Saturday, February 28, 2009

Illinois Preview and DVD Giveaway

Illinois (23-6 overall, 11-5 in conference)

Why Illinois Could Win:
1) Defense - The Illini currently lead the Big Ten in scoring defense allowing just over 55 points per game within the conference. They are holding their opponents to less than 39% shooting which also leads the Big Ten.
2) Efficient Passing - Illinois tops the conference in both assists and in assist-to-turnover ratio. They are also converting on more than 44% of their shots from the field.
3) Turnovers - The Illini don't really create a lot of turnovers, but they also don't turn the ball over themselves very much. Currently they are third in the league at +1.4. Any team that is has a margin over 0 could be trouble for Michigan State.
4) Home Court Advantage - Last year's victory at Illinois marked Michigan State's first win at Assembly Hall since 2002. Within that streak, we have had some miserable losses including the 2003 70-40 drubbing. I personally hate it when we play there, but I think that Orange Krush is great. If not for anything else, I like the orange shirts. It's better than plain white. The Izzone needs to go back to green by the way. Bring back the 1998 XLs with the huge neck holes for everyone to where.

Keys to a Michigan State Victory:
1) Efficient Offense - The scary part of going over the first Illinois game was how we actually shot okay against them, but yet the game was still close. In the first contest, MSU finished shooting 40% from the field. Tomorrow, we will need a similarly good percentage to assure a victory. We won't be able to rely solely on defense like we have in the past because Illinois has a great defense to. I know it is rocket science, but in order to beat teams, you have to score more points that the other guy. We will probably need to open things up a little bit on the break and if it's not there, we will have to pound it inside.
2) Rebounds - We dominated the first game in this area with a 42-30 edge. They did manage 12 offensive boards, however, and this was when we had a healthy Raymar Morgan.
3) Limit Turnovers - Obviously. The first matchup between these two teams was when our turnover problem first became exposed. We had 18 total and luckily, the Illini had an uncharacteristic 18 themselves. We can't have 18 again.
4) Bench - We will need someone from the bench to step up for us. In the last game, we got a great spark from Marquis Gray with 11 points in 15 minutes. Who is going to step up for us in this game?

Tomorrow's game could be a defining moment for this Michigan State basketball team. They are facing a team that is sitting in second place within the conference and are going into a hostile environment to play for at least a share of the conference title. A win here and the Spartans would create some momentum that could potentially lead to a string of victories and even allow us to sneak into a number one seed if other teams were to lose.

The task at hand, however, is not easy. Traditionally, the Spartans don't play well down at Assembly Hall and the Illini have only lost two games at home so far. They even blew Purdue out earlier in the year in front of the Orange Krush.

For much of the Big Ten season, our offense has not been clicking. We haven't shot the ball very well and in the last four games, we haven't eclipsed the 70-point mark a single time. We also continue to turn the ball over carelessly despite Coach Izzo saying after every game how they are working on it. The failure to improve in these two areas leads me to go with the Illini in this matchup, especially at Assembly Hall.

Illinois over Michigan State 64-51

Other Michigan State Notes
1) Izzo Backtracking On Shaving His Head - Apparently, at the beginning of the season, Izzo said that he would shave his head if we won the Big Ten regular season title in light of the players cutting their own hair. Now he says that he will probably do it if they win it outright. If he was to do this, I would be shocked. It is so Bruce Pearl-ish, but I think it would be funny. He would get a lot of national attention for doing so, which might even help us out a smidge.
2) Durrell Summers Ankle is Fine - He practiced yesterday and should be ready to go for tomorrow.

"Yeah, the door's been opened wider, but I want to win coming through the front door, not the back door."
--Tom Izzo after Purdue's loss to Michigan

Most of us would agree with this statement, but I must caution everyone that we definitely could lose to Indiana. Yeah, Indiana. They are a great rebounding team and in the first half of our game earlier this year, they played us very tough. The game was closer than the 75-57 score indicated. If for nothing else, we should be worried because I will be in attendance at that game. Michigan State athletics is 3-9 in games that I attend in the state of Indiana.

DVD Giveaway
I am giving away a free DVD of "The Greatest Stories of Michigan State Basketball" complements of Genius products to the reader with the closest prediction for Sunday's game at Illinois. Either post a comment to the website or send me an email with your prediction, the margin of victory and the total points. Who ever picks the correct team and has the closest margin of victory will win a free copy. Total points will be used for any tiebreakers.

So far, I don't have that many entries, so your chances of winning are really good.

Tomorrow: Illinois Post Game (probably a few hours after the game)

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