The last Big Ten preview of the year checks in with The Only Colors to discuss the best Big Ten team of the decade, the Michigan State Spartan.
FTB: Derrick Nix recently improved his free throw shooting to 10.7%. Did the MSU coaches have any idea this was coming, and is his shot really that bad?
TOC: Did the MSU coaches see Nix having a FT% below the Mendoza line? I can safely answer no to that question, as even Eric Snow in his bricklaying prime wasn’t missing about nine of every ten free throws. However, nothing is lacking in Nix’s form, he just seems to have a case of the yips during games. He’s working on his free throw shooting prodigiously, and he made 26 of 30 in a practice not long ago; once he can get out of his head, he’ll be fine.
FTB: Raymar Morgan hasn’t improved, at least statistically over the last few seasons, what is going in?
TOC:I think that issue comes down to injuries and other players stepping up. Raymar has had bad luck with injuries in the past couple years, be it with ankle sprains or mono. The other factor is that he hasn’t had to do as much as he did his freshman year when he and Neitzel had to be MSU’s main producers. I think he’s much less of a headcase as he was last year, it’s just that with Lucas, Green, Summers, and Roe being able to pick up the scoring load, Raymar doesn’t have to do as much as he had to his freshman year.
FTB: Should the Gophers expect to be literally run off the court against this season? Is there any chance Kalin Lucas decides to walk the ball up the court? What can the Gophers do to slow down the Spartans.
TOC:I think you’re selling Minnesota short a bit, I don’t think there’s going to be a MSU-Minny game like the bulldozing that happened at Breslin last year. I must say though, this is the best I’ve seen the fast break at MSU since the National title year. The main thing the Gophers can do to prevent transition points? Make their field goals. Most times I’ve seen an opponent make a field goal this year the ball is either tapped to the referee or away from a Spartan, and this isn’t an accident. The extra second or two wasted by that touch means the other team has time to set up their half or full court defense, preventing an outlet pass and an easy lay-up.
FTB: Who has replaced Goran Suton, and how are they doing?
TOC:In the size department, 6’10″ freshmen Garrick Sherman and Derrick Nix are each playing 10 minutes a game, and though they’ve both flashed some smooth low post moves at times, they have a ways to go defensively before they can fully step into Suton’s shoes.
As for Suton’s basketball IQ/intangibles, Draymond Green has filled that position and then some. He’s got extremely soft hands, and despite being 6’6″, always seems to be in the right place for a rebound. He’s probably my favorite player on the team at this point, and he’s a joy to watch.
FTB: The Spartans still seem plagued by turnovers even though they have a veteran team with one of the top true point guards in the country, why? And what is Tom Izzo doing about it?
TOC: This problem’s nothing new, the Spartans have always had problems with turnovers, whether Cleaves, Neitzel, or Lucas was running the point. However, these problems usually sort themselves out (during last year’s title run, the turnover problems during State’s wins became nonexistent. I don’t think Izzo can do much at this point, it’s just a matter of the players (particularly Korie Lucious and Chris Allen) to gain experience so turnovers caused by bad decisions decrease.
FTB: Last season Michigan State got picked off by both Penn State and Northwestern. Are there any lower tier teams in the conference that are of particular concern?
TOC:Let’s define the lower tier at this point as Penn State, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa, and of those teams, Michigan causes me the most concern. I think MSU can shut down Talor Battle enough to secure victories against Penn State, Indiana lost their best player in Maurice Creek due to a knee explosion, and Iowa is Iowa. I have an ominous feeling that with one of the Michigan games, their cold shooting will turn hot and the Spartans will be buried under a deluge of three-pointers. So the Michigan games worry me the most, because the main problem affecting Michigan right now can be corrected the easiest.
FTB: Your predictions for MSU’s conference record and NCAA tournament seed, and Big Ten regular season and tournament champions.
TOC:Right now, I’m guessing 13-5 and a three seed. I think your Big Ten regular season champ will be Purdue, but since the regular season champion never seems to win the tournament, I’m guessing Evan Turner gets hot and leads Ohio State to the tournament title.