Monday, February 9, 2009

Michigan Preview

The Spartans head down to their little' sisters house tonight to try and extend their lead over second place Purdue to three games. It's a big game for Michigan also as they are coming off of their annual January collapse and are in danger of not making the NCAA. Their season started off very strong as they had the most impressive non-conference resume with wins over Duke and UCLA. But, once Big Ten play started, they have struggled mightily and they will look to get it going as their biggest rival comes to town.

Michigan (15-9 Overall, 5-6 in the Big Ten)

Key Wins:
vs. UCLA 55-52 (Neutral)
vs. Duke 81-73
vs. Illinois 74-64

Key Losses:
vs. Duke 71-56 (Neutral)
at Maryland 75-70
at UConn 69-61

Why Michigan Could Win
1) Turnover Margin - Michigan currently is third in conference in regards to turnover margin at +1 per game. As we have seen so far this year, the 1-3-1 has given us trouble at times. Without question, Michigan's will be the most athletic and most difficult version that we face. Then, to top it off, the Wolverines don't really turn the ball over themselves. If Michigan State has more than 15 turnovers, I don't see how they win this game.
2) Three Point Shooting - Michigan is the definition of a team living and dying by the three. Although they rank 10th in the conference with regards to 3-pt % (30%), they also shoot more from behind the arc than any Big Ten team. In fact, so far this season, 47% of all shot Wolverine shot attempts have been three pointers. That is amazing. The large number of three point attempts that Michigan will put up combined with how hot opposing teams seem to get against Michigan State makes me nervous. If the Wolverines do not shoot well, it could be blow out city for the Spartans.
3) Free Throws - Spartan fans can only hope that this game is not decided by the referees as Michigan is second in the league when it comes to team FT% (75%). I don't think that Tom Izzo will be fouling these guys with three minutes left if we are somehow losing this game.
4. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims - Both of these guys have the potential on offense to take over a game. Manny Harris is their primary scoring option and is averaging 15.3 ppg. He also is a surprisingly good rebounder and leads the team with 7 rpg within the Big Ten. Sims is essentially their lone inside presence and has real talent. Unfortunately for him, he has seen a significant drop in his numbers since conference play has started. I think this is a combination of Michigan being too reliant on three-point shooting and him not being aggressive enough rebounding the ball. Hopefully they don't get this straightened out in time for us.

Why Michigan State Can Win:
1) Rebounding - The backbone of MSU basketball will be essential to winning this game. The Spartan's lead the league with a +13 rpg margin while the Wolverines are 7th at -1 rpg. The fact that Michigan will be playing their 1-3-1 defense makes me think that Michigan State will improve on this impressive stat even more. If we do not rebound well, we have no chance of winning.
2) Inside Presence - The Spartans clearly have an advantage over the Wolverines when it comes to points in the paint. I expect the Michigan State forwards to have their way with Michigan's 4 guard lineup. We have to exploit their lack of size down low offensively and get easy baskets. I am hoping that Marquise Gray gets significant time as this could be his last game against Michigan. He may be a liability, however, if he has to guard a smaller player on the perimeter.
3) Kalin Lucas - The thing I like most about Kalin is that whether or not he shoots well, he always impacts the game. The question is how much of an impact will he have tonight? If he can effectively run the offense and limit turnovers, we will win this game convincingly.
4) Durrell Summers/Chris Allen - If one of these guys comes to play tonight, the game is over. If both play average we will still win. But if Summers has another 0-8 night from the three point line coupled with a poor performance from Allen, we will lose miserably. As we will see through the rest of the season, our fate rests on the backs of these two young men.

For me, tonight's game comes down to whose offense is going to play better. While Michigan State's is more consistent, I think that Michigan is more capable of going off for 90 points in an intense rivalry game. If the Wolverines are fortunate enough to get out to a big lead, Michigan State must find consistent ways to counter offensively and not just rely on defense to get them back into the game.

With regards to the offenses, there are two keys to the game. The first is how well will Michigan shoot from behind the arc. If they shoot close to 40% or better, I think that it will be a long night for the Spartans. The second key will be the play of Chris Allen and Durrell Summers. As mentioned above, we need one of these guys to step up and play well in order for our offense to truly work.

In the end, I see the Spartans grinding this one out in a hostile environment that they haven't won at since 2005. I expect a big swing in the score at some point due to Michigan's streaky shooting but MSU will hold on.

Michigan State over Michigan 68-62

Other Game Notes
1) No MSU Player Has Won In Ann Arbor - Just to warn you before the announcers say this over and over tonight. This has been due more to scheduling than how good Michigan is. MSU hasn't played in Crysler Arena since 2006.
2) 97% Chance Morgan is Out Tonight - Knowing this, I will say that I there is a 100% chance that Morgan might play.
3) Travis Walton Has a Cold - He is expected to play, but revealed the illness to the LSJ today.
4) Manny Harris Can't Play D? - Dan Dackich, IU's ex-interim coach who now has a radio show in Indianapolis, told a story earlier this year about Manny Harris' lack of defense. He explained that before IU played Michigan last year, Kelvin Sampson made a highlight reel exclusively featuring Manny Harris' lack of defense. Apparently it was full of opponents breezing by Harris and Sampson told his guards that they all should have career nights against him. Obviously, Harris has gotten better on the defensive end over the last year. This is evident by his 7 rebounds per game within the conference, but I still thought that was funny. For the record, Dan Dackich blasted an email of mine on his show last week when I questioned him on whether or not he thought Izzo got too much attention nationally. Add him to the list of haters I guess.
5) Copperyale Harris - How do you get Manny from that? He must have just realized how stupid a name like Copperyale is.

"This is still the biggest rivalry for Michigan State -- no question. I want it to be a good rivalry. Hell, the media members need something to write about. I want that for all of you."
--Tom Izzo

Hey coach, the Spartan Nation has spoken and they have said that they want Michigan to be our bitch, not our rival.

"I ain't got the Raymar, just a little stuffy nose." -- Travis Walton

God only knows what "The Raymar" is.

Tomorrow - Michigan Post Game

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