This is the third in a series of posts looking at the performance of individual MSU basketball players this past season. Because the end goal is to discuss improvements and/or adjustments that appear to be in order for next season, the series is limited to returning players. Today: Chris Allen.
When this past season began, Chris Allen was my candidate to be MSU's breakout player. He seemed poised to step into Drew Neitzel's role as the team's designated 3-point specialist and, as a freshman, he had shown the ability to score in a variety ways beyond just shooting open jumpshots.
The early returns were promising, as Allen scored 15 or more points in 4 of MSU's first 9 games--including 16 points against North Carolina. From there, though, things went downhill; Allen hit the 15-point mark in only 3 of the team's final 28 games.
(Notes: "Conference Regular Season" includes the Kansas game. 2PM/G = 2-pointers made per game, etc.)
There's a pretty simple story here: Allen's jumpshot went missing. His 3-point shooting percentage plummeted from 37.7% in nonconference play to 20.0% in MSU's 8 postseason games. He managed to continue scoring at an efficient rate on 2-point attempts in conference regular season play, but that shooting percentage dropped in postseason play, as well.
My intuitive evaluation of Allen's shooting woes: His jumpshot is perhaps too perfectly refined. When he's on, he's nearly unstoppable. He has a high release, gets his shot off quickly, and puts great rotation on the ball. But as soon as he misses a couple shots, his mechanics fall apart and he can't put everything back together again . Allen had three games this season in which he took 6 or more 3-point shots and didn't make a single shot (including the rematch with UNC).
So that's the bad news.
Here's the good news: Allen improved enough in other areas of the game that he wasn't a complete liability when his shot wasn't falling. All of his major non-field goal shooting stats held up during conference and postseason play: free throw attempts and percentage, rebounding, and assists. And he actually reduced his turnover numbers substantially in postseason play.
You'll note his minutes per game didn't drop as his shooting numbers fell. Tom Izzo's confidence in Allen actually seemed to grow as Allen's shooting problems increased. Defensively, his progress was particularly encouraging, as he became much less prone to mental errors. His progression was one of the keys in MSU's dramatic improvement in 3-point defense in conference play.
Going into next season, Allen's in a similar position to the one he was in last year: If he can become the consistent 3-point shooter he was billed to be entering college, he has the potential to be a 15-point-per-game scorer. The problem is that his college career is now half over and his career 3-point shooting percentage is just 33.3%. If he can move that number up near 40.0%, the potential remains for Allen to become an all-conference-level player, given the way he has progressed in other facets of the game.