[Original photo courtesy of Carly Geraci/Flickr]
One of the biggest things with the Michigan State Spartans basketball team continues to be, “When will they put it all together for a string of games and establish themselves like fans have grown accustomed to seeing?”
So far they’re doing okay, or just enough at times. There are moments in games where they look like a prototypical MSU team, hard to match up with and hard to defend. Other times, they just look flat and unable to produce. This year, the scoring has been something of a concern for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Their 72.0 points per game ranks second to last in the Big Ten. Now there’s a multitude of reasons for that, from lack of rebounding to porous free throw shooting.
They have three capable scorers in freshmen Miles Bridges and Nick Ward, and senior Eron Harris. But it’s a big drop off after that, and there’s two names that stand out that can be viewed as ‘close but not there yet,’ or perhaps just not in sync yet, and that is freshman Joshua Langford and sophomore Matt McQuaid.
There was a lot of talk of Langford and the other freshmen coming into the 2016-17 season for the Spartans. Langford in particular was a 5-star recruit like Miles Bridges and very heralded for his ability to score at will. But that hasn’t exactly come to fruition yet. In the team’s 19 games, Langford is playing a tad more than 20 minutes per game, and averaging just 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Now that scoring output is good for 5th on the team, which shows the drastic decline in scoring after Harris’ 12.1 PPG (3rd on the team). Only three times has Langford eclipsed the double-digit mark in scoring for a single game, most recently last week at home against Minnesota when he had 13.
If there are some bright spots about Langford, his 44.2 percent from 3-point land is tops on the team and his 51.1 percent field goal percentage overall is third among all Spartans who average at least 15 minutes of playing time per game (nine such players). But at the same time however, averaging better than 20 minutes a game and only mustering 6+ PPG means there’s plenty of room for improvement.
The same thing can be said for Matt McQuaid, to an extent at least. On the surface of things, McQuaid is not really having all that much of a sophomore slump. His minutes and his scoring are up from a season ago, but the shooting numbers are down from his freshman campaign. Like Langford, McQuaid is one for being a prolific shooter. And after nearly knocking down 41 percent of his three-balls a year ago, that’s dipped to just under 33 percent. Now it’s plausible to suggest that the makeup of last year’s team versus this year’s plays a factor. McQuaid’s role has been elevated for the season, being on pace for more shots attempted and shots made. With that said, the scoring output needs to increase a bit more.
Thankfully McQuaid is one of the better free throw shooters on the Spartans, hitting em at a clip close to 74 percent. Not sure if that is saying much, however, with MSU being borderline treasonous at the stripe. Not only is their 63.1 percent the worst mark in the Big Ten, there’s only 13 schools in all of Division I who are worse at the free throw line than the Spartans.
Now, take this all with a grain of salt. Are Langford and McQuaid performing ‘poorly’ per say? Of course not. Let’s remember that little nugget on how Izzo has nine players averaging at least 15 minutes per game and no single player seeing more than 30 minutes of action per contest. Because MSU is limited up front, Izzo often goes with a three-guard look. If one were to take it in a more positive spin, Langford and McQuaid combined are averaging more than 12 points per game.
But the Spartans need at least one of the two to turn it up a notch and become a more regular threat for scoring. This will only open things up for MSU, take even less pressure of players like Bridges and Ward, and give Izzo more options in terms of a rotation.
**Stats come courtesy of ESPN and Big Ten