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Michigan State Spartans Basketball: 2015-16 Returnee Analysis

Breaking down how the B1G will look next year

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

I'm breaking out out of my favorite concepts from last year: the annual B1G excuses contest! Which team gets to claim the most hardship due to departing players? Last year, there was heated debate between MSU, Michigan, and Ohio State, which was won by Michigan. Their prize: even more (injury) excuses! This year, it's a tight race between Ohio State and Wisconsin. I'm excited.

The way I've done this is to plot KenPom rating versus Win Shares returning. I chose KenPom rating as a measure of team strength because obviously. I chose Win Shares because I felt that they did a good job of capturing both offensive and defensive player components, while also handling minutes played. Box plus-minus (my preferred metric) is minutes-independent. This makes Win Shares a better way to handle the fact that minutes must be replaced by teams, somehow.

This year, I added in 24/7 composite recruiting class score as bubble sizes. These bubble sizes give you a general idea of the strength of that team's recruiting class; the larger the bubble, the better the class. 24/7's methodology is a little odd in that class size matters. This means that Nebraska with 5 commits beat out Maryland for class score, despite Maryland landing a top-ten guy in Diamond Stone. There's probably something to be said for quantity, but to me it's clear Maryland's class will have a larger impact next season than Nebraska's. Still, 24/7's composite score gives us a solid baseline for recruiting.

Last note before the chart: the axes below represent the average KenPom rating as well as the average win share percentage returning.

2015-16 B1G Returnees and Recruiting Classes


Michigan State features the best recruiting class, and had the third best 2014-15 KenPom rating. The losses of Travis Trice and Branden Dawson hurt, but MSU still returns more win shares than your average B1G team. Hammering out the rotation will take time, but Izzo's got a lot to work with here.

Indiana was an okay squad last year, and they return virtually everyone. Throw in a solid recruiting class headlined by big man Thomas Bryant, and you've got yourself a contender. It'll be awkward when Crean loses in the Sweet 16 again, because Indiana basketball fans are hilarious.

Maryland was probably not as good as their record last year, but they've still got Melo Trimble and Jake Layman. Plus they're adding a dude named Diamond Stone. Oh, and I have a suspicion that Mark Turgeon is a sneaky-good coach; that Maryland team gave MSU fits last year.

The Dark Horse

Purdue's got some solid credentials: two 7-foot centers, the reigning B1G defensive player of the year, and all of their rotation guys except Jon Octeus and Bryson Scott. If they can find a steady guy to run the point, they could be very good.


Iowa loses Aaron White, but they still return more than half of their win shares from last year. Jared Uthoff should have a big year, but those are big shoes to fill.

Illinois is incredibly blah; perhaps a solid recruiting class will liven them up a bit.

Minnesota is as blah as Illinois without the quality recruiting class.

Penn State loses DJ Newbill but returns more than I expected. I'm hoping for a breakout year by Shep Garner, mostly because his name is fantastic.

Good Teams Going Through Transition

Wisconsin: Death. Taxes. Undead Bo Ryan. Seriously, I think Nigel Hayes is going to be a terror and the combination of Hayes and Bronson Koenig will keep them well inside the tournament.

Ohio State should get some credit for their consistency as of late, too. Though they lost the highest percentage of win shares, OSU brings in the eleventh best recruiting class in the nation, and second in the B1G. I'd be surprised if they weren't a tournament team.

Poor Teams Returning a Lot

Michigan, even before injuries to Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, was just bad last year. The injuries certainly didn't help last year, but those injuries will provide depth this year. Michigan will need to find a way to improve their defense, which has been worse than 100th nationally for two straight years.

Northwestern won five of their last seven regular season B1G games, and they essentially lose just JerShon Cobb. I'm thoroughly interested to see if Chris Collins can get them into the bubble conversation.

Why Did We Let You In the Conference Again?

Nebraska had two bizarre NBA early entrants in Terran Petteway and Walter Pitchford; I think this may end up being addition by subtraction for them, especially if the offense can share the ball better. Tim Miles is bringing in a solid recruiting class, to boot.

Rutgers lost their last 15 games of the season, 10 of those by double-digits. They're also undergoing massive roster churn for the second straight season, and probably will again once Bishop Daniels leaves after this season.

[Note: my data for this is here. If you want to fact-check, that's probably a solid idea.]