Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Minnesota Preview #2

Michigan State looks to bounce back from a devastating loss against Penn State by taking on the Gophers at home.

Minnesota (12-0) Ranked #21 in both polls

Key Wins:
vs. Louisville 70-64
vs. Wisconsin 78-74
vs. Penn State 79-59
vs. Illinois 59-36

Key Losses:
vs. Michigan State 70-58
at Northwestern 74-65

Why Minnesota Could Win:
1. Surprisingly Good Defense - Coming into the Big Ten season, Minnesota was ranked 8th in the conference in scoring defense. That was even with a weak non-conference schedule. But since conference play has started, they are only giving up 61 points per game which is good enough for third in the Big Ten. They lead the league in blocks and steals and are second in FG defense. Look for Al Nolan to lead a high pressure defense to try and make the Spartans turn the ball over.
2. Lawrence Westbrook is Playing Well - Westbrook has had a great Big Ten season so far. He is averaging 15 points per game and is shooting over 44% from the 3-pt line within conference play. I expect him to play better than he did against us the first time.
3. Raymar Morgan Out - We will undoubtedly miss his defense in this game. I hope Izzo thinks twice about playing Thornton more as this would make us miss Raymar even more. In case you were wondering, Morgan finished with a unflattering double-double the last time these two teams played. He had 11 points on 4-11 shooting.
4. Michigan State's Insistence to Shoot Outside Shots - If we don't pound the ball down low and settle for jump shots, I think we are at the mercy of the basketball Gods to grant us a good shooting night. I would like to see us get some good posessions in the paint that do not come off of offensive rebounds.
5. Goran Suton's Right Knee - He hurt it on Monday, but he should play. If he doesn't, I do not think we will have a chance to win.

Why Michigan State Can Snap This 2-Game Home Losing Streak:
1. Poor Gopher 3-Point Shooting - With the last two opponents shooting the lights out of the Breslin, I take comfort in the fact that the Gophers are only shooting 33% from behind the arc. With our luck, however, Blake Hoffarber will probably get his third consecutive trip the ESPYs with another miracle shot against us. See the videos at the bottom of this post if you don't know what I'm talking about.
2. Rebounding - We dominated the last game with a margin of +22. That included a 23-11 edge in offense rebounds. Minnesota has improved since this game, but I don't see them outrebounding us at home.
3. Kalin Lucas - He had a phenomenal game in the first match up and with the recent loss, I expect him to play with a purpose. We will see if Al Nolen can stop him.

Unfortunately, I think this game will come down to how well the Spartans shoot the ball from the outside. I think we could win the game if we focus on getting the ball inside, but we haven't done that so far this season, so I don't know what would make Izzo do it now. Either way, I think our players will be ready to play despite Minnesota's harassing defense. The Spartans will escape a close one.

Michigan State over Minnesota 69-66.

Around the Big Ten
1) Ohio State Clips Purdue at Home - The Buckeyes beat Purdue in overtime behind great shooting. They shot 60% against the Boilermakers, which is incredible given Purdue's excellent defense. This game featured two of the worst plays ever to end regulation with the score tied. Evan Turner turned the ball over dribbling to the basket and Matt Painter elected not to call a timeout so that E'Twaun Moore could penetrate in the lane for some off-balanced shot. Luckily for us, it didn't go down.

Tomorrow: Minnesota Post Game #2. (Post will be up later in the evening due to real life)

Blake Hoffarber's Highlight Reels That Got Him to the ESPY's Two Years In a Row

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