Monday, March 9, 2009

This Blog Has an Expiration Date...

That's the bad news.

The good news is that I'm going to be blogging more frequently once MSU ends its run in the NCAAs. Where? I can't say yet, there are details being worked out and such.

Just know that even though this blog is coming to end, I'll still be around, albeit somewhere else.

Now get ready for what might be the most unpredictable Big 10 tournament in years, which means that'll probably play out according to seed. That'd be fine by me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Five Things...I Liked about the Minnesota Game.

That was refreshing. The score was 13-8 about eight minutes into the first half, MSU had turned it over a few times, and then...

Hysteria. The only time I can recall a first half going that well for the Spartans was the Ohio State four or five years ago when they shot about 80% for the first half. Even then, the defense wasn't nearly as good. Here's five things I liked about the game.

5. The field goal defense
Minnesota's shooting: 3-12 from three, 15-52 total for a FG percentage of 28.8%. Yay to not being victimized by a red-hot shooter, and double yay for showing the Big Ten that the Spartans still have a defense.

4. The "WASH YOUR FACE" chant
Cruel to Colton Iverson? Yes. Unnecessary? Of course. Funny? Yup. The pressure must be causing him to breakout, because I don't know how your face goes from this in high school:

To this (on the far left):

3. The remergence of Chris Allen as a shooting threat
13 points on 4-7 shooting for Allen, 2-3 FT, 2-4 on three-pointers. He's now out of the slump, which is more important since...

2. The ability to win big without Raymar
He'll be back over he gets over the walking pneumonia/Spanish Flu/Captain Trips that he has, but Final Four teams have to show that they can function at a high level without one of their best players.

1. Winning on the home court again
Self-explanatory. MSU needed a win at home after the Northwestern and Penn State debacles, and got one. They're still one game clear of the rest of the Big Ten, and that probably won't change against Indiana in a few days.

Tomorrow: Five reasons why we'll beat Indiana, which is about four more reasons than necessary.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Blog's Direction + Bonus Minnesota Preview

Hey y'all, sorry about the delay. I was thinking about changing the direction of this blog into more of a place where I post daily, but shorten the length of the posts a bit to keep up with the demands Chemical Engineering places on me. In that scenario, I'd have something up by about 9:30-10 AM every day, but would just be a brief rundown of things that happened to MSU the previous day. I'll have the prototype post up tomorrow morning, let me know if it strikes your fancy.

As for the Minnesota game today, if Suton's healthy (he hyperextended his knee in Monday's practice, he says he'll play, but I still hyperventilated a bit when I heard), MSU wins. If not, we need two things:

- Roe to make up for the offensive boards we'll miss

- Blake Hoffarber not to pull a Kevin Coble/Talor Battle and hit everything within halfcourt.

Call it MSU by five, and we'll take it, especially with the Purdue loss @ OSU yesterday.

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.