Michigan State Spartans Still Reaching for Their Ceiling

Michigan State Spartans
EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 21: Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo chats with his team late in the game during a college basketball game between Michigan State and Long Beach State on December 21, 2017, at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing, MI.(Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With the bulk of Big Ten season coming up, the Michigan State Spartans are still reaching for their ceiling. 13 games in, the No. 2 in the country still has areas to improve.

Michigan State Spartans Still Reaching for Their Ceiling

Turnovers, Saved in Part by Good Defense

The Spartans are averaging 15 turnovers-per-game; worse than their 14 per-game average last year. Fortunately, their defense has been fantastic – holding opponents’ to shooting just 32.9 percent – placing them at No. 1 in the country in opponent field goal percentage. This has helped them stay out of too much trouble because they are able to quickly get back on defense. However, Big Ten season is going to challenge them more than the games they play over break. They have to continue to play well defensively and take care of the ball to stay out of trouble.

A Little Foul Trouble

This is not a team issue as much as it is a Jaren Jackson Jr. issue, although Nick Ward has gone down a similar path. Jackson Jr. is averaging 3.5 personal fouls per game. Although the team has plenty of bigs to switch him out with, Jackson Jr. is needed on the floor. He averages 10.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks-per-game; and every single one of those is vital to the team. If he can figure out how to do what he did against Long Beach State – have more blocks than fouls – Jackson Jr. will be in better shape.

Consistency Behind the Arc

The team is shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range, ranking No. 49 in the country. Cassius Winston is leading the team, making 57.7 percent of his threes – better than his 2-point field goal percentage of 52.2 percent. What would be really beneficial is if Matt McQuaid and Miles Bridges could shoot 40 percent or better from behind the arc. Even Josh Langford making an appearance as he did against Long Beach State making four of his five threes. The team’s current percentage is not bad, but that small amount of improvement from key players could make the Spartans that much better.

Surprisingly, Winston is not the best three-point shooter on the team. Nick Ward made his one and only attempt of the season as the shot clock was winding down in the first half of the game against Southern Utah.

Reaching Their Ceiling

Every team in the country has areas to improve, some with bigger problems than others. Luckily for the Spartans, theirs can be worked on in practice and through coaching. Taking care of the ball, staying out of foul trouble, consistency in long-range shots – those little things can add up, making the team stronger come the second half of the season.

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