Didn't See That Coming: Big Ten Tournament Recap

Got up for that one.

Here's your official post-conference tournament bulletpoint dump:

  • Ka-lin Lu-cas! Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.  The story of the tournament was obviously Lucas' scoring explosion vs. Purdue--a career-high 30 points--despite playing on what reports had indicated was a pretty severely-sprained ankle.  (I was somewhat surprised he hadn't scored 30 before.  He'd scored 25 or more in seven previous games this year, but had maxed out at 29 vs. Washington.)  The silver lining to the ankle sprain was that it forced Lucas to do something that several stat-head types (not including me--no self-horn tooting here) have suggested he do: shoot more threes.  13 of Lucas's 28 FGA vs. Purdue and Penn State were three-pointers; for the season, Lucas has taken over twice as many FGA from 2-point range as 3-point range.  The results were obviously pretty good.  For the tournament, Lucas scored 57 points on 38 FGA and was quite deservedly named to the all-tournament team.  His performance against Purdue will not be soon forgotten.
  • Draymond Green carried the scoring load vs. Iowa with 21 points (although it took him 23 shots to get there).  His scoring touch disappeared in the next two games (5-19 from the field), but he finished the tournament with 34 rebounds, 12 assists, 6 steals, and 8 blocks, so there was no shortage of contributions from the man.
  • Durrell Summers.  I'm not sure what's left to say about Summers that hasn't already been said, but I'll give it a shot: My sense is that Tom Izzo is trying to put Summers in a position for the game to come to him, rather than heaping more pressure on him by running a lot of set plays specifically designed for him.  It worked in spurts, but they were limited: 26 points over 89 minutes of BTT play.   Seven of those points came at the end of the Iowa game when it looked like the season could be completely unraveling, so give Summers credit for overcoming whatever psychological barriers he's dealing with at a very key moment.  15 defensive rebounds in the three games, so he's putting in the effort there, as well.
  • Keith Appling seemed to be looking for his shot more from distance more decisively and knocked down 5 of 9 three-pointers.  Also posted 12 rebounds; multiple rebounding guards is a very good sign in terms of capturing some of the mojo from the best Izzo teams of the past.
  • Delvon Roe played as well as you can possibly can while shooting 2-14 from the field.  16 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks--4 of which came against JaJuan Johnson and Purdue.  Having a guy who can guard 7-footers and stick with point guards off screens is a very nice advantage.
  • Adreian Payne had a six-point scoring burst in the opening minutes against Iowa and then didn't score again in the tournament.  One of the State News guys tweeted that conditioning is an issue, which is kind of odd for a pretty sleek big guy at this point in the season.  If he could stay on the court for a few more minutes per game, it would be a good thing.  For the season, Payne has the second highest rebounding percentage on the team on both ends of the court (behind Nix on offense and behind Green on defense), and his block percentage would rank near the top 30 nationally if he qualified with enough playing time.
  • Limited contributions for Derrick Nix (7 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes) and Garrick Sherman (2 and 2 in 18 minutes).  Sherman's hands cost him a few times near the basket.  Not much you can do about that but hope he gets more comfortable as his career progresses, ala Goran Suton.
  • Combined 7-11 FG shooting for Mike Kebler and Austin Thornton.  Both players are shooting open 15-footers with confidence, which is a key in terms of preventing opposing defenses from hedging off them and trying to play 5 on 4 against MSU's more traditional scoring threats.  Also for Kebler: 5 rebounds, 2 assists, zero turnovers, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.  Oh, and one very fun dunk to help seal the Purdue win.
  • The win against Purdue was obviously the major massive enormous FRIGGIN' HUUUUUGE highlight of the weekend for MSU, as the team put together it's best 40 minutes of the season by a very a large margin.  The other 80 minutes the team played were much less inspiring.  Adding all three games together, the numbers come out pretty blah, as MSU scored 188 points and conceded 178 points in 195 possessions.  But there were definitely some positive indicators.  The rebounding was very good, with 10+ percentage point advantages in both the first two games.  The team also got to the free-throw line with regularity in those first two games, and the field goal defense against non-Talor Battle players was good throughout the three games.

    (On that last note: I would love to see guarded/unguarded shooting numbers for Battle like the ones Luke Winn posted for the Duke shooters today.  I'm convinced he hits roughly 75% of 3-point attempts where there's a hand in his face and about 25% of attempts where he's wide open.  Additional related aside: As much as Battle's flurry of hand-in-the-face threes--the last of which came with Lucas's hand in his face after Lucas insisted on guarding him--put MSU in a hole they didn't have the energy left to dig back out of, Tim Frazier's 22 points arguably hurt more.  Frazier shot 9-13 vs. MSU, as compared to 6 for 17 in Penn State's other three BTT games.  Combination of a guy having a good night and the MSU defense being a little too lax against a player not expected to score frequently.)

    All in all, a very successful trip to Indy for the Spartans--locking in an NCAA bid and potentially setting the table for a solid run in the bigger tournament.  As others have noted, the loss to Penn State wasn't all bad, as it gave the team another day of rest and avoided the possibility of getting bumped up to a 8/9 seed.  Very hard to see how they would have had enough left in the tank to beat Ohio State on Sunday.  (If Northwestern could have pulled off the upset on Friday, MSU's semifinal exit would have stung more.)

    Personally, it was great to get three days of MSU basketball at the conference tournament.  It's been a long time since that last happened.  The non-statistical highlight that will stick in my head is the MSU section spontaneously bursting into the fight song in the waning seconds of the Purdue game.  Unbeknownst to me, at something close to the same moment my 60-year old (and generally non-sports-crazy) mother and 3-year old daughter were standing in a sports bar full of Purdue fans on the outskirts of Indianapolis belting out the MSU fight song--fulfilling a pledge my mother had made to my wife and/or the universe with 5 minutes to go in the game.  The stuff of MasterCard commercials, I tell you.

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