MSU Basketball Searching for Offensive Identity

Everyone is trying to figure out what is ‘wrong’ with Michigan State’s basketball team.  They came to the season ranked as the #2 team in the country.  The team is struggling and not living up to their lofty expectations.  Fans and players are trying to figure out the problem.

When I watch the team play, they seem confused on the offensive end at times.  Who is their ‘go-to-guy’?  What does Tom Izzo draw up when the team needs a big basket?

On the season the team is shooting 44.3% percent from the field.  Their field goal percentage was 47.1% last year, so the team has suffered a significant drop-off.  This team is still searching for an identity on the offensive end, and the departures of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen have hurt them much more severely than most people anticipated.

Say what you want about Raymar Morgan, but he was a far better scorer in the post than anyone the team is putting out there this year.  Many fans were frustrated with his lack of consistency.  However, he was a guy that you could post-up down low, and expect him to create something.  I love Draymond Green, and think he is a fantastic player.  He can hit open jumpers on a pick-and-pop, create on the offensive glass and does many things well. But Green does not have a go-to-move down low, and is not someone you should run your offense through.  Delvon Roe is a similar player; a great energy guy, a good rebounder, but his post arsenal is not overly strong.

A big problem is Kalin Lucas’ lack of explosiveness and aggressiveness.  He is not the same player that won Big 10 Player-of-the-Year his sophomore season.  One of State’s go-to-plays is the high screen with Lucas and Green. Kalin gets a screen up top from Draymond Green, and they try to make something happen.  In previous seasons, Lucas would turn the corner and jet to the basket for a score or foul.  This year, he is stepping back and deferring to other playrs, and not attacking the basket with the same level of aggressiveness.  When he does get to the hoop, he can not elevate and score as well as he used to.  This is doing a number on Kalin’s confidence, and is hurting the team a ton on the offensive end.  He needs to continue to be assertive and penetrate, but find a way to dump the ball off to his big men or hit open shooters on the wing.  Lucas has been not been doing this at all lately, and is averaging only 3.7 assists-per-game on the season.  Past Michigan State teams been able to get out on the fast break and score points.  This years team has not been able to do this with effectively.  Many times, when Kalin comes and retrieves the ball from a teammate after a rebound, he casually jogs the ball up the court and doesn’t push it with urgency.  Kalin needs to play at a faster pace and try and create on the break, because MSU is not great in their half-court offense.

Durrel Summers is shooting over 40% from three-point range, which is very good.  However, he is the only great three-point threat on this team, and other teams are keying on him.  Summers never puts the ball on the floor, so when his deep-ball is taken out of the equation he is not very effective on the offensive end.  The team could use someone else who is a threat to come off screens and knock down three-pointers.  Chris Allen would have helped immensely in this regard.

The team needs someone to step up and demand the ball in crunch time.  Green and Roe must work hard to become threats in the post, and Lucas needs to find his killer instinct that led MSU to a final four in 2008.  If these things do not happen, this team will continue to experience the same struggles on the offensive end.

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