Defensive Score Sheet: UConn 60, Michigan State 54

MSU's Keith Appling, albeit barely, grazes Shabazz Napier's
arm with 30 seconds to play on a 3-point attempt. Napier
made all three free throws, extending the lead to 56-51.
Appling fouled out on the play that sealed MSU's loss.

Rarely has Michigan State bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in such disappointing fashion to an inferior opponent. Yes, the Spartans were upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in 2003 in the first round and by 11th-seeded George Mason in 2006 in the first round. But outside of those two losses there hadn't been that "upset" against a Tom Izzo-coached team.

[Note: Even though No. 1 seeded MSU lost to No. 4 seeded Louisville in the 2012 Sweet 16 it was a year in which many felt MSU overachieved and the Cardinals, despite the lower seed, were very much on par with the Spartans].

Then came Saturday's debacle in New York City, a head-scratching 60-54 loss to 7th-seeded UConn.

In no way, shape, or form should this Michigan State team have lost to this UConn team - arguably the worst Huskies Final Four team in history. This, as many believe, could have been MSU's third national championship team based on talent.

That makes the lost that much tougher to swallow.

Here's the defensive score sheet from UConn's 60-54 victory, one that snapped the streak of every four-year player getting to at least one Final Four under Tom Izzo:

  • I mentioned on Twitter that this was a game where Keith Appling didn't just handcuff the Spartans with his offensive deficiencies. His defense was terrible. It's true some of that was due to being charged with guarding Shabazz Napier, almost the single reason UConn is in the Final Four. But here's a breakdown of Appling's defensive game:
    • His four DFGMs were to: Napier (2), Giffey (1) and Daniels (1).
    • His eight DFTMs were to: Napier (7) and Daniels (1).
  • Shabazz Napier took over the game - which should have been MSU's biggest fear before tipoff - as he usually does in big moments. However, he didn't just brutalize Appling. Here's a breakdown of Napier's damage:
    • His six FGs came via: Appling (2), Payne (1.5), Valentine (1.5) and Dawson (1). 
    • His nine FTs came via: Appling (7) and Dawson (2).
  • The above bullet points prove one thing: Keith Appling was just bad all around, regardless of who he was guarding. Had he been assigned to Napier all night it would have been worse. It's probably the toughest exit a Spartan senior has ever had in East Lansing under Tom Izzo. Appling is the first point guard not to lead his team to the Final Four. He's just the second PG to fail to notch a victory in the Elite Eight, but first as a favorite. (No. 7 MSU lost to No. 1 Texas in the 2003 Elite Eight but that was with sophomore Chris Hill running the point. Hill would later help MSU reach the Final Four in 2005, his senior year, in thrilling fashion).
  • This loss isn't on Appling by any means. It's one of the few I put on Izzo for not getting the offense in any kind of rhythm and somehow getting the ball into the post more often. (MSU attempted 29 3-pointer and only eight (8!) shots in the paint). Defensively the Spartans as a whole played very well. MSU held UConn to 34 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range. It was the 16 turnovers on offense, many unforced, that proved to be the difference. 
The Defensive Score Sheet Project's initial explanation is here. More concise explanations are in this post, but here is a short rundown:
  • Min - Minutes played
  • DREB - Defensive Rebounds
  • FM - Forced field goal miss (includes blocks)
  • FTO - Forced Turnover (steals, charges taken)
  • FFTA - Forced missed Free Throw Attempt
  • DFGM - Allowed Defensive Field Goal Made
  • DFTM - Allowed Free Throw Made
  • DRtg - Defensive Rating (Gives players credit for stops and scoring possessions)
*The DRtg is most important part of a defensive score sheet as it is the analog of an offensive rating. If a player was on the floor for 100 of his team's defensive possessions, the DRtg calculates the number of points the opposition would score.

[NOTE: Deuce2Sports' defensive charting has been noted on Sports Illustrated's Web site twice this season by college basketball writer Luke Winn.]