It’s been a week now since NC State was thoroughly embarassed by Michigan State on a night where the Wolfpack looked lethargic, played little defense and continued to exhibit NO desire to rebound. (I would typically link to the entries related to the loss but they are so ugly that I just can’t).
As I previoulsy mentioned in another entry, at the beginning of the season I projected State to be 4-2 at this point in the season. Despite State’s 4-2 start coupled with a solid #51 RPI while playing the 33rd most difficult schedule in the country, there are A LOT of reasons why Wolfpack fans are a little on edge at the moment.
The ‘macro’ issues of team chemistry, rebounding, defense, effort/energy and free throw shooting have been highlighted in previous entries and comments. This entry from the always good Section Six breaks down some individual statistics worth noting and touches on some of the team chemistry issues:
In many cases, when there’s a player with a usage around 30%, it’s indicative of a good player playing on a team without much of a supporting cast–Bo McCalebb, for instance. But JJ Hickson has plenty of help. Maybe it’s a little bit of “look, shiny new power forward!” syndrome, but more likely, if the chemistry issues are as significant as they appear to be, it’s an indication that the rest of the team can’t figure out how to play with him. Or that when they get him the ball in the post, they give up on the possession. Could they really resent him that much?
I don’t think JJ is being selfish, and his turnovers have inflated his usage to a certain extent, but if Lowe doesn’t think the offense is broken simply because Costner and McCauley have been terrible, the alternative conclusion is that it’s broken because it’s become a single-minded exercise in getting JJ Hickson the basketball. Regardless, there is no fluidity in what we are doing right now. Everyone looks like a square peg attempting to fit into a round hole.
Lowe’s tried to smooth things over by putting McCauley back into the starting lineup, giving him more time with Costner, and bringing Hickson off the bench. But while Ben’s minutes have increased, his productivity hasn’t. And we can’t afford to play Hickson any less–not only is he productive offensively, he’s a shot blocking threat at the defensive end and the team’s best rebounder. So everybody’s gonna have to figure their shit out while JJ is on the floor. There is no other option. We don’t have the luxury of attempting to work the situation out in practice while integrating him into games gradually. He’s far too talented for that, and as a team we are too weak where he is strong.
Despite all of these larger issues that have been discussed through the first month of the 2007-08 season, I have one tee-tiny-little reason why the severity of the beat down in East Lansing is so bothersome – I’m not convinced that the Spartans are really THAT good.
Last night, Michigan State barely survived an upset by Bradley. Ok, that’s just one game. And, don’t forget that this team had UCLA on the ropes before losing to the Bruins by five.
But, take a look at MSU’s schedule for a moment. Need I remind you that the Spartans lost an exhibition game AT HOME to a Div III opponent? This team barely beat Oakland by 4 points and squeaked by a 5-3 Missouri team (currently #79 in the RPI) by only two. I give Michigan State all the credit in the world for PERFORMING like a Top 10 / Top 15 team thusfar this season. But, when I see that the Spartans struggled against some of these lesser teams and defeated NC State by a margin in the same ballpark as Chicago State and Jacksonville State I can’t help but worry about where our boys’ development currently stands.