The Spartan Nation Basketball Weekly

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Turning the Turnover Corner?

Early in the season, Tom Izzo’s Spartans seemed to carelessly turn the ball over as much as we’ve ever seen during the Izzo era. Yet, as Kalin Lucas (Sr. PG) has improved from his Achilles injury and lineups have begun to stabilize, the turnover dilemma has begun to look a little less perilous.

“I think (turnovers are) a lot better now than we were the first 9 games. The first 9 games we averaged I think 18 turnovers, the last 7 or 8, we’ve averaged I think 11,” Izzo explained to Spartan Nation earlier this week. Yet, consistently playing up to their high “team basketball IQ” has been a struggle for this 2011 team. More of the Spartans turnovers to date have been a result of mental lapses rather than physical failings, but you cannot fairly discuss the issue without at least acknowledging the Spartans’ key physical issue of the day (Lucas’ recovery).

As Lucas has gotten healthier, the ball has spent more time in his hands, and turnovers have logically begun to simmer down a bit. If the “turnover threat level” has now dropped down from “high alert,” that doesn’t mean that MSU can start taking wild and foolish chances with the ball again. “(Turnovers) still can be a nemesis for us at certain times, but I think since (mid-December) we’ve done a much better job,” Izzo concluded.

The turnover “margin of error” for this team, now with 6 losses on the year and 2 in Big Ten play, is about to disappear completely. If the Spartans cannot keep from giving the ball away at an overly inflated rate, they will end up giving away any legitimate shot at a Conference or National Championship. It would be disappointing to see a program that has become the hardest to beat in “one and done” time, ultimately beat themselves.

It’s a Pretty Tough Ten Right Now

Big Ten Basketball is talented and deep these days. The last few seasons have built towards a conference that is as strong as it’s been in a decade or so. From top to bottom, there aren’t any easy “Ws” out there anymore. “You look at your schedule and you wonder where the next win’s going to come from,” Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter told Spartan Nation earlier this week. Tom Izzo would tend to agree.

“I don’t think there’s any question of the parity in this league,” Izzo told Spartan Nation. “Jud Heathcote last week said to me, “you know I looked on your schedule and I couldn’t put an automatic “W” anywhere…That’s the first time,” and I said yea, that’s about right…I think there is more parity.”

Painter shares the view with Spartans’ old Coach that Big Ten competition has not always been this tight. “Before, in our league…I’d say 5 years ago when I came back to Purdue, you would look at it and you would know, “hey, we should get these wins...,” now you don’t feel that way about anybody.”

As the Big Ten season now approaches the latter part of January, Painter in amongst the many who expect a wild and dynamic Big Ten finish. “It’ll be interesting to see the way things shake out because I think there could be some movement across the board.” Saturday’s matchup between the Boilers and Spartans will certainly have a lot to say about the Conference race moving forward.

It’s President Izzo’s Term to Change

Tom Izzo is currently serving as the President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. As President, Izzo now leads the NABC effort to “further the best interests of the game of basketball as well as the players and coaches who participate in the sport.” Now, well the midst of his one year term (2010-2011), the Dean of Big Ten Coaches hopes to produce some lasting change for the College game.

While the popularity of the College Basketball has arguably never been greater, the game has significant issues and concerning systemic threats. Not surprisingly, there are more than a few areas that the Spartans’ Head Coach would like to see addressed under his leadership. “It’s baby steps, there’s a lot of bureaucracy in trying to do things, but we’re making slow progress…It’s a lot slower than I’d like, and probably a lot of people would like,” Izzo described.

One of Izzo’s hopes is that College Coaches begin to take some control of their game back from administrators and basketball bureaucrats. “I constantly would like to see us deregulate a little bit,” he began. “I think the other thing that we’re really in the middle of right now, which could be a positive or a negative depending on what happens, is getting more access with players in recruiting.”

Izzo believes that if Coaches are essentially going to be held accountable for all that players do while under their watch, they should have more access and interaction with the young men they lead. “I think that’s one thing that coaches are really looking for, is more and more access…if we’re going to be responsible for everybody 100% of the time, we need to be able to be with them more than 10% of the time,” he argued. “That includes summers, and that includes even during the school year.”

Maybe those old “Bush…Gore…Izzo!” bumper stickers from the 2000 campaign weren’t that far off after all.

The Spot Up 3: Three Quick Points to Ponder

  1. Players shouldn’t “Tweet” during the season. Nothing good can come out of it, and it only amounts to a distraction. I realize players currently have the “right” to Tweet, but I don’t see an upside to it. I do, however, see the potential for quite a severe downside.
  2. One positive about the College Basketball Conference season is the simplicity of knowing that your team (aside from a “bye” or random scheduling quirk) will play two games a week. It’s neat to set your winter months’ calendars knowing they’ll be a mid-week, and weekend tip off to catch.
  3. The Spartans must improve their shot selection to have a chance of winning the Big Ten or making a run in the Tournament. Just because a shot is “open” doesn’t guarantee that it’s always the best shot to take. With the team's still struggling to shoot a good percentage, they should probably look more to create “easy scores” rather than just to fire away when an open 3-jack presents itself.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JPSpartan or Interact with him Inside the Phalanx Forum