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Is Michigan State Really War Drill U? Surprise, surprise: The Spartans offense has led the way under Tom Izzo by Kyle Jen T oughness. Rebounding. Defense. Ask a typical college basketball fan what has made the Michigan State basketball program so successful during Tom Izzo’s tenure as head coach, and it’s a pretty good bet those three words will show up in the response. In fact, ask Tom Izzo before any given season what the necessary ingredients are for that year’s team to be successful, and his answer also is very likely to include those three words. The public image of Izzo’s program has been shaped by stories of the coach putting his players in football helmets and pads for rebounding drills, and by the praise Izzo has heaped on players known more for their tough play on defense and the boards than for their scoring prowess (think Antonio Smith or Travis Walton). But does that trio of terms oversimplify what’s now been a 13-year stretch of NCAA Tournament teams and nearly uninterrupted contention for Big Ten championships? What of the ball-handling exploits of Mateen Cleaves and Kalin Lucas, or the threepoint marksmanship of Morris Peterson and Drew Neitzel, or the low-post finesse of Andre Hutson and Paul Davis? Those skills have certainly all been major factors along the way, in some cases, maybe even surpassing the team’s defensive and rebounding proficiency in contributing to the program’s success. This article will take a long-term statistical look at the performance of MSU basketball during the Tom Izzo era in an attempt to discern where the real track record ends and the cliché begins. To do that, we’ll employ the tools of tempo-free statistical analysis—as popularized by John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy in recent years—to explain the major concepts of that brand of analysis as we go along. Most of the data utilized in this article were extracted from, with a couple pieces filled in from The available data go back © 2010 Maple Street Press, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Spartan Tip-Off 2010–2011 | 113

Is Michigan State Really War Drill U?

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