Saturday, February 21, 2009

While I Was Gone.......

Michigan State Notes While I Was Gone
1) Michigan State is Joaquin Phoenix - A must read by former Bigtenwonk author Jon Gasaway who now writes for Basketball Prospectus. He essentially says the same things about the offense I have been saying for weeks, but much more eloquently and with statistics to back it up. Hightlights include:

  • The Big Ten is balanced, but lacks really good teams
  • He believes that Oklahoma is similar to MSU in that they lack a big win.
  • He points out how offensive rebounding is what drives Michigan State's offense and how in March we will run into teams that will be able to take this away. He says we better have a good Plan B.
  • Compares us to Stanford and Villanova of last year who made it to the Sweet 16 despite poor offenses. I guess it would have been too easy to compare us to our own team from one year ago

2) Goran Suton Says Wisconsin "Plays Dirty" - Suton went into all sorts of details, but most importantly, he is annoyed by Marcus Landry's continual holding of his opponent's off-arm during jump balls. G, there is only one jump ball per game in college basketball! I don't really care for this comment before our matchup on Sunday. Why give them anything that could be motivating? Under Bo Ryan, they have already owned us. You can find the quote in Joe Rexrode's blog along with a complete recap of last year's Big Ten Tournament loss to the Badgers here.
3) Izzo is Looking For More From Lucas - This Detroit News article explains how Izzo wants Lucas to be more aggressive as the postseason is approaching. What I like about the article is that they imply that they are working on isolation sets for Kalin against high pressure defense. I thought that this was missing against Purdue. If opponents want to play high-pressure defense, we need to be able to beat them off the dribble and make them pay.
4) Izzo May Shorten His Bench - He states that while he has limited the minutes of certain players, he has not limited the number of players that have seen the floor in each game. With Morgan getting healthier, he wants to limit the rotation a little bit. As you know, I am thrilled by this news. You can find the link here.

That's Ridiculous (The Catch Up Edition)
1) Chimpanzee Mauling - I'm not as concerned about the mauling itself per se, but more about the "unusual bond" shared between the animal and the owner. A few days after the attack, experts say that this bond may have been a factor in the surprising attack. They say that the owner, Sandra Harold, cuddled in bed with the chimpanzee, drank wine together, and even bathed together. Bathed together??? Michael Jackson and Bubbles think that you are ridiculous.
2) Penn State Beats Illinois 38-33 - Yeah, that is a basketball score. Not a recap of last fall's matchup on the gridiron. That score was 38-24 in case you wondering. This matchup on the hardwood reminded me of us at Iowa last year. Like the Spartans, Illinois shot the ball better than Penn State, but still lost. Also like Michigan State, Illinois' opponent won the game because of a lopsided difference in free throws. Penn State finished 9-11 from the line, but Illinois didn't get to the stripe even once. Games like this one is why people across the country can't stand the Big Ten.
3) A-Rod Didn't Exactly Tell the Truth - It turns out that there are some flaws in his revelation that he took performance enhancing drugs. He may have received them from a banned trainer in the Dominican and not from his cousin. What's worse, A-rod not telling the truth or the continual coverage of this story?
4) Joy Behar vs. Ann Coulter on Larry King - This is just wrong on all sorts of levels. Number one, why is Joy Behar subbing for Larry King? Is that the best that CNN could come up with? That annoying lady from The View? Was Rosie O'Donnell not available? Secondly, what was I doing watching it? These two easily crack my personal top 10 list of women I can't stand. (In case you are wondering, Danica Patrick is the undisputed number one). Anyways, I just happened to be at work and found it as I was flipping through the channels. It was pretty funny to see Behar trying to go toe-to-toe with the Ice Queen Coulter. Joy was outmatched in both communication skills and overall knowledge. Her interview went about as well as I would do if I sat down with Tom Izzo and argued with him on the same points I put up on this blog. You can see the entire exchange here.

Tomorrow - Wisconsin Preview

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brad Van Pelt Passes Away

Yesterday Michigan State lost one of their greatest football players of all time as Brad Van Pelt was found dead in his home. Not only was he a true Spartan great, he was from my hometown of Owosso, Michigan. Having grown up there, I know what he meant to that city, especially if you are over the age of 40. Hell, most people in the town would say that he was the most famous person from there despite it being the birthplace of Thomas Dewey. I'm too young to have seen him play, but I went to high school with two of his sons and had a few gym teachers that were high school buddies of his. I always thought that it was funny when they told old war stories about them being with Brad and tearing up the town. After hearing so many stories about BVP, you tended to think that the legend was bigger than the player. But, those who saw him play argue otherwise even to this day.

Some of his accomplishments include:

  • 2 Time All-American
  • 1972 Maxwell Award Winner (first defensive back to win)
  • 1972 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year
  • Played basketball and baseball for Michigan State also.
  • Was drafted to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl five times
  • Was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001

I wasn't around during Brad Van Pelt's glory days, but I've heard so many legendary stories that I feel like I was. I think anyone that has any ties to Owosso probably feels the same way. In many ways, BVP was the identity of this town. Having accomplished everything he did coming from such a small community is truly amazing. For the people of Owosso, his death is the equivalent of French Lick losing Larry Bird. We were all fortunate enough to have been influenced by his legacy and we will likely never see an athlete like him again.

Brad Van Pelt Related Links
1) The New York Times - Nice, long story. LT is quoted as saying that BVP was "One of the greatest players I ever played with. I not only liked him as a player but he was one of my true friends."
3) The Detroit Free Press
4) The Lansing State Journal

Friday - Back to MSU basketball. I'm taking more time to get over the Purdue loss.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Purdue Destroys Michigan State 72-54

Logic told me that Michigan State wasn't going to overcome Purdue's high pressure defense, but I went with my gut when said the Spartans would win this game. Boy was I wrong. Purdue harassed Michigan State all night and forced a season high 22 Spartan turnovers and a season low 32% FG%. To make things worse, the Boilermakers got hot in the second half and Tom Izzo didn't have an answer on offensively.

Player of the Game: JuJuan Johnson 17 points, 4 rebounds

What Went Wrong For the Spartans
1) Turnovers - For some reason, Michigan State can't play against teams that play extended, high pressure defense. Early in the game, it was obvious that we were trying to pound the ball down low, but we had difficulty doing so. Purdue played great interior defense and did a good job cutting off our passing lanes. Instead of working the ball around, we tried to force it inside and this resulted in too many fumbled passes. We also had problems handling the ball on the perimeter. As a result, Purdue was able to get 22 points off turnovers compared to our 4.
2) Offense - I know, it's a pretty big thing to throw around general terms like offense, but it was bad all around. We missed lay-up after lay-up. We didn't take advantage of our offensive rebounds. We didn't convert Purdue turnovers into points. And finally, we didn't establish an inside presence. What we did do was stink.
3) Perimeter Defense - Robbie Hummel got too many open looks in the first half, which led to a ton of Boilermaker momentum. E'Twaun Moore also hit numerous shots from behind the arc after he was left wide open. It also should be noted, that Suton defended the pick and roll terribly.
4) Rebounding - We only managed a +5 rebounding margin. At one point in the second half, Prude actually had more rebounds than us. We did manage 15 offensive rebounds, but couldn't convert them into points.

What Went Well for Michigan State
1) Durrell Summers - He played alright tonight. If he gave us this every game, we would be in good shape most nights.
2) Free Throws - This was the team's best offense. The Spartans finished 16-20 from the line. They were led by Kalin Lucas's who was 10-12.
3) Substitutions - I think Izzo did a decent job of sticking with his starters. One could argue that Lucious played too much, but Lucas was struggling so I can see how Izzo wanted to change it up a little. I also think that he gave Morgan just enough minutes. He didn't play bad.

It's hard to not get down after watching that game. Just when most of us think that this Spartan team is different than those in our recent past, we go and let two teams creep back into the conference title race. Going into this game, I thought that we were going to finish the season 4-2. That means that we now need to end up 4-1. After tonight, that seems pretty far fetched as we have Wisconsin, Illinois, and the Boilermakers again.

In order to move forward, Michigan State needs to find a way to put more points on the board. While at times our defense has not been great, it has been good enough to win. The same cannot be said about the offense. Our offensive sets seem too structured and predictable. We need to open it up a little bit. The return of Raymar Morgan should help some, but probably more in the next two or three games.

“If we’re gonna get beat, we might as well have got our butts kicked. I think it’s good because hopefully they'll understand there's a different quality of teams....."

I agree with this statement. To move forward, I'd rather lose by a hundred than lose by one. Nationally, however, this does not look good.

"This kind of thing tends to happen from time to time in the Big Ten, on the road against good and desperate teams." --Joe Rexrode,

Two things regarding this statement:
1) I'm pretty sure this only happens to us. Every year we are one of the best teams in the conference and still get blown out on the road.
2) This is why the country is so down on the Big Ten over the past few years. The best teams in the conference shouldn't get blown out at home or on the road.


When are the Spartans going to learn that if there not shooting well they need to drive to the basket and/or kick it down low to their bigs!! They can't just keep chucking up 3's all game hoping that at some point they will fall. Of course the turnovers didn't help either!! And lastly, when is Sutton going to learn how to defend a slip-screen? Jajuan Johnson did it to him several times during the game creating easy opportunities for himself.
--Ridin' the Pine, Sterling Heights, MI

The biggest problem the offense had yesterday was overcoming Purdue's interior defense. Unlike many games this year, MSU did try to establish an inside game early, but Purdue did a great job denying the entry pass. They forced a million turnovers and you really have to give them credit. I agree with the key being able to drive to the basket. If they are going to guard you the entire length of the court, we have to make them pay by getting good penetration in the lane. Lucas had a difficult time doing this yesterday. As far as the Spartans chucking up threes, they really didn't do it that much in this game. They actually only had eight attempts from distance. Instead, they jacked up probably 10 shots from just inside the line. Lastly, that's a good observation of Suton not defending the screen. JuJuan's monster jams were a direct result of Goran's defensive lapses.

Tomorrow - More Purdue Post Game

Monday, February 16, 2009

Purdue Preview and Q&A with

Like all of the games left on the schedule, tonight's game at Purdue is a must win. The Spartans are coming off of a one week hiatus and they will have to be in perfect form to beat the Boilermakers in West Lafayette.

Purdue (19-6 Overall, 8-4 in the Big Ten)

Key Wins:
at Wisconsin 65-52

Key Losses:
vs. Oklahoma 87-82 (Neutral)
vs. Duke 76-60
vs. Illinois 71-67 (OT)
at Penn State 67-64
at Illinois 66-48
at Ohio State 80-72 (OT)

Why Purdue Could Win
1) Pressure Defense - Over the last year and a half, Purdue has won games because they play great, high pressure defense. They extend well beyond the three-point line and harass ball handlers constantly. The Boilermakers are led defensively by Chris Kramer who has a game very similar to Travis Walton. He normally defends the opposing team's best guards, but he is not really an offensive threat. Inside, Purdue has a great shot blocker in JuJuan Johnson who leads the Big Ten with 2.5 blocks per game. He also is their leading scorer in Big Ten contests.
2) Purdue Runs an Effective Offense - They are second in the Big Ten in team field goal percentage at 45%. JuJuan Johnson is shooting 56% from the floor so far this year in conference play.
3) Defensive Rebounding - While Purdue has only a +0.7 rebounding margin within the Big Ten, they actually lead the conference in defensive rebounds. They even edge out Michigan State. If they can keep Michigan State off of the offensive glass, the Spartans will be in a world of hurt since their offense thrives on second chance points. Robbie Hummel leads the Boilermakers with 7.3 rebounds per game.
4) Robbie Hummel - The Boilermaker star has been battling back problems for weeks now, but did play 24 minutes in their last game. Although he only had two points in that contest, it would only be fitting that he has a comeback game against us. It seems like that always happens to the Spartans.

My Keys to a Spartan Victory
1) Defense - We must hold Purdue to their conference scoring average of 63 points per game. This is going to be a defensive battle and if we allow them to convert open looks or easy buckets down low, we won't win this game. We also must continue our dominance on the glass, especially on the defensive end.
2) Limit Turnovers - Last year was a nightmare in West Lafayette as the Spartans had 17 turnovers. We will want Kalin Lucas to push the ball up the court, but he will have to be controlled in doing so. If we limit ourselves to less than 13 turnovers, I think we will win.
3) X-Factor(s) - Once again, our offense can go to the next level if Durrell Summers or Chris Allen shows up tonight. We can't afford an 0-8 performance from either one of these guys. We also can't afford any defensive lapses or ridiculous travel calls by them either.
4) Inside Presence - We need to establish our offense down low again like we did against Michigan. Sure, JuJuan Johnson is an intimidating presence in the paint, but we can't just settle for jump shots, especially ones just inside the three point line. We are a much better team when we attack the rim.
5) Free Throws - Although Purdue is worse than us at the line, we need to make sure that we knock down a high percentage of our freebies. Just having good form doesn't count. You need to step in there and knock them down.

They say that defense wins championships, but tonight, it will be the offenses that will determine the outcome of the game. Both teams are going to play excellent defense, but who will be able to points up on the board. Purdue will have the home court advantage and will be forcing a lot of MSU turnovers, but will they have an effective Robbie Hummel? Will he and E'Twaun Moore be the type of players that were selected to the Preseason Big Ten First Team?

In the end, I see Michigan State benefiting from their time off and having a full week to prepare for this game. I think they will take surprisingly good care of the ball and continue to rebound like they have all season. If they just do these two things, the game will at least be close at the end. If they can get Allen or Summers to contribute, they will win the game convincingly.

Michigan State over Purdue 64-59

Pregame Quotes
"Raymar Morgan could play 15-20 minutes. I'm going in thinking we're not going to get much out of him [Raymar Morgan]. Whatever we get is a bonus." --Tom Izzo

Um....I disagree. This is the type of game that Raymar would often disappear in when he was healthy, so I don't think that throwing him in there for as many as twenty minutes is a very good idea when he is coming off of an illness. If he has been looking good in practice, I would give him the Marquise Gray treatment. Get him some minutes early and see what he can give you. If doesn't play well, then sit him down.

“I’ve got to admit, I’m excitedly looking forward to this game. Some games you worry about – I’m excited.” --Tom Izzo

Other Notes
1) Check Out My Q&A Session With - Check out the Michigan State feature here.
2) Delvon Roe Shares Big Ten Player of the Week Honors - His 14 points and 10 rebounds against Michigan was enough for him to be co-player of the week with Joe Krabbenhoft.
3) MSU #5 in ESPN/Coaches and #6 in AP - This makes us in a prime position to get upset. Hopefully not tonight.

That's Ridiculous
1) J-Rich Can't Drive 55 - Actually, he was clocked 55 mph over the speed limit. An officer found Richardson going 90 mph in a 35 mph zone. To top it all off, he had his three-year old son with him and was cited for not having him in a car seat. I guess we can all be happy that he didn't have any tree or any guns on him. He gets points for that doesn't he?

Tomorrow - Purdue Post Game

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Odds and Ends 2

Michigan State Note
1) Delvon Roe Shares Big Ten Player of the Week - His 14 points and 10 rebounds were enough to earn a share of the conference's weekly honor. The co-recipient was Joe Krabbenhoft of Wisconsin.
2) Raymar Morgan Hopes to Play - He told numerous reporters that the decision to play will be made by Coach Izzo. Hopefully he is strong enough to give us quality minutes. If he isn't, he should still sit.

I expect more news from the Spartans today as they are coming off of one week of rest.

Around the Big Ten
1) Northwestern is Good, But Not Good Enough - Once again, the Wildcats played another opponent tough and had a chance to win late, but they just couldn't pull it out against Michigan. The Wolverines looked as if they were going to win narrowly in regulation until Kevin Koble hit one of his ridiculously looking three-point specials late in the game and forced overtime. Northwestern had their chances in the OT, but just couldn't come away with the victory.

Clearly, at 13-10 and 4-8 in conference, Northwestern has to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the Big Dance. This is very unfortunate because I think that Northwestern is very similar to Davidson and I could see them making the same kind of run that Stephen Curry made last year. Although Curry is much more talented, watching Koble at the end of the game brings up a lot of similarities. You know that Koble is going to get the ball, he's going to shoot it, and chances are that it is going to go in. The amazing part is that opposing teams know this too, but they can't stop it.

That's Ridiculous
1) Best of Steven Threet? - The Free Press put together a "Best of Steven Threet" column today as the Wolverine emailed the Ann Arbor daily a notice that he will be transferring. How can he have a Best of?
2) Butler Stops Basketball Game For Missing Girl - The game was suspended for 8 minutes late in the second half as the entire crowd searched every nook and cranny for a three year old girl. It turns out that she was playing underneath the bleachers at Hinkle Fieldhouse. I'm sure the fans loved this whole ordeal. What's a college basketball game without participating in the search and rescue of an Amber Alert?
3) US Formula One Team Eyeing Danica Patrick for 2010 - The team, USF1, states that Patrick is a canditate for two driver positions in 2010. Really? The same Danica Patrick who has a total of 1 win in America's go-kart series known as the IRL? We all can only hope that USF1 selects Danica so that she will go to Europe and never be seen here again.
4) Matt Kenseth Wins Rain Shortened Daytona 500 - Even Matt Kenseth fans think that ending a race due to rain is stupid. NASCAR needs to change this rule and resume the race on the following day.
5) Brian Vickers and Dale Ernhardt Jr. Are Idiots - These two guys caused the largest wreck of the day as they were battling for the first Lucky Dog spot one lap down. In the process, they took out 10 cars including Kyle Busch who probably had the fastest car of the day.

Would you know who the Asst. Coach or Manager is who has sit behind Izzo for the past x-years. He is always in a suit, red hair, red beard. He always has a clipboard and is obviously associated with the team but can't find him in any MSU Team info?

Eric in North Carolina

That guy is Dr. Jeff Kovan, the team's physician. I found myself wondering who this guy was earlier in the year too. As a bonus, that tall lanky guy is the trainer. I previously thought that he might have been the doctor.

Tomorrow - Purdue Preview