A Couple Links
The Comcast-Big Ten Network deal is official. Programming will begin on expanded basic cable on August 15. Comcast will have the option to move the channel to its digital basic package (not a digital sports tier) next year. I’ve already got a digital box (doesn’t everyone have to get one next year anyway?), so that would appear to take care of that as far as the Spartans Weblog household is concerned.
College Fast Break concurs with my judgment that Neitzel may be better off if he doesn’t get drafted. On a related note, I’ve seen reports that Neitzel has worked out for the Raptors, Kings, Suns, and Timberwolves to date.
Historical Tempo-Free Statistical Goodness
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We were going to start our series on MSU’s statistical trends during the Izzo Era by looking at pace (possessions/game), but I’m still wrestling with the best way to look at that stat given that (1) it’s subject to being substantially influenced by the tendencies of one’s opponents and (2) the historical data available on a conference-only basis are somewhat problematic.
So let’s start where any analysis of Izzo-style basketball really should start: Rebounding.
The good folks at statsheet.com make analysis of the last 12 years of college basketball data pretty darn simple with their chart builder feature. Let’s start with offensive rebounding percentage. (For those who may be relatively new here, offensive rebounding percentage is the percentage of available rebounds a team pulls down on the offensive end. It’s the inverse of the opponent’s defensive rebounding percentage. Read this for a more comprehensive explanation.)
MSU ranked in the top 6 nationally during the four Big Ten championship seasons from 1997-98 to 2000-01, putting up an offensive rebounding percentage of 42% or higher in each season. While Antonio Smith was certainly a key factor in the Spartans’ offensive rebounding prowess, rebounding is ultimately a team effort (and Smith was only on the first two of those four teams). Here’s the number of players pulling down at least one offensive rebound per game in those four seasons:
- 1997-98: 7 (Smith, Bell, Hutson, Thomas, Peterson, Klein, Wiley)
- 1998-99: 6 (Smith, Peterson, Hutson, Granger, Bell, Klein)
- 1999-2000: 6 (Hutson, Peterson, Richardson, Anagonye, Bell, Granger)
- 2000-01: 6 (Randolph, Hutson, Thomas, Richardson, Anagonye, Bell)
There’s plenty of perimeter players on those lists: Bell, Peterson, Thomas, Klein, Richardson. The philosophy was simple: send four guys to the offensive glass on just about everything offensive shot, and MSU had the depth to crash the boards hard on every possession.
In the seven seasons since 2000-01, MSU’s offensive rebounding has been generally good, but not great; the team’s offensive rebounding percentage hasn’t been above 40% during that timespan. If four of the seven seasons, MSU ranked in the top 50 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. The exceptions were 2002-03, 2003-04, and 2005-06–when the defensive rebounding percentage fell below 36%.
In 2003-04 and 2005-06, Paul Davis was manning the front line more or less by himself (PDF of historical rosters). (In 2004-05, Anderson didn’t have to play point guard, so he could play power forward most of the time.) In 2002-03, Davis was just a freshman (along with Erazem Lorbek) and no big man played more than 22 minutes per game. More on this season below.
The 2003-04 season was the low point. The team ranked in the bottom half of the country in offensive rebounding percentage (222) and just two players (Davis and Torbert) averaged at least one offensive rebound per game.
This past season, MSU ranked 11th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage–the highest rank since the 2000-01 season. Yet only four players averaged at least one offensive rebound per game: Suton, Morgan, Naymick, and Gray.
Achieving the rebounding dominance of the early Izzo teams may never quite happen, but to get close MSU will need its perimeter players to begin rebounding more aggressively. The good news is that Durrell Summers managed to average 0.9 rebound/game despite limited playing time. And moving away from the multiple point guard lineups the team frequently featured this season should put wing players who can crash the boards on the floor for more minutes each game.
Now to defensive rebounding percentage:
MSU’s peak as an utterly dominant defensive rebounding team was shorter. They ranked second in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 (after Antonio Smith departed), with percentages of 73%+ in both years. Again, this was a function of perimeter players who could rebound. Morris Peterson actually led the team in defensive rebounds per game in 1999-2000 with 4.0, and Bell and Richardson each averaged at least 2.5 per game. In 2000-01, Richardson, Bell, and Thomas all averaged at least 2.5 defensive rebounds per game.
The Spartans were good on the defensive glass in every season from 1996-97 to 2002-03, finishing in the top 50 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage each year. MSU actually ranked 5th in the nation in this stat in 2002-03, the same season their offensive rebounding percentage fell to 144th in the country. Paul Davis averaged 3.6 defensive rebounds per game–vs. just 1.1 offensive rebounds per game. And Chris Hill managed to pull down 2.9 rebound per game, vs. just 0.5 per game on offense.
After falling below 70% in 2003-04, MSU’s defensive rebounding percentage jumped back over 70% the following season but has been in decline since. This past season, MSU posted its lowest national ranking (127) during the time frame we’re examining. (Note that MSU had almost identical rebounding percentages in 1996-97 and 2007-08, but their rank in 2007-08 was 127th vs. 32nd in 1996-97. Is defensive rebounding improving at the expense of offensive rebounding across college basketball?)
I have a hard time explaining the gap between MSU’s offensive rebounding during the past season. The only obvious quantitative explanation is that MSU’s top two rebounders–Suton and Morgan–are both a little better on the offensive end than the defensive end. The smaller lineups with Morgan at power forward probably hurt defensive rebounding (where position/size matter more) than they did offensive rebounding (where quickness can be an advantage).
Again, getting more rebounding from the perimeter spots is a key going forward. Drew Neitzel was the top rebounding guard this last season, with 2.1 defensive rebounds per game. Summers averaged 1.5 per game in limited minutes.
You’ll note that the peaks and valleys in the graph below of MSU’s depth ratio since 1996-97 correlate pretty well with those in the offensive rebounding percentage graph above (with 2002-03 being the big outlier).
Having more depth allows Izzo to get maximum effort out of players, particularly on the offensive glass. MSU’s big men are always going to rebound fairly well. The question is whether the other three players on the floor are contributing on the glass.
Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson, David Thomas, and Jason Richardson were all unique players in terms of their talent and intensity. But it’s fair to expect that current and future Spartan guards can re-establish the rebounding tradition of those early teams. (Note: I think Torbert probably would have been a great rebounding guard, too, if he hadn’t been forced to play at the forward position so much.) Durrell Summers seems like a good bet to do this. And if Morgan can play more at the small forward position, that should help rebounding on both ends of the court next season.
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