clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wounded Spartans limp into College Park

Maryland Coach Brenda Frese may feel some sympathy for MSU coach Suzy Merchant. The defending Big Ten co-champions opened the season with 13 on the roster. The team that visits College Park Thursday Will Likely have seven active players.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Michigan State Spartans (9-9, 1-6) @ Maryland Terrapins (15-2, 6-0)

WHAT: Women's basketball B1G Conference game

WHERE: Xfinity Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

WHEN: Thursday, January 22, 2015 7:00 p.m. ET

WATCH: In Person



Spartans - Better than the alternative?

The Agricultural College of the State of Michigan opened its doors on May 13, 1857. The name soon changed to Michigan Agricultural College and its first athletic teams were, in a great display of creativity and ingenuity, called the Aggies. In 1925, the institution replaced the name Michigan Agricultural College with Michigan State College. Suddenly, the name Aggies no longer seemed appropriate and "The college sponsored a contest to select a nickname to replace 'Aggies' and picked 'The Michigan Staters.'"


"In 1926, Michigan State's first southern baseball training tour provided the setting for the birth of the 'Spartans' nickname."

And here's what happened next according to MSU's website:

"George S. Alderton, then sports editor of the Lansing State Journal, decided the name was too cumbersome for newspaper writing and vowed to find a better one. Alderton contacted Jim Hasselman of Information Services to see if entries still remained from the contest. When informed that they still existed, Alderton ran across the entry name of "Spartans" and then decided that was the choice. Unfortunately, Alderton forgot to write down who submitted that particular entry, so that part of the story remains a mystery.

As Mr. Alderton explains: 'No student, alumnus or college official had called up the editor to complain about our audacity in giving the old school a new name, so we ventured into headlines with it. Happily for the experiment, the name took. It began appearing in other newspapers and when the student publication used it, that clinched it.'"

Apparently, those who participated in the vote that chose "The Michigan Staters" were either dissatisfied with their choice or were simply content to allow one Michigander to wield a veto pen over a duly elected nickname. (And if a man from the state is a Michigander shouldn't a woman from the state be called a Michigoose? Or am I making too much of a mishegas?)

Some mystery also surrounds the adoption of green and white as the school colors:

"Details are sketchy as to when Michigan State athletic teams officially began using the school colors green and white. But records of the Athletic Association of the then Michigan Agricultural College show that on April 11, 1899, the organization took steps toward adoption of a green monogram, 'to be worn only by athletes who subsequently take part in intercollegiate events.'

It is generally thought the colors came into wide use with the arrival in 1903 of Chester L. Brewer as the school's first full-time director of athletics. Brewer also coached the Spartan football, basketball, baseball and track teams, the only varsity units in existence at the time."

My favorite fact about nickname is this:

"After two days of spelling the name incorrectly with an 'o,' Mr. Alderton changed it to Spartan on a tip from a close friend."

How much more fun it would be if they were the Michigan State Spartons.

One final tidbit, Michigan State's mascot, Sparty, just celebrated his 25th anniversary having made his first appearance in the fall of 1989.

Spartans on the court - 2014-15

In both the preseason coaches and media polls, Michigan State was tabbed to finish second behind Maryland. And with good reason. The Spartans finished the 2013-14 season 23-10, were co-champions of the Big Ten with Penn State, and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before dropping a nine-point decision at North Carolina. They returned a huge and experienced front line featuring three seniors that included 6'7" Madison Williams, 6'4" Becca Mills, and 6'3" Jasmine Hines.

Because of a range of bottom-to-top injuries, from ankle sprains to knee injuries and concussions, Michigan State's roster is down to seven healthy players (though an eighth may return for Thursday's game). And it has shown in the Spartans' record, though in some respects not in their play.

Michigan State opened the season 8-3 with their losses coming by eight points to Notre Dame, nine points at Georgia, and 19 to Baylor. Along the way they defeated Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Then, players started dropping and MSU opened the conference season by losing five straight -- though none by more than nine points -- before defeating Illinois 63-56 for their lone conference win. In their most recent game, they dropped a two-point decision to Iowa Sunday afternoon.

Because Maryland will face a substantively different Michigan State squad from the team that started the season, it is probably more useful to limit our look at the Spartans' statistics to their performance in conference games only.

As one might expect, since suffering the spate of injuries, MSU has slowed their pace of play. They average about 2.5 fewer possessions per game than they did in the non-conference portion of their schedule and have played several games with fewer than 70 possessions. The Spartans score nearly 10 fewer points per game in conference play than they did in the non-conference portion of their schedule and they do not score very efficiently at only 0.84 points per possession (ppp). By contrast, Maryland's 1.06 ppp leads the conference.

On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan State yields 65.9 points per game and 0.89 ppp. Both place the Spartans more or less in the middle of the B1G pack. While the Terps are only the third best defensive team in points per game (62.5), they lead the league in defensive efficiency at 0.83 ppp. The Spartans do excel in defending the three-point shot, limiting their opponents to just 26 percent from beyond the arc. This has been an area where Maryland has struggled at times this season, so look for MSU to try to force the Terps to settle for outside shots.

Players to watch

Aerial Powers #23, sophomore, forward, 6'0". Though just a sophomore, Powers is already one of the truly special players in the Big Ten. She is third in the conference in scoring at 21.0 points per game and she pulls down 11.5 rebounds per game -- second in the conference to Betnijah Laney from Rutgers. Not only does she lead Michigan State in scoring and rebounding, but she is also tied for the team lead with 3.6 assists per game.

In conference games only, Powers has stepped up her scoring (23.6), but seen small dips in rebounds and assists. She has three games of over 30 points with two of those coming in league play. The Spartans' offense clearly revolves around her as she is responsible for over 30 percent of their scoring and takes nearly 29 percent of their shots. Powers is a capable three-point shooter at 32.6 percent and is occasionally able of burning the nets from there, such as when she made 7 of 12 in the loss to Nebraska.

Tori Jankoska, #1, sophomore, guard 5'8". Jankoska is the other Spartans player opposing defenses have had difficulty stopping. The sophomore averages 16.8 points per game, is tied with Powers for the team lead in assists, and pulls down over six rebounds from her guard position. Jankoska's best performance came against Syracuse when she scored 25 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and added 4 assists.


Maryland and Michigan State have met three times -- all in the Brenda Frese era -- and the Terps have recorded double-digit wins in each of the three previous meetings. The first and closest of the three games came at the 2005 Junkanoo Jam as Maryland, on their way to winning the National Championship, rolled to a 75-61 win. The teams next met in College Park in January 2007 and Maryland simply razed the Spartans in a 97-57 rout. Most recently, the teams played in a second-round NCAA Tournament game, also played at Maryland. This was Maryland's season of injuries when the Terps added volleyball player Caitlin Adams to have an eighth player on the roster. Maryland picked up another lopsided win 74-49.

In conclusion

Thursday's game is another one that Maryland should dominate. Look for the Terps to try to speed the game up by getting out and running at every opportunity. Not only is this when the Terrapins are at their best, but it will also allow them to use their depth to wear down a depleted Spartans squad.

In the quarter-court offense, the Terps will need to get the ball inside to Brionna Jones and try to both create foul trouble and wear down the thin MSU front line. They need to avoid settling for the three-point shot because the Spartans defend that well and are the second-best team in defensive rebound percentage in league play, just behind Nebraska and just ahead of Maryland.

Illinois' active 3-2 match-up zone forced Maryland into 22 turnovers -- their highest total since turning over the ball 24 times against Washington State. However, Michigan State forces only 12 turnovers per game in conference play with only 16.8 percent of the opponents possessions ending in a turnover. If Maryland can control the pace, exert themselves on the glass, and return to keeping their turnover total in the low teens, the Terps should come away with an easy win.

The GAMER prediction system predicts a comfortable 88-58 Maryland win and places the chances of a Terrapins triumph at 90.6 percent.