Your midpoint-of-the-Big-Ten-season, conference-only Spartan tempo-free numbers:
Data via StatSheet.
Organized in the KenPom manner.
Update: The StatSheet pace figure is misleading because it doesn't adjust for team's three OT games. Gasaway has MSU as only the 7th-most up-tempo team in the league. Doesn't really affect anything below.
That is some weird, wild stuff. Bullets after the jump. All numbers are conference-only, unless otherwise noted.
- So if I would have told you at the end of January that MSU would have a turnover percentage of 17% in Big Ten play, where would you have guessed they'd rank in offensive efficiency? Probably not tenth. Part of the solution to the turnover issue has been playing opponents who don't force many turnovers; Ohio State and Iowa are the only Big Ten teams forcing turnovers on more than 18% of possessions in Big Ten play. But, still, we'll take it. Major problem solved.
- Major problem developed: making shots. (Not helping: The fact that the entire rest of the league has gone nutso with their own shooting numbers. MSU's efficiency mark of 1.05 is actually the same as last season's.) Three-point shooting will hopefully be a case of addition by subtraction: Korie Lucious is the only MSU shooter under 34% from 3-point range. Appling (40.0), Green (37.9), Lucas (37.9), and Summers (34.4) are all shooting the ball OK from long range. Two-point shooting is the larger concern, as Lucas (43.3) and Summers (39.5) have both struggled. (Green has been just OK at 48.1.) Hopefully, Lucas' recent, apparently-close-to-100% form holds up, and Nix (10-15 on 2-pointers) gives the team another scoring presence in the lane.
- The rebounding has been good, although not dominant, on both ends of the court. The team is three and half points behind last year's conference-only mark on offense.
- The team's free throw rate has been middling--Lucas and Nix will hopefully help here, too. (Nix's individual free throw rate for the season is a whopping 150.0.) The team's free throw percentage has been just as bad as the field goal numbers. Thankfully, the team's opponents have followed suit at the line.
- The defensive numbers aren't nearly as far off what we would have hoped for coming into the season as the offensive numbers are (in terms of rankings, at least). The main problem has been--and you didn't need me to show you these numbers to know this--three-point shooting. Regression to the mean, pretty, pretty please. (Izzo agrees, by the way. State News tweet from today: "Izzo at weekly presser: I don't see much difference in our defense, teams are just making shots.")
- The defense has been highly aggressive by Tom Izzo standards, ranking in the top two in the league in both steal percentage and block percentage. Chalk that up to two aggressive big guys: Both Green and Roe are averaging 1.3+ blocks and steals. That's, of course, an interrelated factor with those two players' recent foul issues. (Izzo talked about using a zone defense in the near future today, by the way. My reaction is the same as Rexrode's: Believe when see. I bet you can count the number of possessions of zone defense the team has played over the last five years on two hands, at most. I really have a hard time believing he's going to install basically a brand new defensive scheme with one month left in the regular season.)
So, not a lot to hang your hat on there, other than some hopeful extrapolating of Lucas' and Nix's recent performances and the stubborn belief that eventually opponents will start making less than half their three-point attempts. Even if those things do happen, I think it's safe to say that the team is going to have to continue to claw out wins.
Ken Pom has MSU going 4-5 down the stretch (4.27-4.73, to be exact). That would put the team at 9-9 in Big Ten play and 17-13 overall going into the conference tournament. That's bubble territory. And it's conceivably a tad optimistic, depending on how much you think Korie Lucious' absence hurts. For what it's worth, I'd take the over on the projection. I don't have a great reason why--just the non-wonkish belief this team isn't going to quit down the stretch. (Also: Beat Iowa on Wednesday and the rounding flips to 5-4. Yay, rounding.)
Keeping the NCAA Tournament streak alive is goal number one at this point. The selection committee's love for tough scheduling, Izzo's rep, and the extra three at-large spots should all help there. Goal number two would be getting to a 7-seed, to avoid playing a 1-seed on the first weekend. Crashing the Dance has MSU as an 8-seed in their first run, which actually seems like a pretty happy thing at the moment. There's not nearly as much to play for as we had hoped a few months ago, but there's still some things that could be achieved that would be of non-negligible value.