Michigan State opened the preseason ranked number two in the country. They ended the season as the second most common champion in ESPN brackets. That isn’t exactly out of the ordinary, but consider MSU’s road to March. After a January 21st win vs. Indiana, the Spartans didn’t win two games in a row until the conference tournament (going 5-7 in that time).
Analysts have been quick to point out the injuries Tom Izzo has been forced to deal with. Still, Michigan State hasn’t exactly performed like the second best team in the country even when healthy. On KenPom (which weights recent games heavier – where MSU was at full strength) the Spartans are ranked eighth in the country.
At full strength (and probably even at half strength), Michigan State is very good on offense. However, MSU is currently just 40th in adjusted defensive efficiency. That is Izzo’s worst defensive ranking since 2006.
Michigan State has played 17 games this season with at least one player out of Harris, Payne, Appling, and Dawson out. In those games, Michigan State has been 12.3 points per 100 possession better than the NCAA average on offense and 12.0 points per 100 possessions better than the NCAA average on defense (adjusted for opponent).
In the 19 games with all four players active, MSU’s offense has improved to 14.1 points per 100 possession above average. However, the defense has largely stayed the same (10.0).
Despite the tempo-free stats, it should be noted Michigan State is currently a 2-point favorite tonight in Vegas against Virginia. Michigan State players were often eased back into action, which helps support the idea that the team is currently playing their best basketball. Still, even during the current five game winning streak Michigan State’s defense has only been very good in one game (Michigan). In the NCAA tournament, Harvard and Delaware were both able to score more than a point per possession against the healthy Spartans.
Below is a look at Michigan State’s efficiency by injury. It shows their efficiency depending on the availability of Harris, Payne, Appling, and Dawson for each game. (Note: This is different than on/off court splits.) Sample size is very small, but take a look at the chart below:
- MSU has been a different defensive team with Branden Dawson on the floor. The team struggled on defense in every instance where Dawson was out. Dawson is extremely good at not picking up fouls while still being one of the team’s best shot blockers.
- MSU has been a different offensive team with both Harris and Payne on the floor. That’s no surprise, but it’s still nice to see the numbers back it up. Regardless of Appling or Dawson’s health, MSU never struggled on the offensive end with both Harris and Payne available.