In case you didn’t hear, Michigan State played North Carolina on a boat on Friday. Despite that fact, the Spartans couldn’t throw it in the ocean. It doesn’t matter if you thoroughly dominate UNC on the boards if there’s a lid on the basket. Tom Izzo’s team shot just 38 percent inside the arc and a rock-bottom 10 percent beyond it. Maybe there’s a reason you only play to 15 in streetball.
I know the instinct is to look at this game as some harbinger, good (“Michigan State will own the boards this season”) or bad (“the Spartans have no one that can score”), but it’s just one game. We still don’t know if MSU’s defense will play that well all season, or if the offense will catch up. But it is encouraging nonetheless to see the Spartans dominate the glass, hauling down nearly half of their misses while limiting the Tar Heels to just a quarter of theirs. Equally discouraging, however, is the fact that the team seems so dependent on Draymond Green. The
forward guard player attempted over 26 percent of MSU’s shots, and accounted for about 37 percent of the Spartans’ rebounds. Yes, Green is a fine player that will pick up some hardware on his way to the NBA, but he’s going to need a supporting cast. For what it’s worth, this Branden Dawson fellow appears to be as good as advertised (10 points, 7 rebounds), but surely Tom Izzo wants more out of his backcourt. None of the non-Draymond point guard candidates (Brandon Wood, Keith Appling, Travis Trice) played well, or even looked like a point guard. So look for some better play when Michigan State regroups against Duke. Should be easy, right?
In other Big Ten action, everyone else took care of business. Some observations:
- Might this be a center’s league this season? After years dominated by backcourts, I think we’re seeing a resurgence of big men. That category is anchored by Jared Sullinger, or course, but players like Jared Berggren, Cody Zeller, and Meyers Leonard look to be ready to step up to join talents like Melsahn Basabe and Trevor Mbakwe.
- Speaking of Minnesota, I’ll get into this more in the team preview, but the 3-15 performance from behind the arc is a bad omen.
- No rust showed on Robbie Hummel (21 points in 20 minutes) in Purdue’s opener.