Ok guys, I know that it is in our nature as Spartan fans not to get too excited or to put the horse before the cart and all that stuff, but I think it’s time we all acknowledge out loud what has been pretty obvious for a while. This Michigan State basketball team is good. Like, really good.
I know there are some of you out there that saw the loss to Duke and decided to hold off on granting this team that sort of status. I get it. But then this team went out and rolled through the PK80 without a healthy Miles Bridges, decimating our old pals from North Carolina in the process. Then they came home and crushed an undefeated top-10 Notre Dame team a few days later.
Sure there was the way too close Rutgers road game and the par for the course tighter than expected game against Oakland, but other than that, this team has been steamrolling opponents.
Four straight 100 point performances to close out the non-conference schedule and then a 30 point beat down of Maryland tells me this team is only getting better.
How good are they? Well the numbers currently tell quite the tale.
Michigan State is now the number one ranked team in the KenPom rankings, passing Villanova. They are the only team with a top five offense, and defense in the KenPom rankings, checking in at fifth offensively and third defensively.
They have the best eFG% on both offense AND defense. As well as the top 2-point field goal defense (32.8%) and top block rate (21.7%).
Offensively they are the eighth best three-point shooting team and the sixth best two-point shooting team. They are also second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.
Now their strength of schedule isn’t great. After last night they have only three wins against the KenPom top-50, and only four wins against the top-100. However, all of their remaining games, outside of Rutgers, are against teams currently in the KenPom top-100.
And those same rankings give MSU no worse than a 71% chance (vs Purdue) to win in any of their remaining games.
The man in the middle for the Spartans continues to be their most efficient player, especially on offense.
Since being benched against Rutgers, Ward is averaging 18.1 points per game, with 8.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. He is shooting an absurd 80.6% from the floor over that stretch, including making his only three-point attempt. He has averaged 20.7 minutes per game, so he has done quite a bit of work while he is on the floor.
The only real knock on him over that time frame is the free throw shooting. Ward continues to get to the line better than almost anyone else in college basketball, ranking second nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. But he is shooting just 55.3% from the charity stripe over the last seven games. This comes after he started the season shooting better than 68% in his first nine games.
Still, if he is going to shoot better than 80% from the floor, you can probably live with a little inconsistency from the line. The only concern would potentially be if teams decide to go to the hack-a-Shaq route and just foul Ward rather than letting him score from the floor. But given that most teams don’t have the depth up front to compete with Michigan State in the first place, putting their frontcourt players in foul trouble probably isn’t a wise idea.
I know that the competition hasn’t been very good over these last five games, save for a banged up Maryland team, but this current stretch by MSU has been pretty incredible.
First, they scored 100+ points in four straight games, something that has never been done by any MSU team before. They are also shooting 62.1% over that five game stretch, failing only to get to 60% against Maryland, and they might have done that had they not been trying to get Connor George as many shots as possible late in the game.
They are shooting just a shade under 50% from the three-point line and 70.6%(!) from inside the arc. Again, I know the competition isn’t great, but over 70% shooting on twos over any five game stretch is impressive.
Another piece of good news, MSU turned it over just seven times against Maryland, their second lowest total in a game this season.
Many people may have expected Miles Bridges to be a 25 point per game player for Michigan State this year, but that just isn’t going to be the case. And there is nothing wrong with that. What we have seen from Miles lately, is his ability to impact all areas of the game, and it’s making him and the Spartans better.
Bridges has been stuffing the stat sheet in all columns, and showing that he is becoming one of the most well rounded players around. Over the last five games Bridges is averaging 20.4 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. He is shooting 68.4% from two and 38.7% from three, for a nice 55.1% overall shooting percentage. He is also 87.5% from the free throw line.
He has had a dominant scoring game, 33 points against Houston Baptist, as well as a dominant rebounding game, 21 boards against Savannah State. He has multiple games with seven assists, and no game with more than three combined turnovers and fouls.
Bridges looked like a complete player in the game against Maryland on Thursday night, and showed some great vision in the passing game. It was very impressive to see.
That is what is potentially so scary about this MSU team, they are still really young and still getting better. It is likely that we haven’t seen the best this team has to offer yet. And that is why I think it is fine for us to all say out loud, “this team is really good.”