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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oakland Prediction

Oakland Prediction:

Having went to the game last year at the Breslin, this game is very concerning. The Grizzlies played us extremely tough and if it weren't for Goron Suton, we would have been embarrassed. So now, one year later, the two teams will face off again but this time in a half-empty NBA arena. The perfect set-up for an upset. In fact, Oakland upset a talented Oregon team around this time last year.

The problem is that while Oakland is very offensive minded, I don't think that they have the firepower that they have had in the past. It will take a very efficient offense to beat the Spartans today and a stiffling defense to create a bunch of Spartan turnovers. Both of which, I don't think are capable of.

The Spartans should establish an up tempo pace early. Their transition game should exploit the advantage they have regarding athletism. They will also have to dominate on the boards in order to win this game. They must avoid playing at the level of the Grizzlies.

In the end, I see the Spartans holding on and winning unimpressively. I think this game will be closer to an upset than it will be a blowout. If I was a bookie, I would give the Spartans +5.
My Prediction: MSU 72-65

My Prediction: MSU 72-65


Jon in Owosso, MI writes:

....I have heard that [Kampe] is really good friends with Coach Izzo. Can you add an info on this or anything about Kampe's afro, did he always have one, how much product does he use in it.

First of all, Izzo is apparently friends with everyone. He plays on the road at IPFW because for some reason he is "really good friends with the Fife's." Is that why Dane went to Indiana? Because Izzo and his dad were good friends? It's probably better that he went there anyway.

Secondly, Kampe doesn't have an afro. His hair is just nappy. Someone needs to tell him that if he wants to pick up college chicks, he needs to hit aftergame parties and drink plenty of Natural Lite.

Thanks for the email.

Tomorrow: I will try and run down the game, but unfortunately, I can't watch it as I don't live in Michigan and don't get FSN Detroit. I don't know why this isn't also on the BTN. Fox has ownership in both so it should be on. Bastards!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oakland Preview

Tomorrow the Spartans head to the Palace to take on the Oakland Grizzlies.

Key Wins: At Oregon (82-79 in OT)
Key Losses: At Syracuse (86-66)
At Iowa (66-57)
At Kansas State (83-64)
Michigan (89-76) *at the Palace

What they do well: I won't pretend that I have seen Oakland play even one minute on television this year, but historically they have been a very offensive minded team. This comes from the their fearless leader, Coach Greg Kampe. My favorite quote of his is "We will win by scoring more points than every team we play." That makes sense to me. According to Ken Pomeroy's rankings, nationally they are 79th in offensive efficiency. Their team is composed mainly of players from the state of Michigan, led by gaurd Erik Kangas (17ppg).

What they don't do well: Traditionally, it has been playing defense. So far this year, their opponents are shooting 42% from inside the arc and 34% from three against them. They have been outrebounded by their opponents this year also. Their leading defensive player is Keith Benson from Detroit Country Day. The 6-11 RS sophomore is both their best rebounder and shot blocker. He probably has the best overall game on their roster.

Why Oakland might win:
1. The game is at the Palace
2. They played us well last year. Suton single-handedly saved us from an embarassing defeat.
3. They have beaten ranked teams at the Palace before (No. 21 Oregon last year).

Why Oakland won't win:
1. Lack of athleticism.
2. Poor rebounding.

Side Note:
College basketball needs to get rid of non-conference neutral site games. I hate playing teams in large arenas so far away from campus, especially when we are playing scrubs. Sure, the schools make a lot of money from ticket, beverage, and food sales, but the atmosphere does not compare to being on campus. It is a disgrace to see a school like Michigan State play a national power like North Carolina in front of a half-empty Ford Field. The same was seen in Houston versus Texas. This is not exclusive to MSU basketball either. Last week the Purdue/Davidson and Louisville/Miss State games were in large arenas with even less people there.

Relevant MSU Basketball Story:
Click here to read a Flint Journal story about Mateen, Mo Pete, and Robaire Smith giving back to Flint for Christmas. It's good to see Cleaves featured in the article as he goes back to Flint regularly and makes significant contributions to the community. While his professional career hasn't turned out the way he thought it would have, he still remembers where he came from. Many of Flint's star athletes do not and it's a shame. I've never heard of Glen Rice donating anything to Flint.

Tomorrow: My prediction for the game.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Well, I am only going to follow through on one of my two promises from yesterday. Today's post will definitely be short, but probably not fun.

Rumors: A thread says that Chris Allen has a seperated finger. The poster stated that Tim Staudt reported this. I'm not sure if it's true, but hey, it's Christmas and there isn't anything else to really write about. How does one separate a finger? The wording makes me think even more that it isn't true.

"This is a fantastic blog that I stumbled across, in your few posts you have the same feelings about MSU basketball that I do. Really top notch work, you show hard work that Izzo would be proud of. Even though you probably sit around in your underwear all day thinking about basketball."
Sparty From Owosso, MI

You must know me. Thanks for the email.

If you would like to contribute, please email me at

Tomorrow: I will attempt to preview the Oakland game.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Helter Skelter

I don't think any two words can better describe my feelings towards Tom Izzo. Regardless of whether he has earned it or not, Coach Izzo is labelled as one of the best coaches in America. I would argue that he is a better person than he is a coach.

Tom's greatest attribute is leadership. I have never seen highlights of Tom as a player, but I can only imagine. I picture him as a Mateen-like guard who was best known as a floor general and the emotional leader of the team rather than the most skilled player on the court. He has transformed MSU into a perenial Top 25 team through hard work and discipline. He probably has been more influencial to Michigan State athletics than any other person, including Magic Johnson.

Tom has always had a great relationships with his players. I think this has helped him become an excellent recruiter. His relationship with the Flint Stones is infamous, but not exclusive. He has really bonded with Drew Neitzel, Travis Walton, Alan Anderson, Chris Hill and others. I think that kids see that as a big draw to MSU.

Team first Mentality. I really admire how Coach Izzo emphasizes personal sacrifices for the greater good of the team. I think he has done a superb job of getting his teams to set aside personal goals for the betterment of the team. Who else could get J-Rich to ride the pine for most of his freshman year and convince Zach Randolph to come off of the bench? He has never catered to one person or modified his coaching style in favor of a superstar. He has instilled a level of discipline that is unmatched by many programs around the country.

Tom Izzo is not God, however.

He is one of the worst X's and O's coach I have ever seen.
I think that early in his coaching career, he got away with leaving games in Mateen's hands and talent prevailing during clutch situations. To illustrate my point, pay close attention the next time that Michigan State comes out of a timeout and tries to execute a designed play. Most of the plays are not only poorly executed, but also poorly designed. During the glory years, Tom essentially would call a time out, give Mateen the rock and tell him to win the game for us. This often resulted in Mateen dribbling at that top of the key entirely too much and often shooting a line-drive three that somehow would always go in. Or more recently, Tom would force the ball into Drew Neitzel's hands for a desperation three even if opponents have three guys on him.

His regular season record is atrocious.
This is best illustrated in this must-read article. As you can see, his record against the top 25, especially while ranked themselves, doesn't merit all of national attention that he gets for being a great coach. I have been saying this for years. I think most of this is because Tom doesn't really care about the regular season. This is most evident early in the regular season every year. How many times have we seen Tom use 12 players against a highly touted Carolina or Duke team in a November contest? Then, when the tournament comes around, he sticks to 7 or 8 guys. I love Isaiah Dahlman, but no body wants to see him touch the floor against UNC under any circumstances. I want to see our 7 best play against their best five. What's worse is that he does this against teams that we should blow out by 30 even when we are losing! The perfect example of this was the IPFW game this year. We were losing in the second half and still played with lineups that had as many as 3 freshmen in it at the same time. Tom was determined to play all his guys and didn't care if we lost to a team who's mascot is some kind of stampeeding elephant. Although we won the game, I left saying to myself that I wish I didn't even see it. I have seen too many games like this under the Izzo regime.

MSU needs to live up to expectations.
Whether he likes it or not, Coach Izzo has raised expections in East Lansing. Unfortunately, in the last 5 or 6 years, his teams have not lived up to these expectations. Too many times we have been picked to win the conference and then fall flat on our faces with a fourth or fifth place finish. If you look at Tom's teams over the last 13 years, he has underacheived during the regular season in more than half of his teams (7). This has been masked by the fact that in many cases where his teams didn't live up to regular season expecations, he was still able to get them deep into the tournament (namely '01, '03, and '05).


From John in Dearborn:

Re: "Crandell and Kebler - Somebody email me something about these guys that isn't on their bio sheet."

A Kebler is a white cracker that normally comes in a green box.

-Nice. You are right. That is not on the bio sheet.

Tomorrow: Something short, but fun for Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Diaper Dandies

On to the freshman......

1) Delvon Roe - One of the most heralded freshmen that MSU has landed this decade. He turned down Carolina to come here and the Spartan faithful are excited to see him at his best. The question is when will this be? After his devistating knee injury last year and then an injury to the other knee in the offseason, I wasn't very optomistic about him contributing to this team right away. But, he has given the team some solid minutes so far. He is a surprisingly good rebounder and with each game you can see his offensive skills becoming more polished. Hopefully he fully recovers and can get back to doing this.

For some reason Delvon reminds me of Andre Hutson. They don't play the same position, but they are both long and left handed. They both can handle the ball relatively well for big men.

2) Korie Lucious - Personally, my favorite freshman this year. Unlike the poll posted on this site, I think that he is the most game ready of all the freshman. I think this guy has extremely good ballhandling skills. He can get the ball up the court just as fast as Lucas and may be the best passer on the entire team. His entry passes into the post are amazing. Sure, he turns the ball over some, but he's a freshman. After the IPFW game, I thought that he was going to take some of Walton's PT, but then Walton had the big game against Maryland and the rest was history. I'm sure that Lucious is going to have a big game at some point this year, but he will need to see the floor more in order to make it happen.

3) Draymond Green - The hefty one from SagNasty who put in time over the summer to lose some weight. He has been extremely efficient with his limited PT providing solid defense and rebounding. I'm not sure what his role is going to be on this team, but I hope that he continues to push away from the table so that he maintains a respectable weight.

Randomness: I try to stick to only basketball on this blog, but I couldn't ignore Joe Rexrode's article with the latest edition update on the football team beating of a MSU hockey player. If the lawyer's account is true, then why aren't the suspects charged with breaking and entering also? It says throughout the story that they were intruders.

It is extremely hard to believe what the lawyer is selling. How could any institution allow this behavior without kicking anyone involved out of school? Even Ohio State wouldn't tolerate this if it were true. We will have to see how things turn out.

Tomorrow: I'll dive into my thoughts on Coach Izzo. See why we share a love/hate relationship.

Returning Bench Players

On to my thoughts of the returning bench players this year.

1) Durrell Summers - The athletic swingman that the team desperately needs. He was the least heavily recruited among last years freshman, but may be the most athletic on the team. The problem is that we haven't quite seen it yet. After hearing that he had improved dramatically over the summer, I was hoping that he would have a breakthrough sophomore year like J-rich did. This has not been the case. Now, I know the timing of this is poor, but why is he shooting so many threes? Why is more than 1 in every 3 shots he take a three pointer? The obvious answer is that he is 13 for 25 on the season, but I don't really buy him being that good of a shooter. I would feel much more comfortable seeing attack the rack on a consistent basis.
What announcers will say: He's athletic!

2) Marquise Gray - He probably is the most highly touted recruit on this team, but unfortunately as a RS senior he is most accurately labelled as an underacheiver. Every once in a while he surprises us with a double-double, but unfortunately his play normally is average at best. His problems seem to be 100% mental and 0% physical as he has great size and is pretty agile. Pay particular attention to him the next time that he screws up on the court. His facial expressions speak volumes as to how shot his confidence is. Maybe this is a result of regular playing cupcakes at Class C Beecher while in Flint. Or maybe it is because Izzo rides him on almost every play he is involved with, even if he does a good job.
What announcers will say: He's from Flint.

3) Idong Ibok - A guy, who for nothing else, is featured in the MSU commercial most often seen on the BTN. You know, the one where he has that ackward smile just before he goes up for a jump ball. That's hilarious. Seriously, like a reader wrote yesterday (see below), Ibong is very underrated and underutilized by Izzo. He should have seen the floor a lot more in the absence of Suton if not only for his size. Just as Chris Allen has never seen a shot that he didn't like, Ibong has never seen a shot that he didn't think he could block. He try's to swat threes from the lane. That's pretty funny also!
My own personal nickname for him: I Dunk, I Block

4) Isaiah Dahlman - The former Minnesota High School career scoring leader. Unfortunately, his game has not transitioned well to the next level. He has seen limited time on the floor during his first two seasons due to what appears to be a lack of quickness and agility. I had read the reports that he had improved his three point shooting in the offseason and was hoping to have a role similar to Jason Klein this year, but that hasn't happened. Instead, Izzo has shown that he prefers Ashton Thornton over Dahlman which is probably the right call. I feel bad for Dahlman because he seems like a nice kid. I think he should have went the route of his former teammate Maurice Joseph and transfered last year. Sadly, I don't think that he can redshirt due to some scrub time appearances that he had this year. Thus, transferring for one year is going to be difficult.
What announcers shouldn't say about him anymore: The Minnesota High School career scoring leader. (his record was broken this year)

5) Austin Thornton - The rebounding guard who saw a significant amount of PT this year. He seems to have at least a decent three point shot and good size to get some boards. Hopefully he doesn't turn the ball over as he has looked shakey at times while handling the rock. I should have put him in with the freshman, but he technically was on the team last year.
Announcers will say: He turned down several full ride scholarships from MAC schools to be a walkon for Tom Izzo

6) Tom Herzog - Has played sparingly again this year only appearing in 5 games. You can't teach size, but apparently Tom will take teaching shorter guys over playing Tom. That's what you get when you take a guy from Flint Powers.
Thing I remember most about Herzog: Quality minutes in the BT tournament semifinal game against Wisconsin due to rediculous over officiating.

7) Crandell, Kebler - Somebody email me something about these guys that isn't on their bio sheet. All I know about them is that they can't hold a candle to Steve Cherry or Matt Ishbia.

OhioSpartan writes:

Two things:

Roe's freethrows: His form looks fine, I think he will start hitting at 60% real soon and by next year he will be a 70% FT shooter.

Idong Ibok: He started, played significant minutes, and helped the team win. Anyone who predicted that Idong Ibok would do this on the road against a top five team is lying. I think he is the real player of the game that nobody is talking about.

-Well, we can only hope that you are correct regarding Roe. However, I would argue that my form looks great also, but I don't think that I can shoot 70% from the line. And regarding, I Dunk I Block, I agree that he had contributed solidly in the Texas game. Again, he is very underutilized. Hey, also, if you are in Ohio, tell those Buckeyes to leave Braylon Edwards alone. If they keep this up, he might ask to be traded. Actually, with his dropsies maybe that's what they want.

A summary of the current freshmen.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Returning Starters

It's day number two of my blog and I thought I would run down my thoughts on the returning starters. I know, they aren't all starters, but they are starter quality.

1) Travis Walton - The Mateen-like emotional leader of this team (without the offense and ball handling abilities of course). He has always been one of my favorite players because of his passion for winning. His biggest game so far this year was MSU's worst against Maryland. He looks to have worked on his shooting in the offseason.
What announcers like to say about him: He's the strongest guy on the team. He benches over 300lbs!

2) Goran Suton - Both the MVP and most undervalued player on this team. He was the Big Ten's third leading rebounder last year and didn't even get honorable mention despite also having solid offensive contributions. This team needs him to play well in order to be competitive with national powerhouses like Carolina and UConn.
What my friends call him: Moron Suton

3) Raymar Morgan - The most talented player on the squad. When he plays well, MSU nearly always wins. Their record is 15-3 when he scores more than 15 points. The problem is that their record is probably 3-25 when he doesn't. Everyone knows that he disappears in the limelight. He is very turnover prone and commits the dumbest fouls I have ever seen. I could do without his whinny reactions after EVERY foul he commits.
What announcers say about him: Best NBA prospect

4) Kalin Lucas - The speedy PG that has all of the talent that Travis Walton is lacking. He played out of his mind last year, but is off to a rough season so far. He is in danger of having the worst offseason regression in modern day Spartan basketball. Right now he can't hit a shot, but is still taking care of the ball very effectively. Even if he turns his season around right now, I don't think he will live up to some people's projections of him being a second or third team All-American.
What announcers say about him: He's fast!

5) Chris Allen - The fearless chucker who never saw a shot that he didn't like. This year he seems to be less confident and has stuggled so far. He is by far the best shooter on this team and once he gets on track, we will be hard to beat. I don't think it is coincidence that his two best games ever were against UNC and Memphis. Both blowouts that required him to be in the lineup. Izzo should award his new haircut with more PT.
What announcers say about him: He's a pure shooter.


Has anyone ever noticed how MSU basketball stories get recycled over and over. For instance, check out this AP story in USA Today stating that Justin Mason suffered his head laceration as a result of an Idong Ibok screen. Anyone who watched the game, clearly saw that Mason ran into one of his own teammates. Do these guys watch the games? Did Mitch Albom contribute to this story and report seeing J-Rich there?

See the Summers three pointer here

Quote of the Day:

"Free-throw shooting is like throwing strikes, or a quarterback who can't hit open people. It gets in your head. It is a problem. I don't feel like we're Memphis, and we can overcome it. We have to be better at it." - Coach Izzo

Yeah, unfortunately, we aren't Memphis. They could dominate teams despite shooting below 50% at the line. We also don't have an entire team that poops ice cream.

I'll get into the returning bench players and more randomness.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Texas Game

Overall a solid win. To go on the road and beat Texas in Houston is a great accomplishment. Hopefully, at the end of the year we will look back and say that this was the win that turned our season around.

Positives that I took away from the game include:
1) Durrell Summers probably had his best game as a Spartan. It was nice to see him attack the basket and score in transition more. While he has been shooting way too many threes this year, we are all glad that he made that last one. I just hpe that it doesn't encourage him to shoot even more. I would much rather see him dunk on someone.
2) Goran Suton played great. I think that today just illustrates that while it's fashionable to complain about Suton, we need him in the lineup. He gets Hansborough-like baskets that don't look very suave, but they still put two points on the board.
3) Travis Walton single-handedly shut down A.J. Abrams. His defensive effort was amazing and really rattled the three point shooting star. It forced Texas to go to the other four guys on the court, and as the score showed, they couldn't cut it.

With that being said, I don't want to get too carried away. We had many flaws out there today:
1) The rebounding seemed even worse than the reported 38-29 advantage that went to Texas. I haven't seen a Spartan game in a really long time where so many balls hit the floor. What was worse was that we weren't getting the loose balls.
2) It was another big game where Raymar Morgan essentially disappeared. He finished with 8 points on only 3 shots, but again had stupid mental mistakes and a bunch of travelling calls. Does he know how to finish on a fast break? Every time he gets the ball in transition he travels.
3) Kalin Lucas still can't find his shot. He is on pace to tie Drew Neitzel for the worst off season regression ever. Not only can he not shoot this year, but he also can't take the ball to the rack. He tried a few times in this game, but was unsuccessful. I guess we should just be happy that his assist-to-turnover ratio is very comparable to last year.
4) FT shooting was horrible (8-17). This was led by Delvon Roe who was 0-6 and is shooting just over 40% for the year.

Next Game: At the Palace vs. Oakland University.