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

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