- Never has 30 wins felt so disappointing
The goal for this team was to hang banners. I said at least B1G, and Final Four was the benchmark for this team, and they didn’t get there. Most years, 30 wins and a B1G title would be more than enough, not this year. That is disappointing for players, fans, coaches, everyone. I’m most disappointed for Bridges, who is a fantastic kid and showed so many people life is about more than money, it’s about experiences, memories, and relationships. I’m disappointed for this team, who had all of the off the court distractions thru no fault of their own. I think disappointing is a fair word.
- Team defense
MSU held a team to 55 points and 35% shooting. There were very few defensive mistakes. This team played championship-caliber defense against Syracuse, and that was the only reason they had a chance in this game. I thought guys like Winston, Tillman, and McQuaid were excellent on that end.
- Rebounding and effort
51-30 rebounding difference. 29 offensive rebounds. Attention to detail and rebounding are effort stats. There should not be any “Syracuse wanted it more” or “MSU could’ve played harder” talk. No player tries to miss shots. A big part of coaching is having your team control what they can control, and the MSU staff did a great job of getting maximum effort out of their team on Sunday. Kudos to MSU staff and players for showing up 100% ready to play on Sunday.
- 29% and shot 37 3-pointers
This is listed first for a reason as if this one is different, none of the rest matter. I’ll repeat that because once some other points are made later, people will forget it, “MISSING SHOTS WAS THE MAIN REASON THIS TEAM LOST THE GAME.” One of the best shooting teams of the Izzo era shot the ball historically bad. They also attempted 37 3-pointers which in my opinion is way too many based on other offensive options. It can be “we just missed shots” and “we took too many 3’s” or “we needed to get better shots.” All of those statements can be true. Once I am finished with the film study, I will bring the data to look more closely at those shots and grade them out on how open they truly were. I can’t just take “they got great shots” on face value without film study. The film doesn’t/won’t lie. I’m not going to speak in ultimate certainty without a data set in front of me. Either way, MSU missed uncontested and contested shots all day long. They took a lot of 3’s. They shot the ball horribly in the biggest game of the year and it cost them.
- Minutes for Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr.
23 minutes for Carter, 22 for Tillman, 16 for Ward, 15 for Jackson. I did not see a major difference in those 4 players and how they defended. If someone can show me a handful of plays on film that show otherwise, I’d welcome that. Slight, maybe. Major? Definitely not. I’m advocating for more minutes for both Ward and Jackson. Who can play the high post spot in the zone shouldn’t be the sole determining factor on how many minutes one plays. The ability to impact the game in other ways should be considered as well. I’m playing Jackson because he is going to make 4-5 plays that can impact the game. Those can be blocks, jumpers, rebounds, etc. The ability to do those things is on another planet than Carter. I don’t see the difference between Jackson and Carter playing the high spot in the zone is that significant. Carter made some better kick-outs for 3’s than Jackson. If you just want a guy there as a passing option, Carter is better. If you want someone who can attack, shoot, and rebound, I’m taking Jackson. I don’t think Jackson got enough touches there to truly evaluate his effectiveness. In Carter’s 22 minutes, what plays did he make? Either way, Jackson impacts the game in too many ways for him to sit in favor of Carter. I think that was 100% the wrong move in the 2nd half and I think it hurt MSU. I’m playing Ward because in a game where you need offense, he was 4/5 from the floor when the other bigs were 3/11. His defense was adequate, IMO. We needed his offense. I loved how Tillman played but I think their minutes should’ve been flipped. Finally, I’m riding the horses that got me there. I’m not playing someone 23 minutes who didn’t play 23 minutes in entire months of this season. It’s not fair to him or his teammates, IMO. I think it was an overreaction to how one player was slightly better in one spot of zone offense and didn’t take into account enough all the other facets of the game.
- Zone Offense
My intent in this section is to take a look at what else MSU could have done against the zone. I am not saying that a different zone offense wins the game or guarantees better shots, but I think that is open for discussion. Shutting down that discussion based solely on “we got great shots” is a mistake, IMO.
- a) Structure – MSU went with a base 1-3-1 structure for 75%+ vs. the zone. MSU put one big at the high post who followed the ball side to side (occasionally stepped out) and the other at the short corner who sometimes stayed on one side. There was no guard exchange, post X, or post replace. They ran a couple quick hitters and screened the zone on occasion. A few quick hitters they ran different entry looks but ended up in the 1-3-1 look. Less than 5 times during the game did they enter the short corner from the wing, making that player almost irrelevant until the ball went to the high post or a shot went up. They did not go 4 out with one in look. They didn’t run any motion looks vs. the zone. They did not attempt a baseline runner. There wasn’t an overload look that I saw. It was a slight variation from what MSU normally runs as a zone offense where the post players take turns flashing high.
- b) Personnel – Jackson, Goins, and mostly Carter played the high post. Ward, Tillman, and a couple times Jackson played the low spot.
- c) Plans “B” and “C” – MSU did not make any major adjustments to the structure nor did they try a 2nd base zone offense. The primary zone offensive plan is a solid one. I’m a little surprised there weren’t another couple looks that stressed different options. Maybe there just wasn’t enough time to put those in, that’s a fair take, IMO. I think a majority of college coaches would agree that on one day prep, MSU put in a structurally basic offense (with a lot of nuances and wrinkles in that structure) and stuck with that the entire day. If MSU makes 15/37 from “3,” we are not talking about a different look. Because they made 8, it is a fair point to dissect and discuss, in my opinion.
When you score 53 in an elimination game, it’s fair to take a look at all offensive angles. During my next article on zone offense, I’ll talk shot selection, zone offense structure, as well as personnel. MSU missed shots. That is a MAIN reason they lost the game. But let’s try to be a little more of an #EducatedFan and look a layer deeper than that.
Coaching Corner– Zone Offense – I’m going to release this as a separate “coaching corner” so I can go into further detail for X’s and O’s junkies. Stay tuned.
* It seems like Izzo has always had key veterans (juniors/seniors) to make all of those great Final Four runs. When your juniors/seniors are McQuaid, Goins, Tum, Schilling, and Carter…I think that matters. It mattered last year. It matters this year. Roster balance matters for almost every team not named Kentucky. Even Duke has and needs Grayson Allen.
* It was a great few days down in Detroit. Love the new arena and Spartan fans represented well. Great customer service at MGM Grand Casino.
* I thought some of the fouls called on MSU early in the 2nd half of Syracuse dribble drives were questionable, but overall, didn’t have a major issue with officiating.
* I was humored by the fans decked out in Maize and Blue at LCA this weekend rooting hard for the Bison and Orange. I’m guessing they paid hundreds of dollars for their tickets like I did. There are all different kinds of fans, but you will never see me pay hundreds of dollars to watch Michigan play, I can assure you of that. If you can pay those hundreds of dollars, you should’ve been in Wichita, or maybe show up to Crisler so you’re not 9th in attendance, I’ll leave it at that.