Friday, January 9, 2009

Kansas Preview

Kansas (11-3 overall, 0-0 in the Big 12)

Key Wins:
vs Washington 73-54 (neutral court)
vs Tenessee 92-85

Key Losses:
Syracuse 89-81 OT (neutral court)
UMass 61-60 (neutral court)
at Arizona 84-67

Why Kansas could win:
1) Solid Defense - The Jayhawks enter this game with impressive defensive statistics. They are holding their opponents to 38% shooting from the field and are second in the Big 12 in blocks averaging just over 5 per game. If they can pressure Michigan State defensively, it could be a long day for the Spartans.
2) Good Rebounding - Kansas is second in the Big 12 in regards to rebounding margin at +7.6 per game. They are especially good at offensive rebounding averaging over 14 per game. I don't see any way that Michigan State can win if they were to get out rebounded by the Jayhawks. It should be a very interesting subplot to the game.
3) Great FT shooting - Unlike MSU, Kansas is hitting their free throws with great success. As a team they are converting on 73% of their attempts. If it is a close game or if the referees get whistle happy, they will have the advantage.
4) Sherron Collins - A strong individual performance by their star guard could lead Kansas to a victory. He can run the floor, is a great passer, and can score when he needs to. He currently is averaging over 17ppg and 5 assists.
5) Cole Aldrich - He is having a great sophomore year after hardly seeing the floor during Kansas' championship run last year. He is second on the team in scoring at 15.7 ppg and leads the team with 9.9 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per contest. He is listed at 6-11, 245lbs and has had 8 double-doubles so far this season. I expect him to be a dominant force in the middle on both ends of the court. He may be the difference in this game.

Why Michigan State could win:
1) The Spartan offense is rolling - The Spartans are on an incredibly hot shooting streak since losing to North Carolina. They are averaging nearly 80 ppg and holding their opponents to 61ppg. Their three point shooting has seen a drastic improvement, especially since they have started conference play. They will need this hot shooting streak to continue if they want to counter the high scoring Kansas offense.
2) Rebounding- As mentioned above, the rebounding margin will be key to a MSU victory. I believe that both teams win games primarily by focusing on rebounding. I think the Spartans will have the advantage in this area due to the emphasis that Coach Izzo places on cleaning up the boards.
3) Kalin Lucas is on fire - He is having a great second half of the season. Since the Oakland game, he has a scoring dimension to his game that only adds to an already superb assist/turnover ratio. Hopefully he can continue this in front of a national audience.
4) Poor KU 3-pt defense - So far this season, KU is allowing opponents to shoot more than 34% from beyond the arc. Look for Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas to get plenty of opportunities to shoot the long ball. If they get hot, the Jayhawks will be a world of trouble.
5) Deeper Bench - Kansas has only 7 players that average more than 10 minutes per game. This is unusual because they really like to push the ball up the court. If the contest becomes a run and gun type of game, Michigan State will have the advantage due to a deeper bench.

At first glance, this game appears to be a hot Michigan State team playing a rebuilding Kansas team that probably lacks the talent that they are used to in Lawrence. But after looking at the two teams on paper, the two teams appear to be very similar in regards to their strengths and weaknesses. Both are averaging close to 80 points per game and both rely heavily on offensive rebounding to do so. Because of this, I think who ever wins the rebounding battle will ultimately win the game. The obvious player to watch out for is Sherron Collins. He can heat up quickly and really dictate a game. But, I am really worried about Cole Aldrich and his 8 double-doubles so far this season. Our interior defense has not been good since we started conference play and he could cause Suton to get into foul trouble early.

In the end I see the Spartans winning the battle on the boards and coming away with the victory in dramatic fashion.

MSU over Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk 81-79

Tomorrow: I will be trying to get a Kansas post game post up, but I am leaving early Sunday to go to Jamaica for a week. I may have a guest blogger during this time as I do not think I will have internet access.

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