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Michigan State Spartans Season in Review: Matt Costello

This is the fourth post of my Season in Review series where I will analyze each MSU player’s season and give each a grade based on (my) preseason expectations

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In the beginning of Matt Costello’s sophomore season he was the starting center but slowly lost minutes because of both his injuries/illness as well as the team played best with more of a small-ball approach with just one traditional big. With Adreian Payne gone, some had expectations that Costello would take a much larger role in the offense this season. While his usage rate did increase from 15.1% to 17.9% he probably did not make as a big of a leap as some would’ve thought. He split the center position with Gavin Schilling and for whatever reason he lost his starting spot after just 6 games. He played well on both ends although his playing time limited his impact.

The Comparisons

Using this player comparison tool created by MGoBlog’s Alex Cook, these are the B1G players with the highest similarity scores (dates back to 2008):

This is a somewhat boring list in that he quite simply plays like a traditional big. There’s not much more you’ll get from this. He doesn’t have a particularly high usage but he’s very efficient offensively. He led the team in ORtg (11th in B1G) and block% (7th in B1G). While he didn’t start for most of the season, he did average more playing time than Schilling and was often the one playing during the end of games. He attempted a few 3’s but there wasn’t a ton of hope of any of them going in.

(Side note: he did make a 3 after the whistle against Virginia which led to a commenter on a Oklahoma blog boldly predicting that’d he make a couple in our Sweet 16 matchup with them. I enjoyed that.)

The Good

Costello was the team’s best center and was reasonably consistent in his role. For those of you that follow me on twitter, you may remember that I was a strong proponent of Costello when discussing Costello vs Schilling near the end of the season. He was very solid defensively against almost every center he faced and the underrated little things he did (setting screens, boxing out, contesting shots) didn’t always get the appreciation they deserved. Some people might point out that he struggled against Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor. Yeah struggling against 1st team All-Americans and top 10 picks (or so) is going to happen. However, other than those matchups he was solid and I can’t recall him really getting beat often by opposing bigs. On offense he was a decent threat as both on pick-and-rolls and on the occasional pick-and-pop opportunities.

The Bad

I’ve said it a couple times that Costello was solid but he was rarely anything more than that. His highest scoring game was against a small Texas Southern team where 6 of his 17 points came from 3 offensive putbacks in overtime. His highest scoring game against power 5 conference opponents was 13 points (a very good game he had against Purdue). However, he reached double digits in just 5 of 30 power 5 games. Part of that had to do with playing time but if he truly deserved significantly more playing time than Schilling he likely would’ve gotten it. He still struggles with foul trouble as his 5.4 fouls committed per 40 was bad and it hurt his team when both he and Schilling were out of the game.


Costello had a good season but never made that big jump. He was a player that MSU wanted on the floor but he couldn’t always be out there due to foul trouble. You mostly knew what you were going to get from him and not much (other than occasional ill-advised 3 point attempt) surprised you. Next year we’ll probably see him in an increased role but maybe not as big as some think. He has a decent shooting form and it’ll be interesting to see to what extent Izzo allows him to showcase it (#FreeCostello?). Regardless of whether or not he starts, he would be my guess to get the most minutes of any big and hopefully he’ll be able to show off an improved and active post-game.

Grade B+

(Alright, this one surprised me a little)


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