Last night, December 4, was my first-ever MSU basketball game experience. The pregame atmosphere was awesome with the band and all. The Izzone really is a sight to behold when they get going. This was going to be an instant classic. Michigan State, the number-one team in the whole land three weeks running (a school record), against North Carolina, perennial power and only recently unranked, but always a thorn in Sparty's side. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Prime time on ESPN. Another early test for an MSU team that needs a Final Four this year to keep Coach Izzo's streak alive.
While I must first admit that I am by no means a basketball junkie, this amateur did find some interesting stats in the box score. Not including free throws, UNC averaged 0.79 points per shot attempt, whereas MSU averaged 0.60. If my calculation of the number of possessions is correct (and putting points on free throws back in), UNC averaged 1.61 points per possession , whereas MSU averaged 1.43. My stat roots, if there is such a thing, are in baseball, so these averages and efficiency numbers are what I like to look at: how well is a team (or a player) taking advantage of an opportunity given.
I also thought that there were too many times when Spartans would come down the court and throw up a quick three without really getting set. Desperation was mounting in the second half as the clock ticked down. Some of the late fouls were more out of frustration than anything else. At one point, my friend Charles observed Coach Izzo yelling at, I believe, Denzel Valentine about passing instead of taking a wide open shot.
Roy Williams' big postgame quote was "I don't know, I don't know, and I don't know." Sort of sums up MSU fans' reaction as well. "I don't know...how this team could never even get a lead in the game. I don't know...how MSU could get beaten so badly on the boards (-11 total). I don't know...how so many injury and health problems could rear their ugly head all at once. I don't know...how a team that lost to UAB and Belmont could now upset both Louisville and Michigan State. I don't know...how Roy Williams can be 7-0 against Tom Izzo." Maybe the Spartans just had tar on their heels on Wednesday night (and, I suppose, every night MSU plays UNC).
Am I hitting the panic button on this 2013-2014 campaign? By no means. Sure, we'll no longer be #1 in the country when the polls come out on Monday, but that's OK. As long as we're #1 on April 7, all will be well. If there's one thing Coach Izzo has proven, it's an ability to learn from bad games and bounce back the next time the Spartans hit the court. I fully expect a rejuvenated and motivated Michigan State team when they travel to the Palace to play Oakland.