Friday, November 21, 2008

A Concise PSU-MSU Preview

Three things MSU must do to win:
  • Someway, somehow, get turnovers while holding onto the ball. In the games against the better teams that they've won (Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin), the Spartans had a positive turnover margin. This'll have to happen again, and I give it about a 50-50 shot of happening.
  • Ringer must run successfully, especially to the outside. It seems to be every time Ringer tries to bounce it outside, he'll end up getting a couple yards, which is much better than running it straight into PSU's extremely capable front seven. Only Shonn Greene has been able to be successful running the ball this year against the Nittany Lions. However, Iowa has a better OL than MSU, and I'm just not sure the linemen can move fast enough to provide the necessary blocks. The chances that Ringer goes over 100 yards and averages over 4.0 YPC - 15%.
  • The defense cannot allow more than 2 plays of more than 20 yards. Penn State's offense may seem to be completing fewer big plays lately, and hopefully, that's the way that'll stay. However, with playmakers like Derrick Williams and Evan Royster on offense, one never knows when they'll bust a big play. Chances of this happening: 35%.
Multiplying 0.5*0.15*0.35 = A 2.63% chance of MSU winning this game. This seems about right. Hey, at least there's a chance, but it goes without saying that I'd feel much more comfortable if Anthony Morelli was behind center for Penn State. MSU will try their best, but fall short. A New Year's Day bowl is nothing to scoff at, and my only complaint is that the Outback Bowl starts at 10 AM Central Time.

Final Score: PSU 27, MSU 13.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Aftermath - IPFW

On a game which MSU was expected to win, they did...but getting to the win was a bumpy, bumpy ride, which the 70-59 score might not indicate. MSU's points per possession (OP^3) was good (70 points for 63 possessions = 1.11 points per possession, anything above one is good), and their defense was...meh, as 0.95 points per possesion (DP^3, the inverse of OP^3 - here, anything below one is good, but I was expecting more against IPFW) were allowed. As I was listening to the game online, I kept asking myself, how could the game be this close? I went through the usual suspects:
  • Turnovers? Surprisingly, turnovers aren't the main culprit. MSU turned the ball over a lot in the first half, but finished the game with 10 total turnovers, three less than IPFW's 13.
  • Free Throw Shooting? Slightly out of the norm, with Spartan players going 19-28 from the line (67.9%). If MSU shoots their typical 75-80%, they win by 13 instead of 11. Still, the shaky performance is not solely the fault of below average foul shots. Point to take completely out of context on message boards: Delvon Roe was 1-4 on free throws.
  • Rebounding? Back to normal after getting outrebounded against Idaho. MSU recovered 38 rebounds to IPFW's 28, with 16 of those 38 coming on the offensive glass.
  • Bad three point shooting night? Now we're starting to get somewhere. MSU shot 27% on their threes. Compared to their 37% 3-point percentage from last year, that percentage fell off a bit. Let's consider those misfires the secondary cause.
  • Bad shooting defense? I didn't see the game, but according to the stats, this would appear to be the main cause of struggles tonight. IPFW shot 46% overall and 39% from three. Those values are much greater than the 40% and 31% respectively allowed last year. Hopefully this was just a hot shooting night for a couple players from IPFW; the stats show this to be the case as Ben Botts and David Carson were a combined 7-11 from three, all other IPFW players were 0-7. I hope the three-point defense isn't a trend, as Idaho shot 46% (6-13) from behind the arc.
What was good about this game? Raymar completely took over the game in the second half, making most of the key baskets to put IPFW away. Lucas was solid as well, chipping in 17 points, and three assists against one turnover. Delvon Roe scored his first points as a Spartan, putting in nine points on 4-7 shooting, and contributing a couple of blocks.

In conclusion, this game could've been disasterous, but it wasn't. For that, I am thankful, but let's hope that this game isn't a sign of things to come.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Ten Basketball Preview: The Dregs

Big Ten Basketball has already started in earnest yesterday, with Michigan defeating an over matched Husky team from Michigan Tech. Since I will not start paying heavy attention until MSU's season premiere against Idaho on Sunday, I figured I would start my preview now. Here are the dregs of the Big Ten, for which making the College Basketball Invitational at the end of the season (finally, an answer to the question: which Division 1 team is 98th best?) would be an accomplishment.

One more note - If you want thought-out, statistical analysis of College Basketball, I cannot recommend Spartans Weblog highly enough. That said, he was not going to do an in-depth Big Ten preview, so hopefully I can fill that void with a little bit of thoughtful analysis and a lot of guessing. Without further ado:

11. Northwestern

I toyed with putting Indiana with this spot, but then Northwestern lost their first exhibition game to Robert Morris, an NAIA school, and that was the last brick that sealed Willie Wildcat in his tomb, crying for his cask of Amontillado.

Player to know: Kevin Coble - Probably most well known for taking part of last season off to take care of his mother stricken with cancer, the 6-8 forward would have most likely been All Big-Ten Preseason if he had played in more games last season. That said, if Northwestern has any chance this season, he'll have to average 30 ppg, 15 rebounds per game, and make the special 10 point basket from Rock 'n Jock 20 feet above the hardwood.

This season will be a success if...They have a winning record this season.

This season will be a failure if... It's Northwestern. How much worse could it get.

10. Iowa

Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. Two years ago you were upset by a 14 seed in the NCAAs, and in the past year, they turned the ball over every one in four times they had possession (thanks College Basketball Prospectus!). They'd have hope if their two top scorers didn't leave this past season (Justin Johnson to graduation, Tony Freeman to transfer), and the young Hawkeyes look to spend another year in the dregs. They shouldn't be down long though, not with Todd Lickliter (the previous mastermind at Butler) as their head coach.

Player to know: Jake Kelly - He's an anomaly in the shell of a 6-6 wing, as in his three-point FG percentage (43.5%) last year was better than his overall FG percentage (40.8%). If Iowa has any shot at a competitive season, he'll have to maintain his clip from beyond 20 feet, nine inches, and improve his shot within the perimeter.

This season will be a success if... The Hawkeyes get a few upsets in Carver Arena (not like the 42-36 abomination MSU suffered. Watch that game, and you can literally see the rims replaced by peach baskets.), and set themselves in position to win a first-round Big Ten tournament game.
This season will be a failure if... Iowa doesn't progress, and the lengthened three-pointer affects shooting more than thought. If that occurs, look for fans to pine for the days of Steve Alford.

9. Indiana

Indiana's postseason could be defined in two words: scorched earth. Goodbye Kelvin Sampson, goodbye everyone who played meaningful minutes. Senior wing Kyle Taber was the sole survivor, and now under Tom Crean, the Hoosiers hope to reach to the stars and grab ten wins by the tail. The new talent isn't anything to write home about; none of Tom Crean's seven recruits for this year were ranked over three stars by Rivals. Still, I'm intrigued. Crean's a good coach, and with no expectations, this team might pull a couple surprises. Then again, it might duke it out with Northwestern for 10th place like two hobos fighting over a bindle.

Player to know: Kyle Taber - As in if you're an Indiana fan, he'll be the only player you know from last year (and no, I didn't forget about Brett Finkelmeier or Jeremiah Rivers. If they're playing serious minutes though, look for the fans at Assembly Hall to pull a Knight and throw their seats onto the court). The forward won't have to be the second coming of D.J. White, but he will have to, at the very least, be a steady source of rebounds.

This season will be a success if... The Hoosiers pull off four to six wins in conference, and get the ball rolling for next year.

This season will be a failure if... Indiana wins two games or less in conference, and the grumbles start about seven more years on Crean's contract.

Parts two and three to come this weekend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Big Ten Roundtable - Antepenultimate edition

It's been a while since there's been one of these. Here we go...

1) With two weeks left in the season, it's safe to say that most schools have reached the point where the year has been a success or a disappointment. How has your school fared this year in your opinion? Or, is the jury still out?

Needless to say, this season has been a rip-roaring success for MSU, with the high points being the game-winning kick to beat Wisconsin and the first win in Ann Arbor since 1990. The only black mark on Michigan State's record is that they've lost to the two best teams they've faced (debatable depending on whether you believe Iowa is better than Cal), but on the other hand, the Spartans have beaten every team they should have beaten, and when is the last time that happened? Now they get to play Penn State in a de facto Big Ten Championship game. I'm not too excited for the Spartans to go to Happy Valley, and I'm going to give this point its own paragraph to hammer it home.

The last time MSU beat Penn State in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno was an assistant coach (1965).

A young Joe Paterno teaches the intricacies of the flying wedge.

Now that's perspective. Despite what is an almost sure loss, a 9-3 record is better than what anyone predicted (I hinted at it, but didn't have the balls to predict nine wins).

2) Is your school heading to a bowl? If so, which one? And if not,

Hell yes MSU's going to a bowl. The most likely destination is the Capital One Bowl, against a team that will most likely be Georgia. However, MSU has a small chance at the Rose Bowl if:
  • Ohio State loses one of the next two games (@Illinois, Michigan, both unlikely losses for the Buckeyes) AND
  • Michigan State beats Penn State in Beaver Stadium (more unlikely).
Thus, Michigan State is guaranteed a New Year's day bowl. Whether it's the Rose, Capital One or Outback (if OSU and PSU both don't receive BCS bids) remains to be seen.

3) The Big Ten has recently had a hard time getting respect among the national media as a top conference. Has the Big Ten taken a step forward or a step backward in this debate this season?

Well, to have taken a step forward, the Big Ten would've needed its best nonconference win to be better than Penn State crushing Oregon State. Take that fact and combine with the four losses the Big Ten has suffered at the hands at MAC teams (granted, three of those losses were suffered by Indiana and Michigan, BUT STILL), and that totals a step backward for the Big Ten. However, I state that opinion with the caveat that a great bowl record can put the Big Ten on solid ground again.

If all else fails, repeat after me: "We're still better than the Big East and ACC."

4) Would the Big Ten benefit from adding another school to create two divisions like the SEC, Big 12, ACC and MAC? And if so, which school should be added? Or, should we drop one school?

The Big Ten should absolutely not drop a school, all of the others (with Penn State being the exception) have had at the very least a half-century in the conference, and one shouldn't mess with that kind of tradition. That said, the Big Ten should add a university. Pitt and Missouri seem to be the choices du jour, but I have a modest proposal: make Miami of Ohio the 12th team.

First, the RedHawks are a great fit academically; they're a first tier public university. That leaves only the athletic aspect, which many might consider to be shaky, and for good reason. They're 2-7 in football this season. However, they made the NCAA tournament in 2007, and once they entered the Big Ten, I expect their recruiting to be elevated to the point where they could be on par with a Northwestern - a middle of the pack team with great academics. There's no reason not to believe that they could start a good team with Ohio State's leftovers in state. Finally, I believe that they're the team that would jump most readily into the Big Ten, whereas the others that have been mentioned are either in conferences now or are being paid obscene amounts of money by NBC for going 6-6.

For those reasons, I don't think it's absurd to have the RedHawks be the twelfth member of the Big Ten. I see the Divisions going East and West, with Penn State, Ohio State, Miami of Ohio, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue in the East; and Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin in the West. The only downside is that this year in football, the conference would have been greatly imbalanced, with the top three teams being in the East. However, it's been working for the Big 12 so far, so I'm obliged to let the proposed divisions stay as they are.

5) Do you agree with President-elect Obama that college football
should have an 8 school post-season playoff?

No, if only for the reason that a possible North Carolina-Pitt matchup for the national title is abhorrent. Being a Michigan State fan, I really could care less about the playoff debate for it has hardly ever affected my team.

6a) Who is your favorite network television play-by-play announcer/ color commentator/sideline reporter?

Brent Musberger, and the reason is three-fold:

  1. If he's broadcasting your team's game, you know your team is doing well. If it's not your team, the unintentional comedy factor should be enough.
  2. Sentimentality - to me, something about hearing his voice reminds me of autumns past, sitting in the living room of my parents, and watching football on Saturdays. Good Times.
  3. I will always, always give preference to any sportscaster who was in Rocky II.

Get yours TODAY! Miller Lite can sold separately.

6b) If you listed Erin Andrews, please provide a photo/video to back up your pick.

Nope, but just for giggles and as a continuation of the previous question, here's a video of her, Musberger and Steve Lavin ice fishing. Don't blame me if you can't save it to your hard drive as part of your "collection".

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Aftermath - General Thoughts about Week 11

  • MSU 21, Purdue 7, and the Spartans are playing for a share of the Big 10 title this year. Purdue had several chances to get back in the game (two Rex Grossman-like picks thrown by Hoyer, fumbles by Leggett and Ringer), but the defense was swarming today, and Purdue only scored a pity touchdown at the end to prevent the shutout.
  • I think that first interception affected Hoyer, and one could see him attempting to learn from the mistake, as he took off for 3-4 yard runs when no one was open. Sadly, he did not do this in the second half when he overthrew Cunningham (?) for the second pick.
  • Explanation for Michigan's suckitude the past 10 weeks: they've been saving up all the good plays to win the Little Brown Jug, which I'm sure Michigan fans will now hold higher than all those Rose Bowl victories. As for Minnesota, no explanation exists for their failure, the interception that Northwestern returned for a victory last week might have been the event that sends them into a tailspin where they finish 7-5. Still though, much improved after last year.
  • The only comment I have about the OSU-NU game is that the result was completely, utterly expected.
  • The other WTF of the day: Western Michigan beating Illinois at Ford Field. That does worry me slightly for next year. MSU has the same deal with Western @ Ford Field, but hopefully MSU can fill up the stands.
  • I was only slightly surprised that Iowa beat Penn State yesterday. If you've watched Iowa all year, you know that the only team that could stop Iowa was Iowa, and they only shot themselves in the foot once or twice compared to the five or six times in their losses. Congratulations to Iowa, even though...
  • The PSU loss has made it harder for MSU to get to the Rose Bowl. Now the Spartans need an OSU loss either @ Illinois or against Michigan, and MSU needs to beat PSU in Happy Valley, which last happened on the fifth of never. At any rate, MSU's most likely bowl destination is the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, and I'm elated about that.
Also, basketball? Starting? Like, next week? Hopefully a preview will be up next week, but no promises.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote, Consarnit!

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

1. To urge you to vote today, because it is mandated by law that all blogs must have some post regarding this topic on election day.

2. To prove I am not dead.

Big Ten picks later this week.