By now, the many comparisons between the 2014 national champion Connecticut Huskies and the 2015 Michigan State Spartans have been widely discussed, as pointed out (perhaps not for the first time) in the tweet below:
— Erik Chard (@21EChard) March 30, 2015
Although these teams had nearly identical paths to the Final Four, are there similarities between these two teams on the court? We take a look.
Star guard takes over
Connecticut's title run was led by guard Shabazz Napier, who led all players in the 2014 NCAA Tournament in scoring with 127 points, en route to being named the most outstanding player in the Final Four.
Napier averaged 17.5 points per game entering the NCAA Tournament, but then stepped it up, averaging 21.2 points, good for 29.5 percent of Connecticut's points in the tournament.
Enter Travis Trice for Michigan State. Trice averaged 14.8 points for the Spartans entering the tournament; in Michigan State's four tournament games, he is up to 19.8 points per game.
The similarities between the guards do not end at scoring. In addition to leading the Huskies in scoring, Napier led them in assists last season, averaging 4.9 per game. Trice also leads the Spartans in both scoring and assists, averaging 5.1 assists per game.
Last year's Connecticut team averaged 71.8 points per game and allowed 63.2 per game. Michigan State is averaging 71.4 points per game and also allowing 63.2 per game.
Not only have they held opponents to the same number of points per game, but they have also done so on almost identical shooting. Connecticut's opponents shot 39.2 percent from the field last season, and Michigan State's opponents are shooting 39.3 percent, both of which rank in the top 25 of Division I in each respective season.
Connecticut shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range in 2014, 30th in the nation, and 30 percent of its points came from 3-point field goals.
Michigan State is shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range this season, 31st in the nation, and 31.7 percent of its points come from 3-pointers.
Much like Connecticut last season, Michigan State has not turned over the ball much this season.
Last year, the Huskies averaged 11.4 turnovers per game, good for a 17.3 turnover percentage, both of which were below the national average. This season, Michigan State is averaging 11.2 turnovers per game, which equates to a 17.4 turnover percentage, both of which rank the Spartans in the top 100.