Thursday, November 19, 2015

Defensive Score Sheet: MSU 79, Kansas 73 (Champions Classic)

What a statement win for Michigan State. The Spartans, despite trailing by double digits multiple times in the second half, used hot shooting and timely defense to upset the No. 4 Jayhawks 79-73 in the fifth annual Champions Classic.

Both of these teams have high ceilings, and the win should continue to gain cache for Michigan State as the season rolls along.

The 75-possession game was mighty entertaining and provided break-out moments for young players on both teams. Here is the defensive scoresheet for the game:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

24 1/3 innings: The end of the Tigers' season-opening shutout streak

It took 24 1/3 innings but the Detroit Tigers finally surrendered a run in 2015.

Minnesota's Kennys Vargas doubled to left center with one out in the seventh inning, but Joe Mauer only scored when left fielder Yoenis Cespedes somewhat booted the ball and allowed it to get past both himself and center fielder Anthony Gose.

Due to the next two batters striking out and flying out the run remained unearned. So, we can all blame Cespedes for snapping the streak that should be at 27 innings right now.

The streak puts the Tigers third on the all-time list (since 1900), trailing only the 1963 Cardinals (3+ games, 32 innings) and the 1943 Reds (2+ games, 26 innings).

Detroit is the king of the American League, however. The 1947 White Sox were the previous leaders with a 22-inning streak.

Here's the pregame story that detailed the Tigers and the streak heading into Thursday's game.

The 2015 Detroit Tigers join an exclusive club

David Price and the Tigers haven't allowed a run in two games
(18 innings) to start the 2015 season. (MLB)

The Detroit Tigers joined an elite group yesterday after their 11-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Detroit became just the 14th team since 1900 to open the season by pitching back-to-back shutouts. The Tigers beat the Twins in Monday's season opener 4-0.

The Washington Nationals were the most recent team to accomplish the feat, opening 2013 with a pair of shutouts against the Miami Marlins.

The last American League team to blank an opponent twice to open a campaign: The 1977 California Angels. Those Angels were led by Nolan Ryan and eventual Detroit pitcher Frank Tanana.

Only one team - the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals - has started a season with three straight shutouts. (The 2013 Nationals were close, allowing just one run in Game No. 3 against the Marlins).

Here's a table of previous teams, courtesy of's awesome Play Index (via @beckjason).

New Detroiter Shane Greene takes the mound in the season finale against the Twins today. Greene & Co. will attempt to match the '63 Cardinals against a Twins team that, quite frankly, hasn't looked good at all through two games. 

Note: The Cardinals didn't allow a run until the sixth inning of their fourth game in 1963. Here's a table (via matthewbmowery).

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Defensive Score Sheet (Final Four Edition): Duke 81, MSU 61

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

There are many ways you can categorize the worst* NCAA Tournament loss in Tom Izzo's 20-year reign at Michigan State.

Disappointing would be fitting, if only because it seemed as if the Spartans played so tentative from the 15:00 minute mark of the first half to the 5:00 mark of the second half; those 30 minutes in between killed any chances for a win let alone a close game.

Surprising would be another, if only because MSU teams, despite talent disadvantages, typically fight to the end. This game was seemingly over early in the second half.

Remarkable might be the most fitting, if only because Duke highlighted every flaw this Michigan State team had (one that most Spartan fans saw all season in losses to teams like Texas Southern and Nebraska) yet this same MSU team beat Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville - Nos. 2, 3, and 4 seeds, respectively and pre-tournament top 15 teams.

*Worst is always a subjective word. Points-wise, this was the worst loss in Izzo's 64 NCAA Tournament games, however many would argue (with evidence, of course) that MSU's 2009 NCAA Championship game loss to North Carolina (89-72), its 2008 Sweet Sixteen loss to Memphis (92-74), or it's 2001 Final Four loss to Arizona (80-61) were much bigger blowouts even if the score didn't indicate as much. 

This was Tom Izzo's seventh Final Four. This author's subjectivity would rank the talent of his Final Four teams as follows:

  • 1. 2000 (NCAA Champions)
  • 2. 2009 (NCAA Runner-up)
  • 3. 1999 (Final Four)
  • 4. 2001 (Final Four)
  • 5. 2005 (Final Four)
  • 6. 2010 (Final Four)
  • 7. 2015 (Final Four)

There isn't much debate (unless you consider the 2010 vs. 2015 teams a big debate) that this was Izzo's least expected and least heralded Final Four team. Talent-wise, this team lost a lot from last year and was "rebuilding." To take this team to Indianapolis via the route it took was incredible.

In the 70-possession game, Duke's defense was smothering. MSU's .878 PPP was, by far, its worst in the tournament. Duke's 1.155, on the other hand, was MSU's worst defensive effort. Here's the defensive score sheet for the game:

Sunday, March 15, 2015


What a Selection Sunday! And, we haven't even had the bracket unveiled. Wisconsin erased a late 11-point deficit to beat Michigan State in OT, 80-69, in the Big Ten Championship game to claim the final automatic bid.

Here's our final bracket which gives Wisconsin the last No. 1 seed.

Check out how our bracket fares with The Bracket Matrix!

2015 Bracketology (Penultimate Bracket)

We're about 18 hours away from a de facto national holiday in the sports world: Selection Sunday.

With a handful of automatic bids still left to hand out, here's where the bracket stands heading into "Sunday, Bloody Sunday."

BATTLE FOR THE NO. 1 SEEDS: It's pretty clear that Kentucky and Villanova will grab spots on the top line. Conventional thinking sees Duke, Wisconsin and Virginia battling for the final two No. 1 seeds although there is always the outside shot WCC Champion Gonzaga or Arizona, if the Wildcats continue dominating the Pac 12 Championship Game and win the tournament title, could claim a No. 1 seed.

Duke's overall body of work, not to mention the two best road wins in the country (at Wisconsin and at Virginia) make it an easy choice for one of those remaining top seeds. I give the edge to Wisconsin, at the moment, for the final No. 1 seed. If Michigan State slays Wisconsin in tomorrow's Big Ten title game then I think Virginia sneaks back on the top line and the bracket shuffles a bit. History has shown the committee, in a pretty close resume comparison, goes with a conference tournament champion over its counterpart (see 2014: Virginia vs. Michigan).

The bubble cut line is becoming fairly more clear, although there will be some debate. Those final two spots seem to be between Boise State, Temple, Murray State and Mississippi. It really could go any way. Maybe some more resume examinations in the morning will help sort it out. Or, maybe UConn will steal a bid the same way Wyoming did earlier on Saturday and that will make the cut line more defined.

Expect our final projection around 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (at conclusion of Big Ten Tournament Championship Game).