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Tempo-Free Overanalysis: The Sequel

Last night, I overanalyzed MSU's individual tempo-free numbers.  Tonight, I'll overanalyze the team-level numbers.  (The tempo-free primer is here, in case you missed it.)

On Offense

The team's adjusted offensive efficiency of 114.6 (23rd nationally) is right in line with last season's figure of 115.0 (20th).  MSU hasn't lost an inch in the offensive rebounding department (43.9%, 7th nationally) and is showing substantial improvement in its effective field goal percentage (55.2%).

The team's 2-point shooting percentage of 56.6% is a full 8 points higher than the figure posted last season.  Draymond Green and Delvon Roe are scoring efficiently inside, and Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen have showed remarkable accuracy when they've ventured inside the 3-point arc.  There's some concern the efficient interior scoring will disappear when we start playing teams that can match/exceed our size inside (the team ranks 7th in the nation in lowest percentage of offensive shots blocked), but to date the shooting struggles against quality opponents have been from 3-point range (combined 7-41 vs. Gonzaga/Florida/UNC), not 2-point range (83-154).

Overall, the team's 3-point accuracy has been middling: 34.0%.  And the team is actually taking slightly fewer 3-pointers than it did last season (26.1% of total FG attempts vs. 26.6% last season), despite Korie Lucious filling in a lot of the minutes Travis Walton left behind.

Offsetting the increased 2-point scoring efficiency has been a marked reduction in the number of trips to the free throw line.  The team's free throw rate of 35.7 ranks just 195th in the country.  Expect to see that number go up, while the 2-point shooting number goes down, as the team heads into Big Ten play.  MSU ranks just 269th in the nation in free throw percentage at 64.4%--although that number's actually pretty remarkable when you consider it includes Derrick Nix's 2-23 performance at the charity stripe.

Finally, the turnover percentage number looks pretty good in the aggregate: 20.0%.  But there's been a lot of volatility over the 10 games: 5 games below 17 percent, 3 above 25 percent.  Included in the latter category are the giveaway explosions versus Gonzaga and Florida.

On Defense

The adjusted defensive efficiency figure of 90.9 (44th) is lagging well behind last season's figure of 88.4 (10th).  The initial instinct would be to chalk that up to the graduation of Travis Walton.  But the area in which Walton made the biggest contribution--limiting the number of good looks opposing scorers got at the basket--is actually looking pretty good.  Opponents are shooting just 43.4% from 2-point range and 30.4% from 3-point range.

The issue to date has been the number of shots opponents have been allowed to take.  MSU is creating a turnover on just 18.3% of possessions and allowing opponents to gather 29.3% of missed shots.  That second number is still pretty good, ranking 60th in the country, but it falls short of the 27.3% figure posted last season (11th best in the country).  No opponent has posted an offensive rebounding percentage above 35%.

Going forward, we'll see if the team is more like the 2008 Spartans, who were very good on the offensive glass but just OK on the defensive glass, or the 2009 Spartans, who were excellent on both ends of the court.  That may be a stretch, given that Green and Roe are both rebounding the ball more efficiently than they did last season on the defensive end (and Raymar Morgan isn't too far behind his 2009 figure); the lack of interior depth is an issue here.

While Tom Izzo-coached teams have never relied heavily on creating turnovers, it would be good to see the team's defensive turnover percentage inch up a little.  Morgan, Lucas, Green, and Roe are all posting decent steal percentages, though, so it's unclear how to make that happen; it's not necessarily a lack of aggresiveness.

On a positive note, MSU isn't allowing opponents to get to the free throw line as much as they did last season--although the similar-sized reductions in free throw rate on both sides of the ball could just be an indication of the less-physicial nature of nonconference play.

Summing Things Up

Most of the numbers above don't come as much of a shock.  As expected, this team looks better on offense than it does on defense.  Setting the Gonzaga/Florida/UNC games aside, MSU has posted an offensive efficiency figure no lower than 109.9 against its seven lower-tier opponents.

You can argue, however, that's it been offensive inconsistency in the areas of 3-point shooting and turnovers that have resulted in the two losses against good opponents and the need for a big home-court comeback against the third quality foe the team's faced.

Given the lack of depth and (experienced) height down low, the ceiling on this team's defensive prowess probably isn't as high as those of the last few MSU teams (although at least marginal improvement will be needed to contend in conference and tournament play).  That means the margin for error on offense will be fairly small.  Being as good as last season's team on offense won't cut it; they're going to need to be better.

The positive spin here is that this team could be undefeated with just a few more 3-pointers and/or slightly fewer turnovers against Florida and UNC.  The negative spin is that the team has yet to put together a complete offensive performance against a team with comparable talent.  Another opportunity to make that happens comes in just 6 days.