Big Ten Geeks: First semester grades

We’re all set to tip-off conference play on Tuesday, which means it’s time to hand out our final grades for the nonconference season. We’ll do this in alphabetical order.

Illinois: B
The Illini have probably hit par, by going 11-2 in the non-conference schedule. By doing so, the team really hasn’t moved any closer or further away from an at-large berth. Coming into the season, we thought it was more likely than not that Illinois would miss the Tournament. With the Illini hovering at around 50 in the Pomeroy ratings, that still looks right—but there will be plenty of chances for John Groce’s team to pick up quality wins in the conference season.

In order for the Illini to do so, however, the team needs to figure out its offense. It’s not a great shooting offense, they don’t get to the foul line, and after some strong offensive rebounding to start the season, the Illini have faltered there as well. How does this team score? That’s the concern, going forward.

[ MORE: Here are 14 (random) thoughts as we enter 2014 ]

Indiana: C
Indiana is 10-3, but of concern is that the Hoosiers lost to every single respectable opponent it played. The Notre Dame loss was particularly disappointing, as it’s a loss to a team that is no shoe-in to make the Dance. Like the Illini, the Hoosiers have struggled on offense. After all those 3s walked out the door in the offseason, Indiana’s offense has become one-dimensional, relying on a steady diet of offensive rebounds. But against a team that hits the defensive glass (as Big Ten teams are wont to do), that’s a recipe for disaster.

It also doesn’t help that Tom Crean can’t trust anyone with the basketball outside of Yogi Ferrell. Yogi’s having a great season so far, but he’s not going to get much rest in the conference season.

Iowa: B
Iowa’s done well this season, but our expectations were pretty high for the Hawkeyes. And to be fair, Iowa’s only two losses have been away from Carver-Hawkeye against legitimate top-20 teams. But even still, Iowa looks like it’s just a hair below the real contenders for the Big Ten title. I expect Iowa to be in the hunt until at least late February, and the bubble won’t ever be used to described Fran McCaffery’s team, but at this point I’d be a little surprised if Iowa managed to get a share of the Big Ten crown.

Before the season began, McCaffery bragged about how deep his team was. He wasn’t kidding—everyone who has played over 10% of the available minutes has an offensive rating over 100. That rotation is going to tighten in conference play, and former top-50 recruit Adam Woodbury might actually be in danger of losing his spot. Iowa has plenty of size, and it’s hard to see why McCaffery needs a center that only makes 49 percent of his 2s.

Michigan: C
Yes, Mitch McGary is hurt. And sure, maybe it’s not “fair” to grade them this harshly in light of that. Well, I’m a tough grader I guess. But the fact of the matter is that we expected the Wolverines to finish at or near the top of the Big Ten standings. But right now, this looks like the worst team in the group of five that look to be surefire at-large bids. Michigan does have four losses, but it’s also played a relatively challenging schedule. There’s work to do on the resume, but this team still should make it in—McGary or no McGary.

This year’s team is much more classic Beilein than in recent seasons. That is, the offense is built around the three-pointer, and the defense is questionable. The former seems like a great strategy for a team that puts Nik Stauskas at the center of the offense. But the latter is only going to get worse with the unavailability of McGary. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford are solid defenders, but not as good as McGary—and they foul just as much.

[ MORE: Big Ten nonconference reports, in 140 characters or less ]

Michigan State: C-
The Spartans were supposed to be a top-3 team nationally. And outside of the first 10 minutes against Kentucky, they haven’t looked like that. I wonder how much of that is the result of a roster full of players that does not match a coach’s style. Tom Izzo wants a deep rotation, but the Spartans are really only six-deep (though they inevitably reach into the Bag of Assorted Big Men when Adreian Payne needs a breather). Tom Izzo wants an interior-focused team that hits the offensive glass, but these guys are jumpshooters.

Whatever the cause, MSU’s offense is well behind its defense. Also, expect to see some of those ham-fisted “MVP versus best player” arguments in March about Payne. I doubt any team needs a player more than MSU needs Payne. That’s both a testament to how good he is, as well as a commentary about the state of his backups.

Minnesota: A-
We didn’t really expect much from the Gophers this year. Yes, they still have the Hollinses, but the team did lose quite a bit from last year, including the coach. And let’s face it—Richard Pitino is 31 years old in his second season as a head coach. And he was barely above .500 at a low major in his first season. It’s not unreasonable to think that he would need some time to adjust.

But that hasn’t been the case. Minnesota was up-and-down in the Maui Invitational, but picked up a nice win over a tough Florida State team. Maybe more importantly, these guys haven’t had to sweat it out very much against any cupcakes.

A huge boost to the offense has been the play of Deandre Mathieu. Count me as someone who didn’t think the freshman that struggled at Morehead State would end up being one of the better point guards in the Big Ten. Speaking of point guards, a big reason for Minnesota’s early success has been the fact that it really starts three of them.

[ MORE: Watch BTN.com’s top 10 nonconference dunks ]

Nebraska: B+
Nebraska was picked by almost everyone to finish in the basement of the Big Ten. Right now, I’d say that’s unlikely to happen, although that probably has more to do with Northwestern than Nebraska (more on that later). Still, Tim Miles’ Ballhog Offense is working much better in his second season at the helm. A big part of that is the fact that the Cornhuskers are starting to get to the free throw line. Terran Petteway has been one of the best newcomers to the conference, while Shavon Shields appears to have taken a sizable sophomore leap.

The reality is that this team isn’t very far off. Defensively, the Huskers could use better interior play, as Leslee Smith is the only real difference-maker on that front. But offensively, what Nebraska really needs is better production at the point guard position. Frankly, that is a bit of a surprise, considering that freshman Tai Webster had as much hype as any incoming Nebraska recruit has in recent memory. But he’s just been awful so far. That’s not so unexpected, as freshmen point guards go, and it certainly isn’t a harbinger of a terrible career in Lincoln. But for a team with every other position figured out, it’s certainly frustrating. For the time being, those duties might be better handled by Ray Gallegos or Deverell Biggs.

[ MORE: View Stephen Bardo’s latest Big Ten Power Rankings ]

Northwestern: F
This grade isn’t to say that Chris Collins has accomplished nothing in his short time in Evanston. Certainly, the defense of the Wildcats is much-improved over anything we saw in the Bill Carmody era. And I keep hearing that he’s making some noise on the recruiting trail. And frankly, that latter skill is probably the one that will determine his success as Northwestern’s head coach.

But this offense is terrible. The high points have been the play of Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb, and Tre Demps. Everyone else has been bad. It’s probably fair to assume that much of the reason is that most of the players on this roster were recruited to Carmody’s Princeton-style offense, which requires a unique kind of player. Dave Sobolewski in particular has struggled immensely under Collins, though to be fair he’s regressed every season since his promising freshman campaign. So it might not be Collins’ system.

Long story short—this is a team with a lot of sophomores that added impact players Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb from last year’s team, and it isn’t any better for it.

Ohio State: A-
The only thing stopping me from giving the Buckeyes an outright “A” is that the schedule has been a little on the weak side, and although the comeback over Notre Dame was impressive, that they needed such a miraculous rally was less so.

To borrow from Dennis Green, the Buckeyes are who we thought they were—only a little better. We knew that OSU would be a defensive juggernaut but would be uneven on offense. That’s been true. But I think we underestimated just how good this defense would be. On a raw basis, the Buckeyes have allowed 3 points per 100 possessions fewer than the nation’s next-best team (Clemson). Even last year’s leader—Stephen F. Austin, which was beating up on Southland Conference opponents—could manage just a two-point margin. If this number were to hold all season, it would be the biggest gap between #1 and #2 in the tempo free era (which is shorthand for “as far back as Kenpom keeps numbers”).

Penn State: B
I probably would have given the Nittany Lions at least an A- had the team not blown a 20-point second-half lead at home against Princeton. Princeton is an upper-level Ivy League team—which means more than it used to—but the way in which it happened leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

As Mike has detailed, D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier are actually in the conversation as the nation’s best backcourt. I still have reservations about whether Newbill in particular can keep up his accuracy with his heavy shot diet, but so far he’s thriving with Frazier in the backcourt.

Defensively, however, this is still a work-in-progress. With the exception of a couple years at the tail end of the Ed DeChellis era, Penn State has been undersized in the frontcourt. That hasn’t stopped the team from rebounding at a high level, but the Nittany Lions don’t do much else to stop the opponent from putting the ball in the basket. PSU does have some taller frontcourt players that can block shots, but they all come with a cost of being very foul-prone. The trade-off isn’t worth it, so expect opponents to continue to either dominate the paint, or make frequent trips to the foul line.

[ MORE: Get ready for the opening week of Big Ten play! ]

Purdue: D
This was all set to be an F up until Purdue managed to beat West Virginia in a true road game. The good news for Boilermaker fans is that it’s hard to imagine the season starting off any worse, and yet Matt Painter’s team is still 10-3 heading into conference play.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that this team is talented enough to be a top-25 team. A.J. Hammons could be the most dominant player in the Big Ten if he didn’t turn the ball over over four times for every 40 minutes he’s on the court. That’s really inexcusable, considering he dribbles about four times over the same span.

Defensively, what’s been working against Painter is the fact that he’s gone small most of the time, which has led to a lot of offensive rebounds for the opponent. I’m sure Painter has his reasons for deploying an undersized lineup, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the offensive approach of taking very few three-pointers.

Wisconsin: A
The Badgers haven’t lost against the Big Ten’s toughest non-conference schedule, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it earned the highest grade in the class. What is surprising, however, is the fact that Wisconsin’s defense isn’t really much worse than last year’s excellent defense. Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, and Mike Bruesewitz were three of the best defenders in the Big Ten last year, so it was largely assumed that their absence would leave Wisconsin’s defense lacking.

But that hasn’t been the case. I know people like to label Bo Ryan as a “system” coach, but I’ve never agreed with that label, in large part because Ryan’s tendencies have shifted quite a bit over the years.

But some things haven’t changed, particularly on defense. The Badgers always rebound well, and most years they’re able to guard without fouling much. And over the past four seasons, Ryan has mixed in an obsessive denial of opponent three-point attempts. In total, these three components have the effect of making opponents try and score two points at a time, with very few second chances. If there is a system in Madison, it’s on defense.

On Tuesday, conference play begins. Ohio State visits Purdue while Indiana goes to Champaign in two rare mid-week afternoon games. BTN will carry Michigan State’s matchup with Penn State as well as Iowa taking on Nebraska.

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37 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (37 Comments)
Jeff LaPalme on 12/30/2013 @ 11:06am EST Said:

This might be the dumbest drivel I have ever read, and I read the Detroit Free Press.

Nate Williams on 12/30/2013 @ 11:26am EST Said:

Late Christmas party question: can I get a Bag of Assorted Big Men at Walgreen’s?

Roger Oxley on 12/30/2013 @ 11:39am EST Said:

Josh Reed you lie to make your point about Michigan State. Who do you not like out of these players: Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, Matt Costello, Branden Dawson, Adrian Payne, Keith Appling or Gary Harris. You obviously don’t like Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis and Alex Guana. But with a 14 point road win at Texas after Texas knocked off the North Carolina team that beat Michigan State, I believe the Spartans somewhat made up for their lone setback. Yes they did not go undefeated so they would drop to the B- B+ range. But when you have to lie by saying they only go 6 deep your credibility is lost. If you would have said they only go 7 deep because you don’t like any of the bigs which you indicated in your article than you might have told the truth. If you are saying you don’t believe Matt Costello is a B1G player then you should say that too. Because if he is a B1G player than they clearly go 7 deep plus fill in parts which is what most good teams do (Louisville “13″). C- is a stupid!!!! grade for how they performed.

Doug on 12/30/2013 @ 12:06pm EST Said:

wow, MSU beats # 1 KY and wins AT Texas, after Texas just won AT North Carolina, good job dude, MSU has numerous injuries which explains the NC loss, but hey that’s why you make the big bucks

akble on 12/30/2013 @ 1:18pm EST Said:

not sure what scale you are using to grade? Certainly not a inclusive scale or even on curve-it appears you in some way assign grades agaisnt a preseason perception on some teams yet on others according to what they have accomplished – or not – this season. While many valid points there is little actual cohesion in your grading . you seem to infer Mn is on par with Ohio State and Wisconsin and that Michigan State is weaker than all but two B1G teams. Pretty confusing

Ian Thomas Cartwright on 12/30/2013 @ 1:24pm EST Said:

The author of this piece is trolling MSU fans, looking for a response.

Fire Josh Reed on 12/30/2013 @ 1:31pm EST Said:

What clown wrote this? MSU is the #5 team in the country with a neutral site win over #1 UK and a road win at Texas. “The Spartans were supposed to be a top-3 team”…instead they’re a top 5 team and you sound like they should scrap the program. Michigan was preseason top 10-15; they have 4 losses (one to Charlotte) and zero top 25 wins. You gave Michigan a higher grade than MSU lol. This garbage piece should get any journalist fired.

st8izgr8 on 12/30/2013 @ 1:45pm EST Said:

Josh, Josh, Josh…your MSU analysis is a swing and miss affair in at least a couple of significant ways.

First, MSU is 7 deep when healthy at a minimum. I would hope you’d note they haven’t been that for much of the non conference to date but are about to be exactly that now, with Matt Costello (one of the 7) now back practicing. The rotation will be at a solid 8 or 9 as Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis continue to develop. Should you doubt this will happen, I’d encourage you to actually look at Tom Izzo’s history as a coach. Several freshmen have emerged slowly but become full fledged rotation guys by some point during the conference seasons…recent examples being Draymond Green and Brandan Kearney, neither of whom played much in the non conference as freshmen but worked into the rotation during league play. Odds are very, very strong this happens again with one or both of MSU’s current first year players.

Second, Tom Izzo wants an “interior-focused team?” Again, time for you to actually pay attention to some history. Izzo’s had exactly two teams which anyone would describe as being “interior-focused.” They happen to have been the two most recent teams prior to this year, but that doesn’t mean that’s the eternal profile of MSU basketball. MSU has been a guard-oriented program going back to Gus Ganakas…you can look it up if you’ve only been watching the game for the last two seasons. This team is shooting a lot of jumpers because…wait for it…they’re pretty damned good at it. 38% on threes for the season indicates it’s a strength, not a weakness.

Third, MSU’s offense is “well behind” it’s defense? I guess that must mean MSU’s defense is at all-time-great levels, because we’re talking about a team which shoots the ball exceptionally well (49/38%), is second in the nation in assists and is bordering on a 2:1 assist to TO ratio AS A TEAM. *That’s* not great offense?

Strike three and you’re out, Josh. D- effort on that “analysis.”

made up name on 12/30/2013 @ 1:47pm EST Said:

The fact of the matter is that Tom Izzo is not a very good coach. MSU is notorious for cheating at worst and bending the rules at best. I agree that they have been a disappoint so far, but I expect them to finish no worse than 7th in the confernce, right behind Ohio State. Iowa should win the conference again this year.

Josh Reed, Big Ten Geeks on 12/30/2013 @ 1:50pm EST Said:

Costello’s been sick for a few weeks now, so I don’t know what to expect from him going forward. But even regardless of his health, he’s an extreme role player on offense. He might have the potential to be more than that, but right now you can’t play him for long stretches because the opponent pretty quickly figures out that he’s not much of an offensive threat.

Overall though, MSU started the season as the #2 team per Pomeroy. They’re #13 now. But even subjectively, MSU was everyone’s pick to win the Big Ten when the season began. If you were to take a straw poll now, they probably finish 3rd. I don’t see how that translates into a good grade.

John on 12/30/2013 @ 1:59pm EST Said:

A straw poll of who? And Costello is not a liability on offense, there just is no reason for any plays to be run for him because you have Appling, Harris, and Payne. Costello fills the role that you need from him, rebounding, defense, and putbacks. He actually does have some skill too, but he’s not a stretch four, he’s a five, which is the positive he plays.

B1G on 12/30/2013 @ 2:07pm EST Said:

If there was a straw poll right now, MSU would finish first. OSU would finish second. Wisconsin would finish third. Josh Reed is a complete hack. Which MSU fan beat him up and took his lunch money? The MSU hatred must stem from somewhere. Nobody can be this dumb.

Matt on 12/30/2013 @ 2:15pm EST Said:

Don’t forget about MSU’s double digit win on a neutral floor against OU – who currently is 11-1 on the year.

Thinkbeforeyoublab on 12/30/2013 @ 2:30pm EST Said:

Wow, that is the worst article I’ve read in years. You couldn’t be more wrong regarding MSU and Tom Izzo as a Coach:

Eight-Time National Coach of the Year

One NCAA Championship

Seven Big Ten & Three Big Ten Tournament Championships

Six Final Four Appearances

16 Straight NCAA Tournaments

13 NBA Draft Picks, Including Six First-Rounders

Seven All-Americans, Two Academic All-Americans

Graduates 82% of Players that Complete Eligibility

Longest Serving Active Big Ten Men’s Basketball Coach

One of Five Coaches All-Time with Seven Big Ten Titles

MSU’s All-Time Winningest Coach

No other coach in the BIG Ten and only 3 other coaches ever, can compare to these accomplishments. Idiot.

David Folk on 12/30/2013 @ 2:31pm EST Said:

any idiot with a laptop can right an internet blog, Josh Reed has proven that over and over

Thinkbeforeyoublab on 12/30/2013 @ 2:32pm EST Said:

@Madeupname: Here’s how bad a coach Izzo is:
Wow, that is the worst article I’ve read in years. You couldn’t be more wrong regarding MSU and Tom Izzo as a Coach:

Eight-Time National Coach of the Year

One NCAA Championship

Seven Big Ten & Three Big Ten Tournament Championships

Six Final Four Appearances

16 Straight NCAA Tournaments

13 NBA Draft Picks, Including Six First-Rounders

Seven All-Americans, Two Academic All-Americans

Graduates 82% of Players that Complete Eligibility

Longest Serving Active Big Ten Men’s Basketball Coach

One of Five Coaches All-Time with Seven Big Ten Titles

MSU’s All-Time Winningest Coach

No other coach in the BIG Ten and only 3 other coaches ever, can compare to these accomplishments
Not sure who your team is, but I guarantee your coach isn’t 1 / 10th the coach Izzo is.

dirk on 12/30/2013 @ 3:11pm EST Said:

Finish 3rd behind who??? Do you really think that Wisc. and OSU are going to finish ahead of MSU in the big ten? Jesus, did a Spartan player bang your girlfriend or something? Your grade scale is inconsistent and your “analysis” lacks all logic or insight. St8izgr8 does a good enough job refuting you and I don’t have the time to pile on. Massive Fail on your part.

Josh Reed, Big Ten Geeks on 12/30/2013 @ 3:25pm EST Said:

st8izgr8,

As for MSU being deep, I don’t think a couple of anecdotes about Green and Kearney (Kearney? Really? He wasn’t very good.) constitutes very good evidence that MSU will be deeper than 7 this season. The fact is that rotations generally tighten in the conference season. If there’s any contrary evidence specific to MSU, I’d be interested in seeing that. I know Izzo prefers to go deeper than 7, but I see a significant dropoff after the top-6, and a bigger dropoff after the top-7. MSU might very well insist on playing 8 or 9 guys in the rotation, but it will come with a cost of more minutes for substantially lower production.

As for “interior-focused,” this year’s team is the highest MSU has ever ranked under Izzo in 3PA% (in the tempo free era). And that’s still just 155th in the country. Most of the time, he’s in the bottom-100 in Division I in that category. We’re also seeing the opposite trend with offensive rebounding, and this might be the worst an Izzo-coached team has ever done in getting to the free throw line. To sum up, a lot more 3s, this year, and big dropoffs in offensive rebounding and free throws. I stand by “interior-focused” being the norm, and this season being an anomaly in that regard.

MSU shoots well, but why take such a roundabout path? Let’s talk points per possession. MSU ranks 29th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

whatevs on 12/30/2013 @ 3:51pm EST Said:

Josh Reed = trolling tool?
Remember, when flaming for clicks your boss will eventually evaluate your talents…you aren’t very good. I give you an C- for the grab bag style of grading and an F for the thoughts used to support them.

Josh Reed's brain on drugs on 12/30/2013 @ 3:52pm EST Said:

Josh Reed is clearly trolling. Shame on BTN for stooping to such measures to get clicks on an article.

Josh gives the following teams better grades than the #5 team in the country: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin.

Josh also left Adreian Payne off his “All B1G team” for out of conference games. Is it that hard for BTN to find a knowledgeable writer? Every single comment on here shows more basketball analysis than the clown who wrote this.

Hopefully this isn't the author's day job on 12/30/2013 @ 4:04pm EST Said:

Stopped reading after “MSU’s offense is well behind its defense.” The author clearly hasn’t watched a single MSU game.

norm on 12/30/2013 @ 4:12pm EST Said:

So MSU is the 3rd best team in the league and has the 10th best grade according to this hack. Makes sense to me … not.

Karen Houvener (@karenh616) on 12/30/2013 @ 4:13pm EST Said:

Josh Reed is irrelevant, and just a guy looking to get noticed, and definitely clueless, next analysis please…

RC Hansen on 12/30/2013 @ 4:53pm EST Said:

Right now there is something about Nebraska that makes me think they are going to surprise teams. They are a few mistakes away right now from a 11-1 or 10-2 record. I can see an upset or two by the Huskers in conference play. They will most likely finish in the middle of the conference but this team has a ton of potential. Tim Miles is bringing life back into Nebraska basketball. I am very interested by what they’ve done so far.

Haters gone hate on 12/30/2013 @ 5:16pm EST Said:

He is still mad because MSU are the Big Ten champs and will be playing in the Rose Bowl

Revival Begins on 12/30/2013 @ 5:40pm EST Said:

Kentucky is a fraud. 3 losses already and probably won’t win the SEC. it’s an okay win, but Wisconsin has already beaten a better team from that conference. these comments are classic homer posts and these cries for respect are a reason why MSU fans are considered among the biggest whiners in college athletics

CC on 12/30/2013 @ 6:19pm EST Said:

This site needs a rating tool so I can give this “analysis” a 1 star out of 5. I hope BTN isn’t paying this hack for his pathetic “analysis”. You think you might consider the injuries and illnesses of star players/key contributors in your grading. I’m not sure you can give some teams much more than and “incomplete” at this point.

Ben on 12/30/2013 @ 6:20pm EST Said:

So are you saying MSU is the 10th best team in the B1G? And that Izzo isn’t a good coach? And that Adrian Payne isn’t even in your All Big Ten Team? If i had to grade this article I’d give you an F for grades and a D- for your reasoning. I could give better grades for each team. Terrible article.

matt on 12/30/2013 @ 9:29pm EST Said:

its pretty obvious these grades are relative in relation to the expectations on the teams coming into the season. aka how did you do versus what was expected of you coming in?

sorry MSU fans, but losing to NC, THE WAY YOU LOST to them, is not very becoming of a top 5 team. of the three games ive seen, which admittedly is not much they have not looked very consistent, even against cupcakes. they won those games, but have a lot of work to do.

wisconsin’s grade is spot on, toughest schedule so far in the big ten and top 3 toughest schedules in the nation. by game 4, the D was back to a bo ryan type D. creamed the cream puffs and played well enough to beat everyone else they played with only one major threat for a loss.

ohio state, well I’d give em an A despite the weak schedule, but I DO see a weakness, a multifaceted offense will give them fits. its correctable though, just need a little work on the help D.

Michigan…… was overrated from the start. They are playing like I expected them to play. the mcgary injury puts a bigger dent in their season than any other single player on that team.

havent seen iowa play yet, from all ive heard they are doing well, but we’ll see how they do against better competition.

Minnesota, better record than i expected, but not really anything to hang their hat on yet. well, some awesome dunks, but that’s about it.

havent seen NU play or heard much about them.

ditto the other NU

somone tell illinois and penn state they havent beaten anyone above good yet.

Purdue? here’s a get well soon card……. oh and hammonds better learn how to do something other than block a shot.

Indiana, has potential, but man, that inconsistency is gonna kill em against the tough teams.

Illini Guy on 12/30/2013 @ 10:30pm EST Said:

Could someone please provide Josh Reed’s employers email, or more specifically his boss’?

I do not have time to read biased diatribe that is not only uneducated, but so far from reality that merely trolling for clicks is inexcusable as well.

I wish all to join me in emailing his employer. The quicker we respond, the better off we as Big Ten fans will be moving forward. This guy is a MAC level talent. We deserve better.

    BTN.com staff on 12/31/2013 @ 11:02am EST Said:

    Illini Guy, our inbox is open 24/7. It’s right here.

Trom33 on 12/30/2013 @ 10:49pm EST Said:

The guy had the confidence and the knowledge to put the piece together which is very close to right on for all the teams. All of you quit your whining and making excuses for MSU and better yet, you write the next blog if you know so much…. and give us a break already.

Mark on 12/30/2013 @ 11:15pm EST Said:

Wow. You suggest that MSU hasn’t played well RELATIVE TO EXPECTATIONS and MSUfans just lose it. Nobody on the planet thinks Minnesota is as good as Sparty, but the Gophers weren’t as bad as feared, while MSU is a very good team that looked bad ON OCCASIONS. Why is this so hard for Izzoheads to understand?

dierna37 on 12/31/2013 @ 12:00am EST Said:

All teams look bad on occasion. I’m so tired of seeing MSU knocked down all the time. Is everybody else jealous or what. Not all of us have maize and blue running thru our veins.

annihilatethisweek on 12/31/2013 @ 12:02am EST Said:

Josh, Josh, Josh…still way, way off the mark. Let’s count the ways:

“As for MSU being deep, I don’t think a couple of anecdotes about Green and Kearney (Kearney? Really? He wasn’t very good.) constitutes very good evidence that MSU will be deeper than 7 this season. The fact is that rotations generally tighten in the conference season. If there’s any contrary evidence specific to MSU, I’d be interested in seeing that. I know Izzo prefers to go deeper than 7, but I see a significant dropoff after the top-6, and a bigger dropoff after the top-7. MSU might very well insist on playing 8 or 9 guys in the rotation, but it will come with a cost of more minutes for substantially lower production.”

Anecdotes? They’re facts, my man…you can look it up. Both players, who are of recent vintage (thus it tells us MUCH more than something from 10 years ago, though I can find examples of freshmen seeing their minutes increase over the course of the season at MSU then as well if you want to really waste everyone’s time), saw their roles increase substantially during conference play, to the point that both were REGULAR rotation members. Neither was in the non conference during their freshman seasons. YOU’RE the guy talking about a limited rotation for MSU and I’m simply attempting to educate you as to what’s highly likely to happen. If you’re paying any attention to recent games, you can see it coming, both in terms of the minutes those guys are playing and the production.

Kearney averaged 10 mpg as a freshman in conference games. He shot 50% overall and 62% from three in the league that year and that wasn’t even the reason he saw the floor at all…he played because he defended, something which often takes a couple of months for freshmen to adjust to in terms of the demands, conceptual command, etc. required to play regularly for MSU. That’s a rotation guy, my man…and he played well when he saw the floor.

As for a “significant dropoff” after the top 6 (and again, you’re so wrong about Matt Costello as to make it not even a worthwhile discussion. LOVED the part about his being so bad offensively that teams don’t have to account for him. Really? You’ve divined that how, exactly? I see every game and I’m not seeing that…MSU’s offense functions better when he’s on the floor because he’s their best screener and a very good passer), explain to me how many teams anywhere in the country have players 7-9 producing at exactly the same or better levels than their starters? It doesn’t happen anywhere. What any good or better team asks its reserves to do is hold the fort primarily. Let’s look at Kearney’s freshman season for an illustration…he and Travis Trice were the 8th and 9th men in MSU’s rotation that year. They averaged 3.2 and 1.4 ppg in conference games. Do you really think MSU is likely to get substantially less out of Schilling and Ellis in those spots this season? They’d both essentially have to produce nothing in order to turn that trick, and I assure you they won’t.

“As for “interior-focused,” this year’s team is the highest MSU has ever ranked under Izzo in 3PA% (in the tempo free era). And that’s still just 155th in the country. Most of the time, he’s in the bottom-100 in Division I in that category. We’re also seeing the opposite trend with offensive rebounding, and this might be the worst an Izzo-coached team has ever done in getting to the free throw line. To sum up, a lot more 3s, this year, and big dropoffs in offensive rebounding and free throws. I stand by “interior-focused” being the norm, and this season being an anomaly in that regard.”

First, “interior focused” and “offensive rebounding” are two distinct things, or at least they are in common understanding. The first is usually understood as where shots are being taken from. Again, the numbers you’re citing don’t prove the point you think they do, primarily because they don’t account for jumpers (shots taken away from the rim) which are inside the arc. Anyone who has actually watched MSU over the Izzo era can tell you that they’ve NEVER had a post-oriented offense prior to the last two seasons. That’s an extremely recent phenomenon. As for offensive rebounding….how many fewer offensive boards per game is this team getting than last year’s? Look that number up and then try to make the case again. I don’t think the gap is nearly as big as you think it is.

Also, when you’re telling me that MSU is only 155th in the nation in 3 point shots attempted as a percentage of overall shots taken…how serious exactly is the shift? I think you undercut your own argument, champ.

“MSU shoots well, but why take such a roundabout path? Let’s talk points per possession. MSU ranks 29th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency.”

This is where you lose it. Using adjusted efficiency ratings as if they’re demonstrative proof of anything is laughable, for several reasons. First, you’re talking about elements going into those equations which, like it or not, are highly subjective to begin with (for example…we’re in late December…how “good” an opposing defense is as evaluated by Pomeroy or similar systems is problematic because you’re dealing with such limited data to being with.) Pomeroy and others like him produce some useful tools, but when swallowed as a whole, you often get a massively distorted picture…as one example which he’s even had to admit to, his system values limiting turnovers over offensive rebounding as a factor in his offensive efficiency ratings. It’s nonsensical, but that’s Ken for you. It’s why he’s consistently had Wisconsin overrated on a national level.

MSU doesn’t just shoot well (though they do that tremendously well as a team, both overall and from three). They score at a high clip (playing a fast pace), they limit turnovers and yeah, they accomplish the #1 objective in the sport…they put the ball in the basket at a better clip than anyone else in the conference, by more than a full percentage point.

Rob on 12/31/2013 @ 8:30am EST Said:

Losing 1 game and dropping from 2 to 5 means gets you a C-, Losing 4 games and dropping from 7 to unranked gets you a C. Can you please explain that instead of just responding to the MSU fan? There is no credibility to your grades with that being on there.

Tom De Vries on 1/1/2014 @ 10:49am EST Said:

Wow Josh- Not much more to say about your analysis of MSU being off the mark. As a fan who has watched each oh their games, if ANYTHING is behind it would be the defense and rebounding. As has already been well chronicled, MSUs offense is one of IZZO’s most efficient and prolific. It leads one to believe that you don’t much care for MSU and I will not look to BTN analysis of its own teams in the future. Poorly researched analysis on your part. Go Green!!