After months without meaningful basketball, the Spartans finally returned to the hardwood for preseason action. Sure, the games don’t count, but that doesn’t stop journalists like us from overanalyzing them.

Michigan State defeated Northwood 93-69 on Oct. 27 and Saginaw Valley State 87-77 on Wednesday. Let’s take a look at some takeaways from preseason action.

Leading scorers:

Miles Bridges – 26.5 ppg, 70% FG, 78% 3PT

Cassius Winston – 13.5 ppg, 60% FG, 50% 3PT

Nick Ward – 12.5 ppg, 56% FG, 41% FT

Eron Harris – 10.5 ppg, 43% FG, 28.5% 3 PT

Leading rebounders:

Eron Harris – 8 RPG

Miles Bridges – 7.5 RPG

Nick Ward – 5 RPG

Kenny Goins – 5 RPG

1. Cassius Winston outperformed Tum Tum Nairn

There were whispers in the offseason of the new point guard possibly being good enough to one day this season take Nairn’s spot in the starting lineup. Winston certainly performed well enough to make those whispers a bit louder in the preseason.

Narin averaged five points and 2.5 assists in the preseason, while Winston scored 13.5 per game and dished out 7.5 assists. The chemistry with Winston on the floor was much better than anticipated, and he ran the offense calmly and efficiently. Nairn pushed the ball a bit more, but his shooting woes are still hurting the offense.

Saginaw Valley State coach Randy Baruth summed up the situation perfectly:

“We really tried to play off [Nairn] honestly,” said Baruth. “If we were gonna play Michigan State again there’s no question we’d be doubling the post off of [Nairn] and just say [Nairn] take jump shots and beat us. If you make four or five threes and beat us then God bless you.

“So [Winston] is a guy you can’t play off of but he’s not a guy you can really pressure and get him to turn it over either. But with [Nairn] we would’ve just done a lot more doubling and been way heavier off of him and our help and no disrespect to [Narin] but that’s just what we would’ve done differently if we played again.”


2. Quick whistles, slow games

The NCAA has new “points of emphasis” for this season, focusing on play in the paint, block/charge calls and travelling. As a result, fouls spiked in the first two games. This could be a major problem for the Spartans with their lack of depth in the frontcourt. If Goins, Bridges or Ward get in foul trouble, MSU will have to rely on 6-5 Matt Van Dyk or even Kyle Ahrens to man the post.

“For some reason, somebody wants freedom of movement, and as I told one of the NFL officials that was there tonight, it’s like nobody wants to play defense anymore,” said Izzo after the game.

There were 91 fouls called in both games combined. That’s 1.13 fouls per minute, for those of you keeping score from home. Coach Izzo took notice of those numbers.

“I said it two years ago, I said it last year. Some think they’re making the game better, I think they’re ruining the game,” said Izzo.

Baruth also pointed out how points of emphasis are usually less emphasized during conference play, and the games become a “bloodbath.”

“The first four or five games of the year are going to be called tight,” said Baruth. “Then once league comes, it’s gonna be a bloodbath, and there will be not one call.”


3. Defense, turnovers hold MSU back

If Michigan State wants to have any chance of coming close to Arizona, the defense needs to be much better. The fact that the Spartans only won by 10 to Saginaw Valley State should be cause for concern. Even Northwood hung around for much longer than they should have, and that’s because of the spotty defense.

“Our defense was real good, then real bad,” said Izzo. “I thought the other night our defense was very average. I thought tonight we had some real, real good and some real, real bad and the sustainability of that is what we have to do a better job of.”

Turnovers were also a main problem in the SVSU game, where the Spartans had 18. Against a team like Arizona or Kentucky, that can be the difference between winning and getting blown out.

“I think we had moments of this game where we played awfully poor and inconsistent and had a lack of sustainability,” said Izzo. “I was very disappointed. We had a great start and a lot of energy, but we had six turnovers in a row and we only turned the ball over 10 times in the last game. 18 turnovers is just ridiculous, so that part was disappointing.”

Originally posted – http://impact89fm.org/sports/three-takeaways-from-exhibition-play/

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