just saw the ball come off and knew that I could make a play on it. Luckily, I did. It felt great." --Raymar Morgan

"No matter how we won today, no matter the down moments, we scrapped and fought and went 8-1 on the road. Not too many teams can say they went 8-1 on the road." --Travis Walton

"That's the loudest I've ever heard them." --Indiana Forward Malik Story on the home crowd

Other Game Notes
1) Assembly Hall Was Louder Than the Breslin - Just to give you an idea of what I'm comparing it to, I was in the Izzone during the most recent "Glory Days" from 1997-2001. Last night, Assembly Hall was the loudest place I have ever been to. In particular, when they hit that three pointer to cut the lead to two points, I couldn't hear my wife next to me. Sure, Assembly Hall is bigger, but their fans really got into the game. No one has to tell even the alumni when to stand up. They know. They have lived Indiana basketball their entire lives.
2) Tom Izzo Declined Trophy Presentation - Apparently, prior to the game, the Big Ten had offered a trophy presentation to Michigan State if we were to beat Indiana, but Tom Izzo declined it. Thank god for that! It would have been brutal. He also said that there will be no pregame celebration before Purdue. I think that is a great idea too!

Other News
1) ESPN Article Features Flint Basketball - The link is here. It's pretty much your standard "blue-collared kids from Flint play good basketball" piece. It's not bad, but Jarred Field of the Flint Journal is fed up with this type of story apparently. He has his own response to this particular article. It can be found here.

DVD Giveaway
I'll be giving away another "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for Sunday's game against Purdue. The correct prediction of the winner and closest margin of victory will take the DVD home. Please email me or post a comment to the website to be entered.

Break - I may be taking a day or two off. Check back sometime this week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Indiana Preview #2

The Spartans continue on to Bloomington tonight as they look to wrap up the outright Big Ten title. Tom Crean will host Tom Izzo as the two will meet for the third time ever.

Indiana (6-22 overall, 1-15 in conference)

Why Indiana Could Win
1) Rebounding - This clearly is Indiana's strength. Currently, they are fourth in the conference in rebounding margin at +2. Compared to Michigan State's +11, however, the Hoosiers appear
2) Motivation - Indiana is coming off a great game at Penn State where they only lost by 3. Coming off of one of their worst years ever, this is one of the biggest games that they have all year. They are playing the Spartans at home with a chance for a big upset that they hope can carry over to next season.
3) Confidence - After their competitive first half against the Spartans earlier in the year, I am sure that Indiana thinks that they can hang with Michigan State. That game was much closer than the final score indicated and if the Hoosiers have a few things go their way, they will be in this game.
4) Assembly Hall - Once again, this is another venue where the Spartans have not played very well in recent years. Tom Izzo is only 2-9 in Bloomington and hasn't won at Assembly Hall in six years. I'm sure the place will be rocking since they are hosting the Big Ten champs.

Michigan State Keys to Victory
1) Efficient Offense - In their first meeting, Michigan State's offense struggled in the first half. They got off to a slow start and allowed Indiana to hang around. Kalin Lucas did not shoot the ball well as he finished 4-15. Durrell Summers also finished 1-11 including 0-8 from the 3-point line. Since that game, however, Tom Izzo has shifted the focus of the offense and has emphasized getting the ball into the post. The Spartans should be able to dominate in the paint so look for a lot of touches for Goran Suton and Delvon Roe.
2) Rebounding - As this is Indiana's strength, we will have to counter it and show them why we lead the Big Ten in this category. By cleaning up the glass, we will limit Indiana's offensive opportunities.
3) Perimeter Defense - Indiana is not a bad three-point shooting team. Within the Big Ten season, they are shooting just over 35% from distance. It will be important for Michigan State to defend the three-point shot as I think it is an essential aspect of the game that the Hoosiers will need to beat a more talented team like the Spartans.

I said this yesterday, but today's matchup against Indiana is the ultimate trap game. The Hoosiers fall near the bottom in almost every conference statistic and are obviously outmanned as their roster is filled with numerous first year and junior college transfer players. With that being said, they still have a shot at beating us. Crazier things have happened. I would argue that losing to Northwestern at home was less likely to happen than Indiana's chances of beating us down in Bloomington. Sure, Northwestern is the better team, but we were playing at home in a building where we never lose. Tonight, we play a worse team, but in a building where we struggle to win despite normally having a better team and we are doing so on only one day of rest.

In the end, I think that Spartans have too much talent to lose against Tom Crean's team. Indiana will play with passion, but I think the Spartans know that tonight is a must win game. They don't want their chances of winning an outright title to come down to the season finale against Purdue in the Breslin Center. Tonight is the night we get it done.

Michigan State over Indiana 77-58.

Other Michigan State Notes
1) Free Press Compares Spartans to '00 Team - The link can be found here. This is ridiculous. I'll tell you right now, that even if this team pulls off a miracle and somehow wins a national title this year, they won't compare to the 2000 team. Not only are they not as tough, they also lack the talent that the 2000 team had. That team had Jason Richardson coming off of the bench! This is a classic example of how a less competitive Big Ten is making Spartan fans think that our team is better than we actually are.
2) The Bleacher Report Ranks Top 5 Spartan Tournament Games - The link is here. It's not a bad list. Here's my own since Tom Izzo has been coach.

  • #5 - Duke vs. Michigan State 2005 - Just because it was Duke and no one ever thought we would win that game. Maurice Ager's dunk over J.J. Reddick was classic
  • #4 - Michigan State vs. Princeton 1998 - This was the victory that started it all. The Tigers came into the game 27-1 with their only loss coming to number one seed North Carolina earlier in the year. I was there in person and remember it clearly. The best was how the Spartans were winning by 2 with 40 seconds left and Mateen jacked up a horrible 22-foot three that miraculously went in. The rest was history.
  • #3 - Kentucky vs. Michigan State 2005 - The Spartans upset the Wildcats, but almost blew a late lead as Kentucky forced overtime on Patrick Sparks' three-pointer at the buzzer.
  • #2 - Iowa State vs. Michigan State 2000 - I still feel like we beat a better team that day. The best part was Mo Pete's back door alley-oop play to win the game. Why don't we run that anymore?
  • #1 - Florida vs. Michigan State 2000. The basketball wasn't that great, but the dramatics of Mateen and winning the championship was priceless.

"IU has clinched 11th place in the conference." -

I thought that this was pretty funny since it is written so matter of fact.

Tomorrow: Indiana Post Game

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Michigan State Clinches Share of Big Ten Title by Beating Illinois 74-66

Michigan State looked like a different team yesterday as they scored effectively throughout the game and clinched a share of the Big Ten title. Kalin Lucas led the Spartans with 18 points and Raymar Morgan had 14.

Player of the Game: Kalin Lucas (18 points on 7-14 shooting)

What Went Well for the Spartans
1) Offense - Tom Izzo did a great job adjusting to the pressure of Illinois. We were able to get many baskets utilizing back door cuts. We also established our selves inside early and won the points in the paint battle 42-16. That is phenomenal. We also were able to convert some key Illini turnovers into points.
2) Kalin Lucas - He was back to his early Big Ten season form. He was able to score effectively and orchestrated the Spartan offense with ease. Early in the first half, Kalin was able to shut the Orange Krush up by answering momentum changing plays by the Illini with baskets of his own.
3) Raymar Morgan - Yesterday was the first game since his illness that I felt Raymar Morgan brought something to the table. He hustled and played well. He finished with 14 points in 22 minutes including a nice dunk in transition over Calvin Brock
4) Turnovers - Coach Izzo must have allowed his players to play more aggressive defense yesterday because we were able to force 17 Illini turnovers. Travis Walton had one of his best performances as a Spartan as he shut down McCamey and created numerous fast breaks after steals. He also shot the ball well finishing 4-5 from the field.
5) Defense - Although it wasn't stellar, the defense still played solidly. We won the rebounding battle, although only by 5, and we got some key minutes from I Dunk, I Block.

What Didn't Go Well for Michigan State
1) Chris Allen/Durrell Summers - I would have never imagined that we would have had such a great offensive game knowing how Chris Allen and Durrell Summers played in this game. Neither contributed very much which led Tom Izzo to let Travis Walton steal some of their playing time. Allen had more turnovers than baskets and Summers was 1-6 before his two late game dunks. These guys need to step their games up.

Yesterday's game felt different than any of the other games so far this year. Our offense looked very coordinated and we had almost every player contribute in some sort of way. Whatever Tom Izzo did this past week in practice truly had an effect because our players played inspired. They were beaming with confidence and it showed out on the court. Hopefully he can get this every night from now until the middle of April.

It still didn't quite feel like a true league championship, however. Maybe that will change on Tuesday night if we find a way to beat Indiana. Coach Izzo knows the importance of this game. In fact, the team isn't even going back to East Lansing. Instead, they left yesterday to go straight to Bloomington to avoid any unnecessary distractions. I think that is a great idea because this is the ultimate "trap" game.

Post-Game Quotes
"It was a panic decision. When we couldn't handle Tisdale. Ibok did a great job and stepped up for us." --Tom Izzo

I'd have to say that's one of the bigger wins I've been involved with. To clinch a share of it at a place that I have so much respect for... I thought we played, at times, some of our best basketball." --Tom Izzo

I agree. To win at Assembly Hall with the title at stake is an amazing accomplishment. The victory was much more than us just beating a #20 ranked team.

"This means a lot, but it's a share. We want to go to Indiana, play a good game and win it outright." --Travis Walton

I know you believe this T-Walt, but do your teammates? You better pound this into their head, because Indiana will be ready to knock off the Big Ten champs on Tuesday.

"With Izzo, fans might criticize his in-game decisions, but it's hard to knock his passion. I don't believe any coach is perfect, but it's hard to find anymore more perfect for MSU." Eric Lacy, The Detroit News

Very well said. As much as I criticize Coach Izzo, I agree with this statement. He is the face of the program and his passion trickled down and inspired our players yesterday.

Other Game Notes
1) Take It Easy Ref- Steve Olson missed the first few minutes of the second half due to illness. He went to the locker room, received IV fluids, and then returned to finish the game. A ref getting IV fluids is a little bit over the top for me. Just take a seat ref.
2) Tom Flailing on the Ground - In the second half, Tom Izzo was shown on his knees whining after Travis Walton fouled Chester Frazier on a 3-pointer. On his knees! What the hell? This is what Kirke from Wisconsin is talking about when he says that he can't respect how Tom Izzo conducts himself on the sideline.
3) Chester Frazier Wants to Coach - Link to the article here. Tom Izzo is quoted as saying that if Webber doesn't want him, the Spartans will take him. Speaking of which, it is about time that Coach gives Mateen a call and convinces him to join our staff. I always thought that he would make a good coach. Actually, now that UM-Flint is going to have athletics, Cleaves would be perfect for that.

That's Ridiculous
1. Sheyer Travelling - I'll quote Seth Greenburg from two years ago when Duke got away with similar calls against his Virginia Tech team: "Certainly, Duke is Duke. They are on tv more than Leave it to Beaver." Not only did Sheyer get away with it, he got to the line. Ri-dic-u-lous.

2) The Apprentice Cast - Dennis Rodman and Andrew Dice Clay on the same team. That's phenomenal. Too bad Dice got booted so early. The women's team, however, could have used a few more big names. One of the chicks on there is a model on Deal or No Deal. Another is a celebrity poker player. Apparently, Ricki Lake was not available.
3) Brandon Marshall Arrested - T.O. II was thrown in jail for disorderly conduct. He was allegedly involved in a fight in Atlanta. This is his fourth incident since March 2006

DVD Giveaway
Congratulations to Bryan of Fenton, MI who won "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" DVD for his prediction of yesterdays game. He anticipated a 7-point Spartan victory.

Tomorrow - Indiana Preview #2