Game 25: Michigan State at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt

: Michigan State (19-4) at Michigan  (15-9)
: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Tuesday, February 9th, 7 PM ET
: MSU by 4 (and rising)
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, MSU KenPom Profile
: MGoBlue, WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050)
Opposition Blog:
Spartans Weblog

Programming Note: I got tapped to guest blog over at MGoBlog so head over there to check out my attempt to put my feelings about this rivalry on paper. And just in case you missed it, KJ and I posted Q&As about our respective teams.

Michigan tries to build off of their impressive performance at UConn with their fifth match-up against a top 10 team this year. Michigan State has hit some rough patches this year but they are in the drivers seat in the Big Ten title and look like they will grab their first conference crown since 2001. In previous years the Spartans have continuously fell short of the Big Ten championship because of their inability to win on the road — this isn’t your big brother’s Spartan team, Michigan State is 5-0 on the road in conference play, a stark improvement over years past.  Michigan State’s two conference losses have actually come in the friendly confines of the Jack Breslin Center.

So how did this Michigan State team get to 19-4? Rebounding, rebounding, and more rebounding. Michigan State is easily the best rebounding team in the country. They are the only team that ranks in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. Michigan State has rebounded over 40% of their misses in 12 of their 23 games, compare that to Michigan who has posted an offensive rebounded percentage over 40% just 5 times this year.

Beyond rebounding the Spartans don’t do any specific thing exceptionally well. Their overall adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies both rank in the top 30 nationally. Their offense comes in 10th at 116.0 while their defense only allowed 90.4 (27th). Michigan State reached their top 10 offensive rating while not ranking in the top 50 in any single key component. Their defense on the other hand ranks 27th but doesn’t rank in the top 100 in any single defensive component besides rebounding.

Luckily for the Spartans there aren’t any glaring weaknesses on their resume either. If I had to pick things to call “weaknesses” I would say that their free throw shooting percentage and turnover numbers leave something to be desired but they are not far from national averages. The MSU recipe for success is clear: dominate the glass and do a solid but unspectacular job at everything.

All of this rebounding talk has to be troubling for Michigan fans. Michigan hasn’t done a good job on the glass all year, their offensive rebounding percentage of 30.2% ranks 259th and their defensive rebounding percentage of 76.3% ranks 181st. Not to mention the fact that UConn just dominated Michigan on the boards, pulling down over 50% of their misses. The encouraging part is that Michigan has found ways to win even when being out-rebounded. This strategy revolves around turnovers, Michigan needs to win the turnover battle to help make up for the almost certain MSU domination on the glass.

Michigan has found a little bit of life after inserting CJ Lee and Zack Gibson into the starting line up and I wouldn’t expect any changes tonight. Kelvin Grady will be locked on the bench until he picks up his defense, especially when the opposing point guard is Kalin Lucas.

Izzo is claiming that Raymar Morgan won’t play because he is still battling pneumonia, mono, the flu, and every other diagnosis out there. I’ll believe it when I see it because I’m sure Ray would love to play in this one and he poses a big matchup problem for Michigan. I’m sure Michigan fans are familiar with point guard Kalin Lucas and freshman power forward Delvon Roe as they both were Michigan recruits at one time. Goran Suton provides the scoring punch inside and Travis Walton is the lockdown defender that will undoubtedly draw the Manny Harris assignment.

Michigan needs to bring their “A” game to have a chance against the Spartans and they will definitely need a boost from the supporting cast. That could mean anyone from Laval Lucas-Perry to Stu Douglass to Zack Gibson. Michigan won’t beat MSU by just leaning on the “big 2”. Then again, I don’t think they can win without solid games from both Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. Michigan State just isn’t the type of team you can beat with a mediocre performance.

Most bracketologists have Michigan as one of the last teams out or the last teams in and the consensus is that a 9-9 in conference record would punch Michigan’s ticket to the dance. To get there Michigan is going to have to win some tough games and a win tonight would be a huge step in the right direction.

Thoughts, predictions, and in-game discussion go in the comments.

Pre-Game Reading (updated throughout the day):

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  • Keith Davis

    Game was horrible. Little movement, can’t shoot, this is all starting to get repetitive in Big Ten games (with, maybe, two exceptions).

    By the way, “Yinka Double Dare” might be my favorite name of any poster on here. It at least made me smile…unlike the game tonight.

  • Avery Queen

    two very poor decisions by manny down the stretch. stu also committing stupid foul after stupid foul really hurt. overall just a pathetic game aside from sims obviously. can’t see us coming out and finishing the season strong now but who knows.

  • RE: Copperyale.

    Remember that this kid is a sophomore. And that, realistically, he has never played organized basketball before (AAU does not count). So basically, hes a tremendous basketball player, in his 2nd year of actual coaching at a high level. A sophomore.

    Yes, Copperyale is a moron, but luckily, he’s going to be around for another 2 years and he has the talent to develop. I do not like his shot motion, at all. Why was he fading away on that 3?

    Ugh, I forgot how annoying spartyfans are.

  • AG2

    I’m tired of 2-3 zone, terrible shooting, and bad officiating being passed off as defense in the Big Ten.

  • Paul

    One of the worse games I’ve been to. Simmy showed up. The rest of the team didn’t. Horrible shooting.

  • Keith Davis

    I remember being hyped for the (I believe) ’97 team (Taylor, Traylor, Baston, etc.) and then feeling kicked in the stomach when they fell apart. Sure, they ended up winning the NIT, but that was one of the most underachieving teams I have ever watched. More turnovers than assists was the norm for that team. It was almost expected, but…

    When this year’s team has more turnovers than assists I cringe because I don’t expect it. And, really, 13 turnovers (tonight) isn’t terrible. I keep reminding myself that THIS YEAR’S TEAM HAS OVERACHIEVED. No matter how ugly a few of these games have been, I honestly thought 15 wins would be a stretch and beating two #4’s along the way never even came to mind before the season.

    Six games left. NCAA, NIT, I don’t even care right now. If they can be competitive for the remaining six games, grab a win or two–or four–I’ll consider this team a success.

    The ’97 team was loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans and realistically should have had the most dominating frontcourt in college basketball. This year’s team? Walk-ons and transfers, along with Manny and Peedi, two kids who stuck with the program because they believed in Beilein and were confident they could help turn this program around. And, we have all seen glimpses this season that has allowed us to believe. That’s why we check UMHoops every day, why we watch every game, why we come back here and post/discuss their most recent performance. Despite some disappointing losses, I’ve enjoyed watching this team play a helluva lot more than I did watching a team with limitless talent squander away their season.

  • Ken in Las Vegas

    What the hell was that. Whaaaattt the helllllll wasss thaaattt. Biggest game of the season and we put up 15 points in the first half. We have to be the worst 3 point shooting team in the Big Ten now. Which is great considering we take more than anybody. Just a supreme choke job. Michigan State was basically giving us that game. Here take it. All you have to do is score 60 points. Maybe hold on to a few loose balls. Hit 20% of your threes. Hit 70% of your free throws. That’s all you have to do. Here it is. Nope, thanks for the offer, but we’re too busy shitting down our leg and acting like we are on the road. I’m so dejected right now.

  • Dave

    id imagine that this game pretty much seals the fate of trey zeigler NOT coming to michigan ……..its unfortunate how things work out, but i guess you never know

  • I don’t think one game is going to determine a recruit’s fortune… Disappointing certainly though.

  • AG2

    Can Michigan win all 4 of our next 4 games? @ NW, Minnesota, @ Iowa, Purdue. Nothing says tourney team like a 4 game winning streak in late February.

  • I am wondering if Novaks minutes should be cut back, we are not getting much of anything from him. He played 37 minutes and scored 4 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.

  • RB

    Can Beilein mix in a set play every once in a while to get the offense going???

  • Dave

    i dont know who it was but i was arguing with somebody or many people about getting high caliber players and more than 1 every class and people were saying they were suprised…….i just was thinking and i began looking at tom crean and indiana….he has 3 top 100 and maybe a 4th coming in next season, and beilein is just as credible and proven coach as crean if not more, so why can crean pulls these players…..michigans history is just as good as indiana……im not buying that the facilities are the only reason players are going to schools like that over michigan…..i think beilein is just not that good of a recruiter for someone considered one of the best coaches in the game……..if tom crean and others can land several of the best players in the country year after year then beilein should be able to at Michigan without any problems, but yet we do not

  • Dave

    if you are a great coach like people say he is then it should be effortless, whether they are winning or not becuase that has no effect on tom crean and indiana they are awful and are still obtaining big time recruits, same with minnesota, even though tubby has won a nat. champ, nonetheless beilein is considered as good of a coach as any…… whats the problem?

    i dont wanna hear that we have to win in order to get players cause i think thats nonsense, i think belien is a bad recruiter……..any coach thats nationally praised should be able to get just about any player with or without winning

  • this particular lineup was on the floor tonight,

    Lee, Merritt, Shepard, Sims, and I believe Novak.

    Sorry but that’s just foolish.

  • Giddings

    The most likely scenario now that would get us in is to win our next 4 games (at NW, Minny, at Iowa, Purdue), then beat Iowa/Indiana in the first round of the BTT. It’s not totally farfetched, especially if Hummel doesn’t play when the Boilers come to town. If we fall in any of those games, I’m not so crazy about our NCAA hopes resting on stealing a victory at Wisconsin or at Minnesota.

    If we only win 3 of our remaining 6, then we’ll almost certainly play in the 8/9 game of the BTT against Northwestern… with the winner taking on MSU. If we could somehow avenge tonight’s loss and advance to the semis, that would put us right at the cusp of the NCAAs. If we only win 2 of our remaining 6, we would have to at least get to the BTT finals and possibly win the whole thing to get in.

    You really don’t think MSU plays physical basketball? How do they lead the country in rebounding every year? Must be all the 7 footers?
    There is no doubt MSU runs/pushes the ball up the court……they always have since Jud was there. Playing physical/aggressive hoops is the only way to play. Unless you have a bunch of lottery picks like 20 years ago(MICHIGAN 1989) you have to win with D!

    MICHIGAN lost because they have no 4. Novak tried his hardest but he could not handle Roe inside.
    MICHIGAN will be favored to win the next 4 games. The PURDUE game will be interesting because neither team has more than one good post player.