Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Five Good Questions with Joe Rexrode about Michigan State Basketball

Today's Five Good Questions is with Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal.....Joe took the time to respond to some questions about Michigan State basketball.....

Q1. How good is this Michigan State team compared to some of coach Tom Izzo's other great teams?
A. This team is a cut below Izzo's best teams. It certainly doesn't compare with the 1999-2001 squads that went to three straight Final Fours and won the 2000 national title. That team was led by Mateen Cleaves, of course, and the 2001 team was Izzo's most talented, with Jason Richardson as a sophomore, Charlie Bell as a senior and Zach Randolph as a one-and-done freshman. This team could match up with the 2004-05 Final Four team (Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager, Paul Davis), but as of yet it does not deserve that comparison. The talent and depth are there, the chemistry is not.

Q2. What areas must they improve upon?
A. Turnovers have been a problem. It's never an Izzo strength because he prefers an up-tempo style of play, but this team has been especially sloppy at times. Other than that, the Spartans defend, rebound and shoot well, and they get assists on nearly 70 percent of their baskets, a very impressive number that suggest unselfishness. But this team has been inconsistent. Drew Neitzel's (photo) shot is there one game, gone the next. He's playing well overall -- near the lead nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio -- but MSU needs him to hit shots. Raymar Morgan was dominant in the nonleague season, but he has been erratic and foul-prone in Big Ten play. The big men are up and down. And the three freshman perimeter players are big helps on offense, liabilities too often on defense. The pieces are there, but a lot of things need to come together soon if this team is going to reach its potential.

Q3. How do you see the Spartans match-up against the likes of a Memphis or Duke?
A. Those two teams, in particular, would be tough matchups because they're filled with big perimeter players who can drive to the basket. MSU would match up much better with top teams such as UCLA (which edged MSU in November after trailing by 13) and North Carolina. The Spartans are better off against teams with "two big" lineups because MSU has frontcourt depth. And although Raymar Morgan is an effective power forward in a small lineup, that lineup doesn't work unless the freshmen are playing well. Freshmen Chris Allen and Durrell Summers bring a lot of firepower off the bench. Their defensive progress in the next month will have a lot to say about how MSU does in March. In general, when this team is playing its best it can hang with anybody. The UCLA game and a convincing win over Texas in December are indications of that.

Q4. Do the Spartans still have a shot at a number 1 seed? If not, how high do you see them being seeded?
A. It's not likely at this point. The Spartans would have to win out, or close to it, and get some help. I think they're in the 3-4 range right now, although their schedule finishes with several tough road games, which is a chance to move up.

Q5. Real quick, at this moment, who are your Final Four teams? And why?
A. Kansas. The most talented team. You've got to get it done this year, Bill Self. Memphis. Against my better judgment, but the Tigers have the chops to get to San Antonio. UCLA. When it comes down to it, the Bruins will get there because they defend. Tennessee. Should have been there a year ago. This team has tons of weapons, and Tyler Smith makes the difference.

I want to thank Joe once again for his is much appreciated.....

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