Tom Izzo’s 14th ranked Michigan State team started their season with a disappointing loss to unranked Connecticut, 66-62. They started the game horribly, being down 20-6 just seven and a half minutes in. Michigan State tightened the game up, even getting within two points in the last minute, before losing.
The Good: The guards played well, after the first eight minutes. 48 of Michigan State’s 60 points were scored by guards, a whopping 80%. All three starting guards, Kieth Appling, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson, scored in double digits. Michigan State’s big men struggled inside offensively, but their backcourt trio kept the Spartans in the game. The Spartans had a six minute stretch where 16 consecutive points were scored by guards, closing the gap from double digits to a manageable deficit. Though they lost, this is a good sign. After losing Draymond Green they will need new scoring sources, and it looks like the Spartans have those.
The Bad: For the second consecutive year Michigan State has started their season with a loss, both times on a neutral site. Michigan State started horribly, as I previously mentioned. Connecticut came out with energy, forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. Michigan State, on the other hand, looked slow, and sloppy offensively. Throughout the game, three point shooting was a huge difference maker. The Spartans shot just 27% form deep, with Harris going just 1-6 in his debut. On the other end of the court, Connecticut shot 43%, often getting open form Spartan defenders in transition. Michigan State did improve their play, but it was too little, too late after such a horrific start. Bad starts, bad shooting and turnovers will not win you many games, and that was true tonight.
The Takeaway: Remember, Michigan State did start 0-2 last season, and they ended up in the Sweet 16. That could very likely happen again this year, as they play 7th ranked Kansas on Tuesday. The important thing to remember is that teams in February and March often bare little resemblance to themselves in November. This is the time of year where coaches really see what they have and make adjustments accordingly. Izzo is as good as anyone at making adjustments, as he did last season. You have to take the result with a grain of salt when it is the opener and in an air-base in Germany. For now, the Spartans need to clean up their offense and start games with better focus. Kansas will be a very tough test, but again it is only November.