The Michigan State Spartans are not a team that is known to disappoint their fans. Tom Izzo is a coach who gets the most out of his players every single year. Rare is the season that the Spartans struggle to reach the tournament. Even more rare is the season where they are expected to contend for the B1G (12) title and barely make it into the NCAA Championships. The Spartan faithful were put to through the wringer this year and came to appreciate just what the best coach in the B1G (12) was able to accomplish so far in his career. Now let's take a close look at their season with a little help from our friends at statsheet.com.
The Michigan State Spartans
Overall Record: 19-15
Conference Record: 9-9
Final Conference Standing: 4th (tied with three others)
Home Record: 12-3
Away Record: 3-8
Neutral Court Record: 4-4
Record vs. Top 25: 3-8
Overtime Record: 3-0
Largest Winning Margin: 39 points vs. Prairie View A&M University
Largest Losing Margin: 26 points vs. Wisconsin
Best Win: Purdue in B1G Tournament # 12 end of year RPI
Worst Loss: Iowa # 169 end of year RPI
True to form, the Spartans non-conference schedule was the usual brutal guantlet. They faced Texas, Syracuse, Duke and Washington all of whom went to the NCAA tournament, and they also lost a very close game to eventual national champions UConn. The only one of these games they won was against an unimpressive Washington Huskies. The idea behind the tough non-conference schedule is to prepare yourselves for the tough conference grind. However, this years unimpressive start did not leave the Spartans with the confidence they hoped to find.
The conference match ups were too much for the experienced Spartan squad to handle. Izzo's squad was unable to put together a winning streak of more than two games against their B1G (12) competition. They limped through the whole season, and even hung around in the top 25 until January 17th, despite not playing like they belonged in that group. They did have the 12th toughest schedule in the country, but that is no excuse for a team that was heralded as the a superior team before the season began.
Internal conflicts ulimately exposed the poor team chemistry and nightmare season that the Spartans had been living all season. This team simply underperformed for much of the regular season. They did win two games in the B1G (12) tournament and play their way into the NCAAs, but they would eventually lose a very close game to UCLA in the first round. It is not what the country has come to expect from the Spartans in recent years, and it was certainly not acceptable by Michigan State standards.
Team Statistics in Conference Play (Ranking)
Possessions per 40 Minutes: 63.6 (4)
Points per Possession: 1.02 (9)
Rebound Percentage: 53.7 (1)
Assist Percentage: 62.3 (4)
Turnover Percentage: 18.4 (4)
True Shooting Percentage: 51.2 (11)
Points Scored per Game: 64.7 (8)
Points Scored Against per Game: 67.2 (8)
Fouls on Michigan State per Game: 18.8 (2)
Looking at the team season statistics one thing jumps off the screen immediately, State had trouble on offense. They have an extremely low points per possession, shooting percentage and points per game. The most troubling would be the lowest true shooting percentage in the conference. You can do 100 things right but if you do not score points you will not win games.
They were their typical dominating selves on the glass. For his entire tenure as a coach Izzo has always had strong rebounding teams, even when they are not particularly big. At this point it is almost a given that they will perform so highly in this regard. They also were one of the most fouled teams during conference play, showing their propensity to be a slashing, NBA style team on the offensive end.
Individual Statistical Leaders in Conference Games
Minutes Played per Game: Kalin Lucas, 35.67
Points per Game: Kalin Lucas, 18.39
Rebounds per Game: Draymond Green, 7.89
Assists per Game: Korie Lucious, 4.29
Steals per Game: Draymond Green, 1.67
Blocks per Game: Delvon Roe, 1.06
The Spartans court general Kalin Lucas was once more the team's leader in points. He came back strong in his senior season after initially struggling with a torn achilles that he suffered in last year's NCAAs. He was by far the most productive Spartan on the offensive end of the court.
A positive for Michigan State fans is the return of Draymond Green next season. He is the most uniquely talented front court player in the B1G (12). Leading the team in rebound and steals per game show his defensive acumen. Hs assists per game was second highest on the team with 4.06, and he scored 12.4 points per game as well. He will need to take a step up in his production next season and take control of the team. I personally believe that he is in a great position to have a B1G Ten Player of the Year type season.
Tom Izzo kept his team's tournament streak alive, but I think that most Michigan State fans would like to forget the previous season. High expectations proved to be too much for the Spartans to achieve, and their uncharacteristic finish to the season left a lot to be desired. They will be back next year though reloading all the critical positions with young talent like Keith Appling, and bringing in fresh blue chips like Branden Dawson. A down B1G next season is wide open and State could be in a position to bring home another season championship.