Travis Trice came to MSU as an unheralded 3 star destined to be Keith Appling’s career backup. For three years was mostly the case and many questioned whether or not he could fill the point guard spot during his senior year after being a 3 year bench role player with a usage rate never higher than 18%. He ended up stepping up marvelously especially during bright lights of the NCAA tournament and was even named 3rd team All-B1G for his efforts.
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):
Honestly this is a very strong list with easily some of the best PG’s in the recent Big Ten history but it comes with the caveat that almost all of these particular seasons were not those players’ best seasons. He has the 2nd highest Assist% in this group behind only Demetri McCamey’s senior season and the 3rd highest ORtg behind Taylor’s senior year and Yogi’s sophomore season. Considering there were more questions than optimism about Trice's ability to take the next step as a leading PG this past season, I would say this is a definitely a list to be proud of.
Trice started the season off a good note scoring a career-high 25 points against Navy in the season opener and being named Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts. The senior version of Trice had arrived showing off a new crossover and complementary step-back jumper that hadn’t been seen much (if at all) during his first three years. He vastly improved his ability to create plays rather than simply be a catch-and-shoot 3 point shooter as evidenced by his 31.0% assist percentage (3rd highest in KenPom era for an MSU player*) and a very low 73.3% of 3PM that were assisted (2nd lowest of MSU players in the 4 years of Hoop-math data**). Despite increasing his Usage% from 16.9% to 26.2% (highest on the team), his ORtg only dropped from 115.8 to 113.3 which is very good considering how much larger of a role he took on. He was rightfully named the most outstanding player in the East Region after averaging 19.8 points and 4 assists on a 59% true shooting percentage during the tournament games leading up to the Final Four.
Although he did have a very solid offensive year, his shooting percentages regressed and he had just a 52.4 true shooting percentage (3rd to last among rotation ahead of only Alvin Ellis or Lourawls Nairn). He struggled greatly in some losses including 3-13 from the field with 4 TO’s against Texas Southern, a 2-8 from the field and 4 TO loss at Maryland, 2-10 performance vs Illinois, and 2-8 with 4 TO’s against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game. Also after being an 82% FT shooter the year before, he shot just 72% while almost quadrupling his attempts. Some of this may have been fatigue from taking on a larger role but some of these losses were rough and not being able to completely rely on your senior PG to make FT’s down the stretch was an issue at times.
As a senior captain Trice played a great role in getting MSU to the Final Four and finishing 3rd in the B1G despite have a lower talent level than a typical MSU team. Although it probably won’t be as remembered as Korie Lucious’ shot against Maryland in 2010, I would argue that Trice’s 5-5 from the field, 13 points in the first 5:28 against Virginia was almost as important as that single play regarding MSU getting to the Final Four. He led the team in both points and assists, and his combined 15.3 PPG and 5.1 APG make him the first player to average those numbers since Marcus Taylor is the 2001-02 season.
(Author’s note: I acknowledged all the critiques about Trice not getting an A grade and realized that it was fair criticism. It was more to do with my somewhat harsh grading scale than what Trice did or didn’t do last year. Going into this process I had intended that Trice would at the very least tie for the highest grade on the team based on him vastly exceeding expectations. For some reason I made that grade an A- rather than an A and that has since been changed. In the end this actually works out for me because I now have more discretion when grading other players.)
*Travis Walton at 32.7% in 2006-07 and Chris Hill at 31.7% in 2004-05 are 1st and 2nd respectively
** Sophomore Keith Appling was at 66% 3PM that were assisted but shot it at a poor 25% clip