Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How deep are these Spartans?

Yesterday, I was watching the 2009 Final Four game against UConn on The Vault, when something caught my eye.

There was a point in the middle of the game where MSU didn't have a single starter on the floor. Again, this is the Final Four, and Tom Izzo trusts so many guys on his team that he'll put five non-starters out there. The 2009 team may have been Izzo's deepest. Ten players averaged at least 9.5 minutes per game (plus Idong Ibok, who averaged 5.9 minutes but played a lot against UConn) and they all contributed in some way.

That got me thinking about this year's team. MSU has gotten a lot out of its bench, probably a lot more than expected. Looking at the numbers, MSU has nine players who average at least 8.6 minutes per game.

That 2009 team had four seniors (Walton, Suton, Ibok, Gray). This year's team has three (Green, Thornton, Wood). Both had one junior who contributed (Morgan in '09, Nix in '12).

So I decided to go back and compare this year's team's depth compared to past seasons.


Simplified, here is a breakdown by year and minutes:

Based on the markers, this year's team has as much or more depth as any recent MSU team. Now, I know the five-minute intervals I chose in the table aren't perfect, that's why I included the total numbers from each season.

What makes this year's depth so much more surprising is the number of first-year players. Five of MSU's 11 players playing at least five minutes are playing college basketball games for the first time, plus Wood, who is in his first season with MSU. To compare, the 2008-09 team had three (not including the walk-ons) and the 2009-10 team had two. 

Izzo has always taken advantage of depth on his teams, and this year is no different. But it's the amount of young guys who are filling that depth that has made this Big Ten championship one of Izzo's most unlikely.

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