It's been 24 hours since that stomach punch of a loss, and now that most of us can talk about this game somewhat rationally, let's. MSU's offense was stale in the early going, managing 12 points in the first 11 minutes of the game. In the next 29 the scoring stabilized, but one problem remained. That would be Michigan's inside game. Through drives and long jump shots, the Wolverines made 70.8% of their twos, and that's the stat that would contribute most to State's demise.
Even with UM being prodigious from close range, MSU was up one with a minute left. Then, horror. Keith Appling's Benjamin Button treatment kicked in; he looked very green in the last four minutes. He misses a jump shot, and someone from Michigan rebounds, kicks the pass out, (it doesn't matter who) and a lay-up gives Michigan the lead. The last 30 seconds -- chaos. MSU nearly turned the ball over three times. Austin Thornton had an open game winner and didn't take it. Izzo for some reason didn't use a time out. Maybe he didn't want the defense to reset, but Michigan had 6 fouls at the time, it's not like they could foul to waste time. Eventually Draymond got the ball drove down the lane, missed the jump shot, and missed the tip in just before the buzzer. Ball game.
After the jump, the four factors, and I reassure y'all.
Here's the four factors:
As you can see, even with Michigan's lights out two-point shooting the effective field goal percentages were about equal. That's what happens when MSU shoots 7-15 from three and UM shoots 6-21. The rebounding was right where it needed to be, but turnovers, once again, UGH.
So should we, as a fanbase, worry? Nope, and here're some reasons:
- The Big Ten is BANANAS this year. B-A-N-A-N-A-S this year. As I'm writing this, Nebraska beat Indiana. Ohio State's lost to Illinois and Indiana, albeit both on the road. Illinois lost to Purdue by a jillion. Purdue lost to Penn State. Rexrode thinks the loss means MSU won't win the Big Ten this year, but I kindly disagree -- I think it's much less likely State will win the conference crown, but I'd doubt anyone who talks in certainties about how this race will go.
- This isn't a real bad loss, except it was to our rival and hurt like hell. If we replaced Michigan with Illinois, we'd say that it was a valiant effort, but MSU gave up too much inside and turned the ball over. Since it was Michigan, some of us are saying "NUKE EVERYTHING" (including me last night). Sure, Michigan had two wins last year over one of the most dysfunctional MSU squads in history and another win over a good MSU squad. The gap is closing. However...
- The gap isn't closed yet. UM's coming off a 9-9 effort in conference last year, and is 4-2 and about to get a major gut check. I'd say the gap will be closed when they win a Big Ten title like MSU has in two of the past three seasons. In summary: closing? Yes. Closed? No.
- MSU will straighten the ship. The next five games -- Purdue, Minnesota, at Illinois, Michigan, Penn State. Anything less than 4-1 through this stretch will be a disappointment. The Spartans are still top ten in KenPom adjusted offensive and defensive rating. They need to retool the interior defense, but knowing what needs fixing is better than the cluster that was last season.
In conclusion, it sucks to lose to your rival, and congratulations to Michigan for getting punched and fighting back. February 5th is looming, and if MSU can't sweep, you can be darn sure they're going to win this thing on aggregate.