Who keys the Michigan State Spartans?


So you’re playing the Michigan State Spartans. Which player do you need to stop? The shooters? The rebounder? Which player actually makes the Michigan State team go?

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Let’s take the Impact formula from the Stephen Curry article and apply it to the Michigan State roster to see which player the Spartans need the most on the court.

The formula for Impact is (Points + DREB*2 + Assists*2 + Blocks*2 + Steals*2 – Tos*2) then we divide that by the minutes played to get the impact rating.

The players that we will assess are the top eight rotation guys

The current Michigan State depth chart is:

C Gavin Schilling
F Branden Dawson
F Denzel Valentine
G Travis Trice
G Tum Tum Nairn


F Matt Costello
G Bryn Forbes
F Marvin Clark, Jr.

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  • Impact/Min for Michigan State Spartans look like this:

    Dawson = .979
    Valentine = .926
    Trice = .811
    Costello = .797
    Clark = .691
    Schilling = .611
    Forbes = .495
    Nairn =.437

    From these numbers, a couple of things stand out. First, Branden Dawson has the most impact of any player on the floor. His combination of points and rebounding together outweighed either of the scoring guards. Duke will have to pay attention to where Dawson positions himself on offense. He will most likely try to get Justise Winslow in foul trouble if Winslow is assigned to guard him.

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    The other lesson is not to ignore the Spartan bench. Freshman guard Nairn may be the best ball handler on the team, but he is also the least impactful guard in the rotation. The same is true for Schilling and Costello. Costello actually has the better season impact, but he comes off the bench. Neither looks to be a good match for Jahlil Okafor in terms of size (Both are 6’9” 240) but both will take up some space down low.

    So despite the player arrangement, the most dangerous lineup Duke could see is a Trice-Valentine-Clark back court with a Dawson-Costello front court. That will not be obvious right away since that lineup will not start the game and the Spartans would be sacrificing some ballhandling to make that happen.

    Based on these numbers, I like the Dawson-Winslow matchup for the Spartans on offense, but I absolutely hate the matchups on defense. Duke still seems favored to me at this point.