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Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Turnovers doom Spartans ... again

By Eamonn Brennan

Tell me if you've heard this one before: A good, early-season Michigan State team is improving, making itself solid in just about every facet of the game, except one glaring weakness. It turns the ball over far too frequently. Sound familiar? Because it's pretty much every Michigan State team ever.

Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo's Spartans turned the ball over 22 times against Texas.
This was the case in 2007-08, when the Spartans were led by sturdy point guard Drew Neitzel. Didn't matter. The rest of the team still committed turnovers at a freaky rate, and it kept that MSU squad from winning several very winnable games early in the Big Ten schedule.

The problem was less glaring in 2008, as the Spartans posted a decent turnover rate overall (though they didn't force many turnovers on defense, Tom Izzo would probably gladly take that trade-off). And Michigan State went to the NCAA tournament final. This is not a coincidence.

The Spartans are almost as talented this year, but they've posted a plus-25 percent turnover rate in each of their three losses, including Tuesday night's defeat to Texas. Texas' defense is statistically the best in the nation, but one thing the Longhorns don't do is turn opponents over all that often. Which means Michigan State has itself to blame. Texas is the better team, but the Longhorns missed nine free throws and scored 79 points on 74 possessions -- good, but not Texas-good. Michigan State had a shot. The box score says as much. So did your eyes while you watched. But for the third time this year, and many more than that in the past few, turnovers killed Sparty's chances. Leonidas would not be pleased.