Michigan State Baksetball: Report Card for Spartans' 2013-14 Season
The 2013-14 regular season didn’t result in a Big Ten Championship, but Michigan State should feel pretty good as it heads into the heart of March.
With their grit called into question, the No. 22-ranked Spartans (23-8, 12-6 B1G) split their final two-game stretch with an 86-76 senior-day win over Iowa and a hard-fought, 69-67 loss to Ohio State.
Considering the past month, the passionate showings against the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes came as much-needed signs of relief.
Now Tom Izzo can breathe a little—now the 19-year veteran head coach who's been to six Final Fours can get back to planning for "his" time...
This slideshow will grade the Spartans' regular season in several areas, including offensive and defensive production, rebounding, quality wins/losses and the ability to survive while many of their moving parts were jammed into a standstill.
First of all, a "B-" is generous.
This season didn't go as planned whatsoever, but Izzo made do. Before reverting to the "yeah, but the Spartans were injured" line, consider the following:
1. Michigan swept the season series and won an outright conference title. According to preseason plans, that banner was supposed to go to the Spartans. The sting factor is off the charts.
2. Nik Stauskas, not Gary Harris, deserves Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Derrick Walton is worthy all-frosh consideration, too. Don't forget about him.
Throw another tally in the "sting-factor" column.
3. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling missed chunks of their senior year, leaving a cloud of "what-ifs?" floating above the Breslin Center.
Seniors hold a special place in the program, so seeing the pair of Izzo era greats sit for spells instead of flourishing was difficult.
4. Michigan State hasn't won back-to-back games since Jan. 18 and 21. Winning six in a row in March is pretty tough.
5. Michigan's John Beilein should be named Big Ten Coach of the Year. No other Wolverines coach had won an outright title since 1986—one good turn deserves another.
This year was a disappointment. But Michigan State's in-state foes had a whale of a time.
Quality Wins: C+
In November, the Spartans disposed of a very good and strangely lethal—don't let the big loss to Florida this past Saturday fool you—No. 1-ranked Kentucky team.
Always testing his team during the early goings, Izzo's matchup with the young Wildcats was simply a way to gauge potential for March.
Almost completely healthy, Michigan State passed that test with a 78-74 win.
Tied with Iowa State, Texas finished fourth in a top-heavy Big XII conference that was led by Kansas and Oklahoma, which also lost to the Spartans.
Needless to say, Izzo's 92-78 thrashing of the 'Horns on Dec. 21 looks pretty good—so does his 87-76 bouncing of the Sooners on Nov. 23.
With a No. 24-ranked schedule, per CBS Sports, the Spartans will finish with a similar rating from the Associated Press.
So yes, a slightly above-average grade of "C+" is appropriate in this case.
Bad Losses: U-
Tabbing the "bad losses" with an unsatisfactory mark is redundant.
Losses are never good. How can they look at any differently?
That being said, this past Sunday's 69-67 setback to the Buckeyes wasn't exactly a bad loss. But given the Spartans' opportunities to put it away, it certainly hurts.
That one goes into limbo.
But the 60-51 embarrassment that was the Nebraska debacle qualifies as a low blow. The Huskers are a borderline NCAA tournament team—those teams don't win at the Breslin.
The 64-60 loss to Georgetown, a Big East underachiever, wasn't flattering. It was at Madison Square Garden, the mecca of hoops. Aircraft carriers, military bases...and then Spike's House?!
Not very national-championy, huh?
Neither was the 53-46 blunder against Illinois, which was another home letdown.
Izzo teams have long reigned at the top of Big Ten rebounding standings. This year was different, as the Spartans turned in a relatively mundane No. 4 offering on both offensive and defensive boards.
Michigan State held even with Ohio State, 21-21 but had difficulty doing anything with the Buckeyes.
Tom Izzo asked a question exclusively about rebounding. "Rebounding and fouls were very one-sided for Ohio State."— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) March 9, 2014
Scoring Offense: A-
Prior to losing to Ohio State, Michigan State had the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense (76.5 PPG).
A second-place landing isn't all that bad. In fact, this year's team was one of the more point-friendly clubs in recent memory. Liberal use of the three-pointer and 8.2 makes per outing certainly helped pad that average.
Kenny Kaminski led the league with a .471 percentage. Tied with Stauskas, Travis Trice was second with a mark of .458. But Stauskas had 59 more attempts.
Gary Harris' 17.7 points per game were second to the 17.8 put up by Nebraska's Terran Petteway. With 15.8 per game, Payne was the league's No. 7-ranked scorer.
Scoring Defense: C-
A strong, unified feel seemed to be absent from the defensive huddle this season.
Despite holding opponents to a conference-low 40 percent from the field, Michigan State finished 2013-14 with the Big Ten's No. 7-ranked scoring defense (65.7 PPG).
Often pushed around and outplayed, the Spartans must continue improving their on-the-ball defense and positioning in the paint. Poor rebounding and lazy efforts allow opponents to easily score.
Michigan State needs to get defensive, stay out of foul trouble and find its focus.
Success in March depends on it.
MSU's Tom Izzo tired of seeing his key players on sideline in foul trouble, he sounds off after loss at OSU: http://t.co/cGS1xDZCDi— Steve Helwagen (@SteveHelwagen) March 9, 2014
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81