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Previewing Michigan State -- Please God Just Let Us Rebound Competitively This One Time

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2008 Scouting Report / 2007 Scouting Report
2008 Schedule
2008 Roster

Michigan State Offense 06-07Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%52.382Turnover Rate24.2301Off Reb Rate40.27FTM/FGA28.181

That turnover percentage sticks out like the sorest of thumbs; it was the only thing keeping Michigan State's offense from being truly elite in 2007. Last February, Big Ten Wonk wrote:

I can't repeat this often enough: this is the scariest 7-6 in-conference team around. Scary because they already play D, they already hit the boards (see last night), they even shoot pretty well. Their only weakness--and it's huge--is that they kill themselves with turnovers. If they can merely hold on to the ball, you're looking at a team that's the equal of Wisconsin and Ohio State. Repeat: equal.

The turnover percentages of their top six minutes-getters in '07:

Drew Neitzel (G) 16.7
Travis Walton (G) 30.3
Goran Suton (F) 26.0
Raymar Morgan (F) 22.9
Drew Naymick (F) 23.5
Marquise Gray (F) 25.8

Having a turnover rate in the vicinity of 25% is acceptable if you're the point guard, but most of those guys? Not point guards. Bottom line: if you ain't the one, ideally you should be below 20%. Getting back to the Wonk's point, there was no better offense on turnover-less possessions than Michigan State's in the Big Ten a year ago. When they weren't dribbling the ball off their feet, they usually were scoring. For better and for worse, all of those guys are back in 2008--turnovers have remained an issue, but the Spartans are, again, strong in each of the other three factors. They shoot well, rebound like a bunch of football players (hmm), and get to the line often.

And guess what one of our major defensive weaknesses is! Forcing turnovers. Yikes.


Drew Neitzel (6-0, 180) -- The Spartans rarely shoot threes--and why would they when they can grind you into a pulp with their forwards--but when they do take them, it's usually Neitzel doing the shooting. And he's very good out there. He's a two-guard assuming the PG role--a spot up shooter who isn't particularly quick off the dribble. Nearly 60% of his shots came from three last season.

Role players don't usually see their usage jump to focal-point levels, but that's what happened to Neitzel in 2007, when his usage climbed to 25.6% from 16.4% the year prior. He is the one player on the roster with whom you may trust the basketball, and you can expect him to handle it plenty.

Kalin Lucas (6-0, 165) -- Tough debut for the freshman: a 30.0 effective field goal percentage and a turnover rate north of 30%.

Raymar Morgan (6-7, 220) -- Like most of Michigan State's forwards, he wasn't very efficient in 2007, but so far this year, he's been brilliant. And he's been the team's primary offensive option, with a usage upwards of 28%. Meet offensive rebounding terror #1.

Marquise Gray (6-8, 235) -- Not a huge part of the offense, but he'll block shots, and, of course, rebound.

Goran Suton (6-10, 245) -- Posted a nice assist rate last season to go with excellent rebounding at both ends.


Four guys are getting 15+ minutes off the bench in 2008: Chris Allen (6-3, 190), Durrell Summers (6-5, 195), Travis Walton (6-2, 195), and Drew Naymick (6-10, 245).

Allen has been quite involved offensively: ninth in minutes played, but third in field goal attempts. And he's been productive, averaging 23.2 pts/40, just not very efficient. He'll shoot often from three.

Walton, who was a starter a year ago, won't be shooting too much; he's more of a pass-first point guard.

Naymick is a rebounding/shot blocking role player.

Michigan State Defense 06-07Four FactorsPercentNat'l RankeFG%44.515Turnover Rate20.1221Off Reb Rate31.065FTA/FGA37.9197

Not surprisingly, the Spartans play good interior defense--opponents shot 42.2% on their twos in 2007. MSU blocks a lot of shots, but they're one of the worst teams in the country at stealing the ball. There's a reason they don't steal the ball: they don't care to.

For Izzo, everything else starts with rebounding. He wants his guys to grab defensive rebounds and push the ball up the floor. He tells them not to be overaggressive on the perimeter -- "We're not into passing lanes and steals," Izzo said -- which means his guards are often closer to the basket, and therefore in great position to rebound.

Izzo prefers solid on-ball defense and lock-down rebounding; his teams force a lot of misses and grab most of them. You don't need to force turnovers to have a good defense when you do those things. (By the way: if anyone's looking for a Christmas gift for Sidney...)

That said, their defensive rebounding has been unusually poor in 2008, but considering that they have returned every player from a team that rebounded well at this end last season, that probably doesn't mean anything.