Remember when all we talked about was turnovers?
The problem obviously raised its ugly head last night, as MSU posted a horrific turnover percentage of 31.4% against Purdue’s hounding man-to-man defense. I thought we should take a long-term view of the team’s turnover problems. The graph below shows MSU’s game-by-game turnover percentages over the last two seasons. The breaks in the line represent transitions from nonconference play to conference play to postseason play to the new season (and then to conference play again).
Good news: Last year, we had 11 games with a TO% over 25% (which I consider to be crisis level). This year, with over 2/3 of the season gone, we’ve done so only 4 times. This team doesn’t seem to have the same penchant for making boneheaded decisions with the ball that the last two teams had.
Bad news: We still struggle against good, aggressive man-to-man defense. The four games we’ve had 25%+ TO%s include the three games against North Carolina, Illinois, and Purdue. The fourth was one of the Northwestern games, going against the 1-3-1.
Fixing the issues against Purdue/Illinois-level defense isn’t an easy issue. On the one hand, I think the players have to be willing to take their defenders off the dribble to make them pay for playing defense so aggressively. At the same time, they have to make a good decision with the ball when they get into the lane. Last night, they were intent on getting all the way to the basket; the result was 6 offensive fouls.
Ultimately, Tom Izzo teams are coached to run precise set plays to create good looks near the basket or open jumpshots. Against most opponents, it works like a charm. But when a team is athletic and tenacious enough to force us out of our comfort zones offensively, it spells trouble. At that point, you just have to make good basketball plays. Last night, we didn’t make nearly enough of them.
This team gets two more chances in the regular season to show they make those plays. I, for one, still think they’ve got the moxie and the balance to do it. For whatever reason, I just can’t get down on this team (for more than 24 hours at least).
P.S. Here’s the TAFKATBTW on MSU’s limitations. His concern is that we’re not making a terribly high percentage of the shots we do get off.