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Michigan State basketball one of nation’s most efficient teams in last 4 games

MSU has been elite in the past four games.

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Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball has been one of the nation’s most efficient teams in the past four games. Just check the numbers.

Following a 4-5 start, Michigan State basketball has rattled off an impressive four wins in a row.

The most notable was a blowout of Baylor at Little Caesars Arena to provide their biggest signature win of the year. After that, MSU faced an Oakland team that always plays its hardest against the Spartans. Next came a wildly overmatched Stony Brook who put up just 12 points in the first half. Lastly MSU outlasted a sneaky good Missouri Valley Conference team in Indiana State. The Sycamores are top five in the country in both two-point percentage and 3-point percentage. They rank in the top 25 in offensive efficiency by most metrics.

An elite stretch of basketball

Torvik allows you to filter by any number of games within the season, so that’s exactly what I did. Notably, since the game against Baylor on Dec. 16, Michigan State basketball is tabbed as the second-most efficient team in the country over this two-week stretch. The Spartans trail only Houston on the list and are immediately followed by the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten, Purdue, at No. 3.

As usual, I will look at the numbers to explain the reason for this uptick in MSU’s level of play.

Shooting efficiency

The most obvious glaring issue to start the year was 3-point shooting, starting out at 29.5% over their first nine games (No. 301 nationally). The Spartans have posted a very respectable 43.2% (No. 25 nationally) over this four-game streak.

MSU’s 2-point percentage was a mediocre 51.7% (No. 134 nationally) over the first nine, and 60.5% (No. 13 nationally) over the last four.

On the season, they are ranked ninth nationally in assist rate at 64.5%, a number quite customary for a guard-led Spartan team. 

Lastly, MSU’s overall adjusted offensive efficiency was ranked No. 121 and has climbed to No. 7 during the win streak.

Other guys stepping up

In terms of individual player contributions, Michigan State basketball is finally getting more help for Tyson Walker to ease his load. Spartan fans knew early on that it was not sustainable to have Walker shoulder as much playing time and scoring as he did early on in the season.

Spreading things out allows Walker to have stronger legs for the second half when he is needed the most.

We are still seeing inconsistent performances from guys like Malik Hall. However, even he showed a handful of upperclassman-like moments against Indiana State when the Spartans needed a bucket to put the game out of reach.

A few players in particular have stepped up in big ways, so let’s dive into each of them.

A.J. Hoggard

First off, we are seeing a totally reborn A.J. Hoggard. He looks more dialed in at every aspect of his game. He has upped his scoring from 10.3 to 13.5 points. Hoggard is also more aggressive in seeking out shots in the paint and drawing fouls. He’s assisting at a higher rate, from 4.3 to 6.5. Lastly, A.J. is proving to be the defensive force we all knew he could be, averaging 0.9 steals before Baylor to 1.8 after. As Hoggard goes, so go the Spartans.

Jaden Akins

Probably the most notable individual leap is the in-season improvement of Jaden Akins. He was on a tear at the end of last season, particularly shooting from deep. He shot 50 percent from three over the last eight games of 2023 and opened up the year at a puzzling 37.8%. You could also tell there was just an issue with his aggressiveness in getting to the hoop. He was a shell of himself offensively, and it was affecting his defense too. Over the last four he is averaging 12.8 points and is back up to 45.5% from deep.

With Fears likely out of the lineup for the rest of the year, Michigan State needs every cog in its backcourt to be firing on all cylinders. Which means MSU must have this version of Akins night in and night out.

Interior rebounding

Lastly, the interior players who are getting the majority of minutes have been much more assertive on the glass. MSU’s offensive rebound percentage climbed from 29.8% versus 36.4% over the last four.

Sissoko and Cooper were each averaging 5.3 rebounds per game and have increased to 8.5 and 6.3 rebounds, respectively. I have long said they do not need to be game changers offensively, but MSU cannot afford for them to be liabilities to grab a rebound. Tom Izzo’s best teams have always bullied other teams on the boards, and we have seen what that can look like these past two weeks.

Summary

Overall, the effort of the team is much better. You can tell by their demeanor that this is a team still very much with its goals ahead of it. They absolutely have the tools to win the conference and potentially cut down nets to head to Phoenix.

I graduated from MSU in 2016 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. I met my wife there, and we now live in Madison, WI with our two boys (ages 3 and 1). I write on here and spew on Twitter as an outlet for my useless MSU sports knowledge.

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