It is a bit of a light week for the MSU basketball squad as they have just one game on the schedule, a Thursday night matchup in Lincoln with the Huskers. The team will need to rest up because next week they play Monday, Thursday, and Sunday. Alright, into the numbers.
The Spartans are up to number three in the KenPom rankings overall, behind a pair of ACC teams in Virginia and Duke. Michigan State, along with the two teams ahead of them, are the only teams that are both top ten in the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings. The last time the Spartans finished in the top ten in both offense and defense was 2001, when they went to their third straight Final Four.
The offense has been pretty good all season, and currently sits and number three overall. But the defense has been a slow steady improvement throughout the year. Since the re-start of Big Ten play MSU has held three of its four opponents under 60 points. That usually gets the job done, especially for a team that has been held under 70 points only once this season.
The Spartans continue to be one of the best shooting teams in the country, checking in at sixth in eFG%, 11th in three-point shooting, and 15th in two-point percentage.
Meanwhile, the Spartans now boast the second best defense against shots inside the arc, holding opponents to 40.3% shooting on two-pointers, 10 points below the national average.
One other interesting note is the average possession length. When MSU is on offense their possessions last an average of 16 seconds, which is the 53rd fastest. On defense, their opponent’s possessions last 17.9 seconds, or the 297th longest. That tells you that MSU is pushing the pace on offense regularly, but forcing teams to work on the other end. That’s usually a pretty good combination.
Joshua Langford has been out since the middle of the Northern Illinois game and has yet to play in a game this calendar year. Meanwhile, MSU is 4-0, all against conference opponents, without him. Each game it seems like someone else has stepped up to fill the void.
Kyle Ahrens, Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry, and even Kenny Goins have all stepped up and chipped in solid games since Langford went out.
The new struggle is that Kyle Ahrens has gotten hurt and missed this weekend’s game against Penn State and is likely to miss Thursday’s game against Nebraska as well.
This is less than ideal because of Nebraska’s strengths, namely their wing players. James Palmer (19.0), Isaac Copeland (14.3), and Isaiah Roby (11.3) all average double figures and check in between 6-6 and 6-9. They are all athletic and difficult to guard as they can step outside or take it to the basket.
With MSU down two wings, it is going to fall on guys like Aaron Henry and Kenny Goins to step up and play well on both ends of the floor. They also will need to stay out of foul trouble.
Matt McQuaid has gotten a lot of love lately from a lot of people who are much more eloquent story tellers than me. But I would be remiss not to bring up how good a job he has done on both ends of the floor over the last several weeks.
First off, McQuaid is shooting 57.9% from beyond the arc against conference opponents. He missed the two games against Iowa and Rutgers earlier in the year so this is what he has done the last four games, without Langford.
His current kenpom stats profile is eerily similar to one of his coaches, Dane Fife, whose 2002 season is the fourth most like McQuaid’s current year to this point.
In addition to his offense, McQuaid has been a lock down defender. He often draws the other team’s best player as a defensive assignment, and usually gets the better of them. Take a look at some of the guys he has helped shut down.
Northwestern: Vic Law averages 17.3 points per game, held to five points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Purdue: Carsen Edwards averages 25.3 points per game, held to 11 points on 3-for-16 shooting
Penn State: Josh Reaves had 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting, 0-for-4 from three.
McQuaid doesn’t deserve all the credit for this next stat, but he’s certainly a big factor in it. In the last four games none of MSU’s opponents have shot 30% from three. In total over the last four games, opposing teams are 22-for-95 (.232) from behind the long line against MSU.
McQuaid has half that many made threes on only 19 attempts over that same span.
Nick Ward continues to move up the rankings in the MSU record book. The junior just eclipsed the 1,200 point mark, moving him ahead of Alan Anderson and Kelvin Torbert and into 33rd on MSU’s all-time scoring list.
Ward remains fifth on the all-time blocks list, but is now just six behind Drew Naymick for fourth place.
Ward is also just three free throw attempts shy of 500 for his career, and is knocking on the door of the top-10 in that category as well.
Cassius Winston is two assists shy of 550 for his career. He’s currently ninth on the all-time school assists list but needs only 14 more to move into sixth place.
Kenny Goins has already set a career high in rebounds with 160 boards. His previous high was two years ago when he had 159. His per game average has slipped below 10, but he continues to pile up rebounds. We are about halfway through the season, so if Goins keeps this up he is on pace for somewhere around 320 rebounds, which would put him with the sixth highest single season total in school history.