Depth, chemistry, defense abundant for MSU basketball
MSU basketball’s 10-0 start can be chalked up to three things — depth, chemistry and defense. The three were on display Wednesday night as MSU defeated now 1-8 Maryland Eastern Shore 78-35.
Early in the season, the games should’ve been labeled the Denzel Valentine show co-starring Bryn Forbes. Now it’s a complete show with a lineup full of playmakers that runs 10-deep and then some.
Though Forbes and Valentine have continued to produce in their usual fashion, the rest of the gang has caught up in their own aspects of the game. If head coach Tom Izzo ever had trouble with his lineup, it’d be now. But it’s not much of a problem at all, if problems can be a good thing.
"It's a good problem to have," Izzo said. "I know I need to get more guys in the lineup, but they understand their role and where the team is at."
Which might be even more dangerous. An overly-talented team all buying into a winning formula is hard to stop.
“This is a team that’s very deep,” Maryland Eastern Shore head coach Bobby Collins said. “I think they can make a run for the national championship. That’s the caliber of talent and the caliber of system that they have in place here.”
Talent is boosted by confidence in each other. It makes it easier to play and easier to win. Ball movement is quicker, more trustworthy. The best part might just be that no one cares who scores on the team. The atmosphere is completely unselfish.
MSU had 27 buckets off 25 assists Wednesday night — nearly every shot was tagged with an assist.
“Nobody care who gets the credit,” sophomore guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. said of his team's camaraderie. “One of the great things about being on this team is nobody care who gets the credit, man, we just wanna get Ws.”
The unselfish effort is also rooted in a game focused on the defensive aspect. MSU has kept back-to-back teams at less than 40 points, the first time MSU has done so since the 1948-49 season. Albeit the competition won’t see the NCAA Tournament, but the defensive effort was better than it has been.
“Defense has always been first with Coach Izzo,” redshirt junior guard Eron Harris said. “From day one we’ve been trying to become the best defensive team in the nation, and we’re going to become better.”
MSU had 15 forced turnovers, 10 blocks, and five steals against the Hawks.
The defense will be spurred by the depth as well. For a lineup that’s had injuries and illness, MSU continues to progress. With a new rotation seemingly every night, more and more guys continue to step into their role and produce.
“Somehow we got to utilize our depth,” Izzo said. “I think you’ll start seeing more and more of that as we get our rotation down.”
An eye test reveals the No.1 ranking for MSU to be a well-deserved one. Come from behind wins to defensive efforts, the Izzo system is working as MSU has an abundance of talent only 10 games into the year and is progressing every day.