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On Chris-Allen-lessness

Some of this has been covered in the comments to LVS's post, but here are my thoughts on the Chris Allen suspension.

First, the precise cause of the suspension is still fairly mysterious.  If you listen to Tom Izzo's comments on the topic, he sounds downright chipper, several times stressing how pleased he's been with Allen's performance on the court in recent games.  Joe Rexrode transcribed quite a bit of the give and take (major props for the LOST smoke monster analogy, BTW).  Here's the opening:

    On the reason for the suspension:
    "Just not being a good teammate. There’s some guys that don’t understand that your team is the most valuable thing you have. You have a responsibility and an obligation to your team. He’s not demonstrating that to me or my staff, and so I told him to take the day off, which he did. But I’m telling him he’s taking a game off, and we’ll go down there and try to compete without him."

    This is a basketball issue?
    "Yeah, it’s a basketball issue."

Later, Izzo attributes the suspension to "an accumulation of things."  It doesn't sound like academic issues were a big part of this.  The portion Rexrode has on his blog ends like this:

    Is this surprising because he’s bought in the court, on defense?
    "Yeah it is, but still, when you’re starting to talk about these things as a junior, that’s concerning, too. I mean we had the Morrises of the world and by the end of their sophomore year, you know, they’re ready to move on. We’ve got a couple guys that are in their junior year and still immature. And my job is to make sure that they either get mature -– you know, I know this will sound trite and stupid. Probably 50 percent is for my team, none is for the program, none if for me, and the other 50 percent is probably for him. And I swear to you, that is the truth."

It would be tough to do a Venn diagram analysis here.  The suspension is the result of "basketball issues," but apparently not on-the-court basketball issues.

Anyway, the next question is what this means for Friday (and potentially beyond--Izzo hasn't decided whether Allen would travel separately to Indianapolis if MSU wins the first game).  Allen's absence probably moves the needle a nudge toward wanting to play Minnesota rather than Penn State--but not beyond the 50% mark.

Allen's shooting and ball-handling skills are valuable against Penn State's zone looks.  In the two games against the Nittany Lions, Allen combined for 19 points on 5-11 three-point shooting, 4 assists, and zero turnovers.  And he provides a good defensive option against Talor Battle.

Of course, Minnesota also plays some zone.  That's almost a relief, though, given that they can also play an aggressive, turnover-inducing man-to-man defense (although they haven't been doing much of that of late).  In the two games against the Gophers. Allen went for 19 points on 5-14 three-point shooting, 8 assists, and 2 turnovers.  And he'd be useful on defense against Lawrence Westbrook, too.

So I guess scrap my initial judgment: Allen's absence will be a distinct disadvantage on both ends of the court against both potential opponents in MSU's Big Ten Tournament opener.

While he hasn't been scoring in bunches over the last few games, Allen has arguably been MSU's most consistent perimeter players in terms of avoiding mistakes over the second half of conference play.  He's posted either one or zero turnovers in 9 of the last 10 games, and he's been the most reliable perimeter defender.

The suspension substantially reduces the margin for error for the remaining guards.  Kalin Lucas probably has to now spend more time as the primary defender on Battle or Westbrook, in addition to trying to regain his scoring touch (just 36 points over the last 4 games).  Durrell Summers will play 30+ minutes and becomes the sole athletic wing option.  Korie Lucious needs to knock down 3-pointers against the zone.  (Disconcerting stat: If you exclude Allen's .431 three-point shooting, MSU shot only .279 from beyond the arc in conference play.)  Either Austin Thornton or Isaiah Dahlman will see double-digit minutes; they simply need to make smart decisions with the ball and knock down any wide open shots that come their way.

Based on Izzo's tone today and the precedents with Lucas (back after one missed practice) and Lucious (back after one missed games) earlier this season, I'd expect to see Allen at Conseco on Saturday.  But that'll hinge, of course, on winning Friday night.  Chris Allen would be fourth on my list of players I wouldn't want to go into the tournament without right now (behind Lucas, Morgan, and Green).   Apparently, this team won't be doing anything the easy way this season.

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