Getting Draymond Back to the â€œDancing Bearâ€
Draymond Green was expected to be the most important Spartan Basketballer coming into the 2011 season.Â Thatâ€™s not to say heâ€™s the most valuable, as an argument can be won that without an effective Kalin Lucas, Green would be neutralized.Â But it is to point out that Green is the player that sparks the Spartansâ€™ best play.Â While Lucas is the â€œstraw that stirs the drink,â€ Green is the engine that makes the Spartans go.Â To a great extent: as Green goes, so go the Spartans.
Last Thursday, Green played at his highest level.Â He did the little things, and the big things.Â He excelled in the dirty work, but threw in some shine on the way to his first career â€œtriple-double.â€Â It was, the â€œoldâ€ Draymond, the â€œDancing Bear,â€ as CBSâ€™ Clark Kellogg first tabbed him.Â Spartan Nation hopes that Day Day the Dancing Bear back again to stay, for the rest of his career at Michigan St.
â€œFacilitates is a great word you just used,â€ Tom Izzo told Spartan Nation after being asked about Greenâ€™s virtuoso performance against Penn St.Â â€œI think whatâ€™s starting to happen (is) Draymond and Kalin are starting to play off each other a little bit moreâ€¦some of those assists (from Green) are going to Kalin.â€
As we discussed weeks ago now, if this team is going to get right this year, Lucas and Green have to be on the same page, more than anything else.Â When those two play together and within themselves, this can be a top 15 team.Â When they donâ€™t, the Spartans look like a 1st round Tournament exit, at best.
â€œI think he (Green) did stay inside a little bit more (versus Penn St.),â€ Izzo agreed.Â â€œI think we can go through him when heâ€™s in the low post, we can go through him when heâ€™s in the high post.â€Â Though in defeat, the Spartans did a lot more of that Tuesday night against Ohio St.Â And the most effective Spartan half-court attack tends to go through Green, just as it did in the past when the likes of Goran Suton, and even Paul Davis, trolled the middle for the Green and White.
â€œOne thing heâ€™s done a better job of that we really talked about last week with him was getting some of those tip-ins or offensive rebound scores, getting to the line, and all the things that we think heâ€™s capable of,â€ Izzo explained.Â Those are exactly the attributes that make Green a difference maker, and the Spartansâ€™ most important player.Â Without that savvy mix of â€œlittle thingsâ€ and â€œbig things,â€ Michigan St. canâ€™t reach its potential.
The Spartans wouldnâ€™t have reached the last two Final Fours without the Dancing Bear, and they wonâ€™t reach one in his last two tries if he goes back to hibernate again.Â â€œThe last step now will be can he defend a bunch of different positionsâ€¦.thatâ€™s what really makes a guy versatile,â€ Izzo said.Â â€œThatâ€™s whatâ€™s going to be our challenge to him this weekâ€¦Heâ€™s met 90% of our challenges, so weâ€™re just going to hope he keeps it up.â€
With the health of Delvon Roe always in question (but never his heart or passion), Green will have to attack that task if the Spartans are going to extend their consecutive streak of NCAA Tournament bids to 14.Â These Spartans are simply not good enough to go dancing again, without their Dancing Bear.
Red Shirt, or Red Flag?
â€œRed Shirtâ€ has become somewhat of a shunned term in modern day College Basketball.Â In the era of college skippers like â€œthe decisionâ€ and Kevin Garnett, and now with the â€œone and doneâ€ player too, who wants to Red Shirt?Â Fans often wonder â€œwhatâ€™s wrong with ____ ____, he had to Red Shirt?â€Â Yet, most of the time, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with hanging a Red Shirt.Â In fact, thereâ€™s usually more good that comes out of it than bad.
â€œItâ€™s (Red Shirt) not a bad word, but I think itâ€™s perceived as one,â€ Tom Izzo explained.Â â€œAsk Wisconsin, theyâ€™ve done it year in and year out, and ask us when we were really, really goodâ€¦consistently.â€Â Red Shirts of the past for MSU have included Morris Peterson, Goran Suton, David Thomas, and more who contributed to Championship runs in their day.Â Moreover, there have been a handful of others who couldâ€™ve benefited significantly from a Red Shirt year, but didnâ€™t get to take one.
This year, MSU has Red Shirted Russell Byrd (due to injury) and Alex Gauna (I know the pronunciation, but can we call him Iggy?).Â While neither player might have liked the idea of Red Shirting initially, all parties involved stand look benefit in the end.Â â€œAlex Gauna, I think, has utilized (the Red Shirt year) it a lot,â€ Tom Izzo feels.Â â€œIâ€™m very pleasedâ€¦Heâ€™ll be a big guy that can really shoot it, and thatâ€™s going to help us.â€Â Until proven otherwise, Spartan Nation will expect Gauna to be in the mold of Goran Suton.
While Gauna might not have the natural Euro flavor that Suton once carried, his size and shooting skills away from the basket should be assets right away.Â Hopefully, Gauna will fast become the type of ferocious rebounder with a high basketball IQ that Suton evolved into over his five-year career.Â Though itâ€™s hard to expect that much out of Gauna too soon, itâ€™s not unreasonable to expect that coming of a Red Shirt, heâ€™ll be ready to contribute come the latter part of next season.
â€œUnfortunately (Byrd) has only had three weeks that heâ€™s been back practicing,â€ Izzo admitted about his Red Shirt Forward from Indiana.Â Byrdâ€™s foot was arguably the key injury of 2011, if you count Lucasâ€™ Achilles as a carryover from last year.Â Make no mistake, Byrd was needed to help replace Chris Allen.Â His absence on top of Allenâ€™s dismissal has left a very large shooting gap.Â â€œThereâ€™s no question that just as a shooter alone, he could have helped us a lot.â€
With the additional dismissal of Korie Lucious, the Spartans are now down two (or three if you count Allen) contributing players from where they expected to be coming into 2011.Â Byrd obviously wonâ€™t be replaced this season, yet Spartan Nation waits with anticipation to see what kind of player will hit the floor early next season.
â€œItâ€™s still frustrating for him (Byrd) because he thinks heâ€™ll just be able to do the things he used to do (in practices since coming back),â€ Izzo revealed.Â â€œBut heâ€™s now improving his defense, his passing, and the other parts of his gameâ€¦and hopefully thatâ€™s what the next three or four weeks will be for him.â€
Red Shirting should not be a bad word for College Basketball programs.Â In fact, this round of Red Shirts is going to help Spartan Basketball build depth over the next four years.Â One would think that since two Red Shirted this year, itâ€™s now more likely that at least one player will Red Shirt next year.Â To have the luxury of Red Shirting a player or two each year is to have the luxury of building a deeper program with a better continuity.Â Thatâ€™s hardly a Red Flag.
No Defense for the 3?
The Spartans havenâ€™t been burned by their opponentsâ€™ 3-point shooting percentage this year, theyâ€™ve been scorched.Â As â€œThe Weeklyâ€ has pointed out in the last two editions, MSU is near the bottom of the nation in 3-point Field Goal percentage allowed (currently 331st in the nation, 38.5% allowed).Â Like any stark irregularity, the Spartansâ€™ shortfall hasnâ€™t had only one root cause.
â€œA combination of things,â€ Izzo explained to Spartan Nation, â€œâ€¦none of them any good, by the way.â€Â Never has Spartan Nation watched so many teams make it rain so hard from behind the arc.Â â€œGuys make shots that are shooting 12%, 17%, and all the sudden theyâ€™re hitting two and three-3s (in a spurt),â€ Izzo recalled.Â Itâ€™s left many scratching their heads and trying to account for luck, effort, or some kind of simple explanation.Â â€œSometimes itâ€™s the way we defended (teams) because of the scouting report, because of how theyâ€™d done (up to that point).â€
But some of the opposing 3-point shooting performances have just been crazy!Â â€œI really do believe you hit on one, I meanâ€¦some of these teams...you know I watch Wisconsin shoot so good against us and then go 12% in the 1st Half against Iowa,â€ Izzo said, somewhat perplexed.Â Yet, itâ€™s kinda hard to imagine that so many different teams would have their best 3-point shooting night in ages against these 2010 Spartans.Â There must be more to it, be it a systemic or individual weaknesses.
â€œI think some of it is, teams really have either gotten up or shot well against usâ€¦but we have to take probably 70% of the blame,â€ Izzo explained.Â Yet, the absence of two solid perimeter defenders and the defection of another during the middle of this season, with no real replacements, have left some gaping holes.Â â€œWe lost two of our best defensive perimeter guys last year in Morgan and Allen, and then we lost Lucious, who is a pretty good defender on the perimeter, just because of his speed and quickness.â€
As if losing three experienced defenders wasnâ€™t enough, the loss of Byrd again has caused some pain, and the ongoing recovery of Lucas has only made defending the 3 that much harder.Â â€œIn all honesty, half this year we havenâ€™t had Lucas.Â If thereâ€™s a place heâ€™s cheated off, itâ€™s been defenseâ€¦itâ€™s not his fault, with the injury and everything.â€
As we have tracked the last couple of weeks, and now the rest of the MSU media is also taking notice of, the Spartansâ€™ 3-point defense must improve if theyâ€™re to make any kind of run to finish the season.Â During most college basketball games, a team will shoot well in one half, and poor in the next.Â Things usually seem to have a way of regressing to the mean.Â The Spartansâ€™ 3-point defense is searching feverishly for that to start happening now, and fast.Â Thereâ€™s a lot evening out to do when youâ€™re ranked 331st in any national statistical category.
The Spot Up 3: Three Quick Basketball Points to Ponder
- The Foul disparity between the Spartans and Ohio St. Tuesday night should get your attention.Â At one point in the second half, the Spartans were called for 9 fouls to the Buckeyes lone 1.Â For the game: MSU 26, OSU 12!Â Ohio St. wasnâ€™t physically dominant or quick enough to justify anywhere near that imbalance.Â Thereâ€™s no good explanation for why that stat was so lopsided.Â It was the worst officiating performance of the year, and the Officials should be held accountable for it.
- The new Nike uniforms with the â€œshadow designâ€ (behind the numbers) on the back of the jerseys have to go.Â Theyâ€™re horrible, and take away from each uniform they show up on.Â They add nothing, and create a poor distraction.Â Itâ€™s a jersey, not a canvas where you can work in a little bit of themed art in negative space.Â Lose the silly shadow designs for 2012, Nike.Â And while weâ€™re on the topic of uniforms, I still miss the new â€œStateâ€ logo on MSUâ€™s Basketball jerseys.
- If a Hollywood movie is ever made about the life of Tom Izzo (talk about real entertainment), Dustin Hoffman would have to play the Spartansâ€™ legendary Head Coach.
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