Friday, December 26, 2008

The 3x3 Preview: Oakland

Welcome to the way that I'll be doing most of my basketball previews from now, the 3x3 preview. In this segment, I'll state three strengths of the opposing team, three of their weaknesses, and three things State needs to do to win. That said, let's get to the preview.

  • Kenpom Rank: 149
  • W-L Record: 8-6
  • Conference Record (Summit League): 1-1
  • Best Wins: @Oregon, @Wisconsin-Green Bay
  • Noteworthy Losses: @Syracuse (by 20), @ Iowa (by 9), Michigan @ the Palace (by 13)
  • The Grizzlies are above average offensive rebounders. Anyone watching the Texas game knows that one of the main barriers to Michigan State blowing the game wide open was that they allowed Texas to get position inside and collect their missed shots at a high clip. I'm not saying that Oakland will show the same propensity to grab their misfires, but it is something to be aware of, as they rebound 36.4% of their missed shots, good enough to put them in the top quarter of Division I. This has helped them score more than a point per possession (Offensive efficiency of 107.2, which puts them in the upper tier of Division I teams).
  • They can block shots, if given the chance. Oakland blocks 11.2% of opponents' shots, and that is good enough to put them 79th in Division I in that category. However, as we'll soon see, that's about the only aspect of their defensive game that is above average.
  • They almost beat MSU last year. At the Breslin. The Grizzlies played Michigan State close last year when they lost 75-71 in East Lansing. These bears won't be intimidated by the Green and White.
  • The Grizzlies are a terrible, TURRIBLE defensive team. They give up 1.055 points per possession, which puts them on top...of the worst 25% teams in the NCAA. Their big Achilles' Heel is interior defense, where they allow 50.9% of twos to be made. Michigan State takes a great many more twos than threes (only 24% of MSU's shots are threes, that is extremely low), so look for this point to be heavily exploited.
  • Goran Suton is back. No one should be better able to exploit the shoddy interior defense of Oakland than the Bosnian Bomber, who missed only one shot in the victory against Texas. Expect surprisingly graceful drives to the basket and 12-14 footers to drop from the big man.
  • Did I mention the Grizzlies give up a lot of offensive rebounds. For as good as Oakland is in collecting rebounds, they're just as bad in giving them up, as they allow their opponents to rebound their misses about 39% of the time. I wouldn't worry about it if I were the Grizzlies, it's not like Izzo stresses offensive rebounds or anything like that.
  • Do not allow second chances. Oakland's been good at collecting offensive rebounds, and they have a couple of 6-10/6-11 players who can put those rebounds back in if need be. Take away those chances and see if Oakland can make the shots.
  • Go inside, and keep going inside. Despite that height on the interior, Oakland still has weak two point defense. Suton, Morgan and Roe need to go inside and keep going inside.
  • Make free throws. Going inside is going to translate to many trips to the foul line. Here's where Delvon can't have a repeat of the Texas game, when he made none of his foul shots in six attempts.

Suton and Morgan get inside repeatedly, but Oakland gets enough offensive rebounds to make it a game in the first half. In the second half, Michigan State starts to own the boards and pulls away.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas at Ground Zero

Thanks to all those who have read this blog this year, and have kept this little operation going. I was going to have a recap of Spartan Sports, but Fighting with a Vim did a good job of it at this post, and I am nothing if not an opportunist.

Also, it's going to be a great Christmas at Ground Zero.

My gift to you will be a bit belated: before the turn of the new year, expect previews of the Oakland game and Capital One Bowl, as well as a recap of the Oakland game. Big Ten previews will start with the Northwestern game, as I will be in Chicago at an Ohio State bar of all places to ring it in.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and nothing but the best to you and yours this season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Longhorn'd - The Texas Preview

The Dossier on Texas:

  • Win-Loss Record: 9-1
  • Best Wins: UCLA, Villanova (Neutral Court), Oregon
  • The Loss: Notre Dame (@ Maui)
  • #5 in both AP/Coaches' Polls
  • #22 in Kenpom ranking
  • Defend, especially on the interior. Texas is the #12 team in the nation in defensive efficiency; their opponents score 0.833 points per possession (anything under 1 is pretty good, get that number below 0.85 and we're talking national title contender). They're also one of the best blocking teams in the nation. Texas blocks 17.6% of all opponents' shots.
  • Shoot the dang three. Well, this item bodes well. Texas' leading scorer, A.J. Abrams, has been shooting 47% from behind the arc. He's also averaging about 36 minutes a games so expect to see him a lot. Texas also has two other players shooting above 38% on their threes (Damion James and Connor Atchley, the latter of which looks like he was kidnapped from the Bo Ryan Cloning Facility of Tall White Guys that Can Shoot), which will spell trouble for the Spartans if their three point defense stays mediocre.
  • Hold onto the ball. Texas only turns over the ball about 13 times a game, a little better than average. Don't expect to rip the ball away from Abrams, he only turns it over about once per game.
  • Anything involving the free throw line. The Longhorns shoot 61.2% from the foul line, 307th in Division I. They have four players in their main rotation that shoot under 60%, so if the game is close in the end, there should always be a favorable person to foul.
  • Their offensive percentage inside the arc is strikingly average. UT shoots 48% on their twos, and that percentage puts them at 171st in the nation.
  • But yet they still take many more twos than threes. Only 25% of Texas' shots are threes, despite how well they shoot the ball from 20 feet, nine inches.
  • Chris Allen becomes unconscious behind the arc. Texas has a very strong interior defense, so accurate perimeter shooting will be pivotal for extending the interior defense and creating cracks for passing lanes inside. Allen can help immensely if he makes Texas guard him anywhere inside 25 feet.
  • By being unafraid to foul anywhere inside the arc. This point is tailor-made for Raymar to excel. Make Texas earn a victory by hitting their foul shots.
  • HOLD ONTO THE CONSARNED BALL! Self-explanatory, no stats needed.

I believe that this game is going to be nip and tuck all the way through. However, I think MSU is going to create their own undoing with a few too many turnovers and a few too many Abrams threes.

Texas 73, MSU 65.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Aftermath - The Citadel

Another day, another win, but this one was semi-close all the way through. MSU stormed out to an 18 point lead, but that lead was cut to eight by halftime. The second half was back and forth with MSU holding leads oscillating between 6 and 14 points until the game mercifully ended. What do we know?
  • The Citadel completed 40% (10-25) of their three pointers. This sounds bad, but if you saw a game, you witnessed the Bulldogs hitting a few threes from five feet behind the arc. If I saw this stat without watching the game I'd say that stat would be a cause for alarm, but watching the game, I would call it a cause for minor concern.
  • That Raymar continues to do two things - dominate teams with lesser talent and get in foul trouble. His 26 points and 10 boards were good, but once again, he had four fouls by about midway through the second half.
  • It didn't look like MSU shot many three pointers, but upon review, they were 2 for 9, with Chris Allen having a 1-6 off night. Perhaps the reason for this was that they were very successful inside the arc; they shot 52.9% of their twos.
  • Free throw shooting continues to be a point of mediocrity. 65% will not get it done during the Big Ten season. The main offenders once again are those who you would mainly suspect, as Gray and Roe combined to go 6 for 12.
  • The good news: Michigan State out rebounded the Citadel by 7. The bad news: The Bulldogs grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. Yikes.
  • I didn't notice the turnovers too much, but my eyebrows raised when I saw the number "5" in Travis's row for turnovers.
Here's where I insert the typical "an ugly win is still a win" sentiment, which is almost always followed by "they'll have to play a lot better to win against better teams" sentiment. Those thoughts are typical because they're true, and going down to Houston to play Texas will need an improvement in play. However, I'll wait until tomorrow to preview the Longhorns. As for now, be glad that this game can now safely be ignored and start getting pumped for Saturday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Brief Preview of The Citadel

What is The Citadel, you ask? The Citadel, aka the Military College of South Carolina, was founded in Charleston in 1844. Less than two decades later, Fort Sumter in Charleston was attacked, and the Civil War (or the War of Yankee Arrogance, depending on where in this country you were taught) began. I'm not saying the two are related, but I am heavily, heavily urging you to reach that conclusion on your own. Now, about 150 years later, MSU looks to score one for the Yanks. Here's the rundown of The Citadel's team.
  • The Citadel's record is 5-5 this season, with wins against schools you didn't even know were schools, such as Grace Bible, Cincinnati Christian, and Charleston Southern.
  • In other news, Charleston is apparently big enough to have a directional school.
  • And the losses? They lost to Iowa by 22 and Virginia Commonwealth by 23.
  • On, they're the 320th ranked team out of a total 344 teams (take that, North Carolina Central!), and their defense is ranked 332nd - worse than Alcorn State, who you last saw being depantsed in the Breslin Center.
  • The one thing they've done well so far - hit the offensive boards. They're the 44th ranked team in offensive rebounding percentage (measures how often a team grabs an offensive rebound off a miss). 40% of their shots are from behind the three point line (uh oh), but they make less than 30% of those shots (relief). predicts an 85-52 MSU win, with a zero percent chance of The Citadel winning. This game will mainly be a tune-up for the big game in Houston on Saturday against Texas. Suton has been practicing since Monday, and hopefully he gets a few minutes of playing time. That said, I expect this game to be a bit slower than the Alcorn State game, but still should be an easy win because the Spartans are playing a low-major team, and are playing at home.

Prediction: MSU 92, The Citadel 64.

I'm back, with a response to an MSU editorial

Well, finals kicked my butt, but I'm back, mainly in response to a post on Spartan Nation about MSU's lack of commitment to agribusiness in Michigan. My responses to selected portions of the post can be seen posted below; my main criticism is that the article smacks of oversimplification of the vast economic problems facing Michigan right now, and puts the onus on MSU to save Michigan. The excerpts from Spartan Nation's post is offset, I trust you'll be able to discern my responses.

Sports-related content to come tonight, now that heat exchanger design is no longer my main concern.

Ugh. As an MSU student right now, I believe that this article oversimplifies many of the problems facing Michigan today.

I am not interested in rich oil barons sending their sons and daughters to MSU Dubai. I am interested in seeing Detroit turn around with a commitment to bioeconomy through education. I am not against the Dubai campus, it will open opportunity for agrieducation to a brand new corridor. I am asking if the emphasis is being placed in the right places?

These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

How many people from inner city Detroit would like a job that pays 25-30K? With all of the warehousing space and the access to shipping lanes, Detroit could be an economic power in food processing. Problem is that MSU doesn’t even have a program in food processing. This is particularly disgusting considering the diversified fruit and vegetable markets that continue to boom in our back yards.

Detroit's problems go way past MSU not creating jobs there. In 2006, Detroit had an abysmal graduation rate of 21.7% for its high-school students. The problem isn't that MSU doesn't offer food processing, it's that the majority of kids from Michigan's largest city will fail to graduate high school, which presents more problems than one university can handle.

So while society is brainwashed into believing that higher standardized test scores and GPA’s result in a higher quality graduate, does it benefit the state of Michigan? Are MSU graduates today better prepared to deal with the problems of tomorrow more than they were ten or even twenty years ago? Are MSU grads any smarter or more capable than they were ten or twenty years ago? I don’t think so.

So what should MSU's criteria for admission be? Having each prospective student sign a statement vowing to stay in Michigan after they graduate? Should a 2.5 student who pledges to stay in Michigan beg given preference over a 4.0 out-of-state student? Like it or not, test scores and GPA are the best indicator we presently have as a society to predict a student's future success. Are MSU grads smarter than they previously were? I'd like to think so, due in part to the academic competition that has bubbled to the surface.

I have heard numerous people talk badly about Ohio State because they “let everyone in.” Anyone think that OSU is less prestigious than MSU? How are OSU’s sports teams year in and year out? The truth is that OSU abides by the very principles that gave the university life. Unlike MSU, Ohio State sees that access is the most important thing.

This is partly true. While Ohio State as a whole is open to any graduate from an Ohio high school, admission is only guaranteed to its satellite campuses (Lima, Mansfield, Marion, and Newark). Admission to the Columbus campus is competitive and works exactly like any other Big Ten University. In fact, you praise Ohio State for admitting everyone, but the Columbus Campus' average SAT and ACT scores for the freshman class are higher than MSU's! The only reason Ohio State admits everyone is that some of those admitted students go to a regional OSU campus. Should MSU construct regional campuses like OSU's? I'm not sure where the money would come from for that.

The luxury suites in Spartan Stadium are fit for kings and queens. They are truly a marvel, a masterpiece built to showcase the very university that we have all grown to love so deeply. They are also used as a tool to raise money for the school, which is largely a positive thing. They are also used to purchase the very politics that sell the potential sons and daughters of Michigan State to the highest bidder.

Are there any examples of this? I'm not quite sure what you mean.

Landgrant university access and education are something that I fundamentally believe is both important and necessary. So while many will wait to see what happens with this automaker bailout in the hopes that our state’s economic complexion changes, I will carry the torch that John Hannah believed was the fundamental right of Michigan residents.

Access to higher education is tantamount for a society to succeed; however, that university need not be a Land Grant one, as many, many Michigan residents have gotten a quality education from Central, Western, Michigan Tech, GVSU and numerous other universities. If one doesn't get in at first, he or she can go to another college and transfer. Also, going to college is not a right, it is a privilege. Ask anyone who got banned for a year from public universities for CedarFest crimes if post-secondary education's a right.

This holiday season, while you watch MSU run up and down the court and play on New Year’s Day, ask yourself this question. What does the slogan… from landgrant to world grant actually mean? Is it a campus in Dubai that MSU needs or more undergraduates educated in a future economy that promises to become Michigan’s most crucial overnight?

The aspect of this article that irked me the most was that there was no mention of the great economic good MSU has brought to Michigan. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which will pump $1 billion into Michigan's economy, was not mentioned. The construction of MSU's new medical school in Grand Rapids, which will train more doctors vested in Michigan, went unmentioned. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a $100 million joint venture between UW and MSU went unmentioned. MSU is training graduates for the top 30 growing fields, such as elementary education, accounting, registered nurses, doctors, computer scientists, and many many more.

My point is that while the agriscience industry is expanding, Michigan is still going to need many other professions to keep jobs in the state. The agricultural economy is still crucial to Michigan's success, but the undergraduates will have to make the decisions themselves to go into agriculture. It is not MSU's fault that Michigan's economy is failing, and to imply that MSU is failing Michigan by not investing more money in one sector of the economy oversimplifies Michigan's problems right now.