Game 19: Michigan State at Michigan Preview

Basics
Who: No. 9 Michigan State (15-3, 4-1 B10) at No. 19 Michigan (14-4, 4-2 B10) split-old-new-spartans-logo2jpg-80cf96e5cad6ebe9_large[1]
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
TV: ESPN / ESPN3
Radio: MGoBlue, WWJ 950AM, WWWW 102.9 FM, Sirius 91, XM 91
More: Beilein Video, Hardaway, Douglass and Novak Video, Pick to Click, KJ Opposition Q&A, My Q&A at TOC

Michigan and Michigan State face off as ranked foes for the first time since 1998 in a game that could be a turning point in both seasons. Both teams are a half game apart at the top of the Big Ten standings but enter the game on the heels of deflating road losses. Tom Izzo reiterated that tonight’s game “isn’t life or death”, but at this point its tough to ignore the importance of this rivalry matchup for both programs. The Spartans look to avenge the Wolverines’ sweep a season ago whereas Michigan players point out that they are hungry to prove last season “wasn’t a fluke”.

47534_act_bkc_iowa8_011012f[1]
Keith Appling & Draymond Green average over 34 points per game in conference play

There were questions about this Michigan State team headed into the season but after 18 games it’s pretty clear that Tom Izzo has righted the ship in East Lansing. The Spartans are 15-3 on the season and have improved in almost every statistical category from a season ago and rattled off a 15 game winning streak after losing their first two games – against North Carolina and Duke on neutral sites.

Offensively, this is a vintage Michigan State team and you should know what to expect if you’ve watched the Spartans over the last decade. Izzo’s team is dominant on the offensive glass, rebounding 39% of their missed shots, and is generally solid in each of the other three factors. They aren’t the best shooting team but they are more than adequate inside (52%), where they take roughly three out of every four shots, and outside (36%). One-third of the way through the Big Ten season, Michigan State is the most effective offense in the conference, scoring 1.15 points per possession in conference games. After sputtering out of the gate, failing to surpass 1 point-per-possession in four of its first five games, Michigan State has scored at least one point-per-trip in all but one (an overtime win at Wisconsin) of its last 13 games.

Michigan State is no slouch on the defensive end of the floor either. The Spartans rank 9th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings and do a great job at the two most important elements of defense: field goal defense and defensive rebounding. Opponents make just 42% of their twos and 30% of their threes against the Spartans and rebound just 27% of their missed shots. Michigan State doesn’t turn opponents over very often and tends to surrender a few too many free throws but every shot is going to be contested. It will be key for Michigan to not only hit some early threes but get to the free throw line and try to pick up some easy points at home.

AP111203127647[1]

The Match-Ups

  • Trey Burke vs. Keith Appling: The No. 5 (Appling) and No. 7 scorers (and No. 2 and 3 assist men) in Big Ten games go head-to-head in what might be the most intriguing match-up of the game. Both point guards are quick and capable scorers but will both relish the opportunity to stop the other as much or more than scoring the ball. Burke did an admirable job against Jordan Taylor but Appling presents a different test. Can Burke keep Appling out of transition? Can Appling and his big men slow down Michigan’s screen-and-roll action?
  • Zack Novak and Evan Smotrycz vs. Draymond Green: If Burke vs. Appling is the most interesting positional battle, the four position is the most important. Green and Novak are two of, if not the, best leaders in the Big Ten. Both understand the rivalry and the magnitude of this game and will look to make a difference. Smotrycz is in the midst of one of the worst slumps of his career but Michigan needs his offense. The potential mismatches here are dazzling. Smotrycz and Novak can pull green away from the basket with the three point shot while Green will look to do the same against Smotrycz while posting up Novak.
  • Jordan Morgan vs. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix: The most important aspect of this match-up is Michigan limiting Payne and Nix on the offensive glass. After that, the Wolverines need to put them in uncomfortable situations defensively. Both players would prefer to stay within a couple feet of the hoop defensively so look for Michigan to try to pull them away from the basket, we should certainly see Smotrycz at the five, and exploit the Spartan bigs by cutting to the basket.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Brandon Wood and Branden Dawson: Tom Izzo revealed that he plans to use just about everyone to defend Hardaway but Wood and Dawson are his primary options. Hardaway is bigger than Wood and quicker than Dawson but at times it feels like his greatest defender is his own emotions. Hardaway is likely to spend time defending Dawson at the other end which will pose his most difficult defensive rebounding challenge of the season. As a reminder, this is what Hardaway did last year. Scoring 20 points in the second half alone:

  • The Benches: Stu Douglass, Matt Vogrich, Blake McLimans, Travis Trice, Austin Thornton, Brandan Kearney, Others
    Michigan State is the deeper team but I think Douglass remains the most important substitute. Douglass has been shooting the ball well lately, 11-of-25 (44%) on Big Ten threes, and is Michigan’s most disciplined perimeter defender, certainly able to spell Burke on Appling. Small ball worked extremely well for the Wolverines last year and without Horford on the bench it’s very likely that we’ll see plenty of the Burke-Douglass-Hardaway-Novak-Smotrycz lineup tonight. Fouls could be costly as well, if Morgan and/or Smotrycz pick up early fouls then McLimans could be called on for extended action against the Spartan front line.

Michigan needs a spark. The Wolverines appeared lifeless in Iowa City and are on the verge of a real tailspin, entering the toughest stretch of schedule all season, if they can’t figure out their offensive woes against Michigan State. The number one key for Michigan in this game is to control the tempo. That doesn’t mean that the Wolverines need to play 60 possession game to win, it means that they need to prevent Michigan State from getting easy opportunities in transition. The Wolverines have been very effective pushing the ball in spots themselves and a couple of early baskets in transition could be a much needed offensive confidence boost.

We’ve seen this Michigan offense clicking on all cylinders this season but we’ve also seen it struggle. Usually when Michigan is struggling it’s because the Wolverines miss open looks when opponents pack the lane and dare them to shoot the three. If Michigan hits a few of those threes early then it opens up the back cuts, the pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop and an array of other bells and whistles that the Wolverines want to run. To compound matters, look for Michigan State to use more of the hard hedge that has been so effective against Michigan’s pick-and-roll action. Burke needs to find ways to get Morgan the ball on the roll, or exploit Michigan State’s slower big men with his quickness.

It’s tough to do, but a strong defensive rebounding performance against Michigan State can be a debilitating blow to the Spartan offense. That was a key for Michigan in East Lansing last year but the Wolverines proved it wasn’t necessary to win by winning in Ann Arbor despite surrendering numerous second chances. Nix, Dawson, Payne and Green are all great offensive rebounders that have some sort of size, strength or athleticism advantage in their respective match-ups. Neutralizing these advantages would be a huge win for Michigan.


Pomeroy likes the Spartans, even on the road, by a final score of 68-64. He gives Michigan a 34% chance at the home upset while Vegas has Michigan State as a two point favorite. I don’t think the emotions of this rivalry can be overstated. Tim Hardaway Jr. emphasized how important it was to avoid becoming “emotionally drunk” while Evan Smotrycz could really use a couple of early baskets to boost his confidence. On Michigan State’s side, Draymond Green emphasizes that the rivalry is “personal” and he’s struggled against the Wolverines lately.

  • Mith

    I believe Pomeroy gave Iowa a 33%  chance of beating us last week and we know how that turned out.  So, I’m not too worried about Pomeroy.

    MSU is a good team, but so are we.  With a tough schedule coming up I feel like we’ve got to take this one tonight.  I’ll take Blue 63-59.

    • Jeff

      Believe he also had Wisconsin as a significant favorite over us.

      • gpsimms

        We realize that when someone predicts a 33% chance of an upset, and the upset occurs, that the person is not wrong, right?

        • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

          :-)

          • gpsimms

            (not that I didn’t think wiscy was overrated by kenpom’s system…but so did kenpom)

        • Jeff

          lol. Just saying if Michigan would lose two out of every three at home to MSU (if they played that much) then my estimate of at least one of these teams is way off.

  • A2MIKE

    I really hope Beilein has a couple wrinkles to add for this game on offense.  On defense, something I haven’t heard much of is Michigan State’s tendency and preference to throw a lob from the high post to the low post.  Ball pressure and hands in the air will be important.  MSU takes full advantage of lazy defenders.  Make them make shots to beat us.

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Great point, with MSU’s size advantage it’s important to have ball pressure from the high post. 

  • KurtD

    “are on the verge of a tailspin”…seems a little dramatic

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Perhaps… but it’s tough to pull things together with four road games in the next five games after this one. 

      • umnyc

        I agree… the script is written for the tailspin, but hopefully we can dig deep an pull this one out. I expect the crowd to be hype tonight which should earn us a few extra MSU turnovers/points, but will that be enough…

        • Gordonsky Belov

          Tailspin has much negative connotation. Is it really a tailspin if you are losing games most thought you were going to lose anyway. Fans get hyper-critical when their team loses a few games. From the outside it’s a tailspin, from the inside, it’s part of the grind of a challenging conference schedule. M will win some road games this season, probably some we really don’t expect from this vantage point of the season. That’s the beauty and the curse of being a sports fan. If only things were more predictable….

  • Jeff

    One big factor will be foul trouble. You can pretty much assume one of Michigan’s players will sit nearly the entire first half. I just hope it’s not somebody who’s playing really well.

  • Peterklima2003

    Also noticing MSU’s best players are from the state of Michigan, while UM’s best players are from out of state.

    Does that help control emotions or does that hurt because of the time-honored “sportsism” is that in-state players care more about in-state rivalries?

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      I think last year proved pretty well that our kids get the rivalry despite being from Indiana, California or wherever else. Honestly I don’t think it takes much more than one trip to the Breslin to care about the rivalry… Trey hasn’t been but I’m not worried about him one bit. 

      • Peterklima2003

        I was thinking about Novack and Morris from last year while I was typing, but it occurred to me that State was just worse than UM last year (performance-wise) and that MSU may have had even more emotion, but it could not make up for it.  (Then again, MSU could have been a mediocre team last year because they lacked “care” throughout the season.)

        I think we have great leaders, but I really want to see Smotz and JoMo play “angry” the way Hardaway and Novack do.

        • Toblav

          I’d replace “angry” with “inspired”.  Angry implies out of control.  But, yeah, it’d be nice to see them play with passion.

  • gpsimms

    anyone else looking forward to colton hitting the other biggest shot of his career tonight?

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      He’s saving it for East Lansing.

  • section13row15

    If you’re not hoarse by the end of tonight and you’re not standing at key moments of this game then you shouldn’t have a ticket to this one. Let’s see how loud it can get tonight!

  • Gordonsky Belov

    This has all the makings of a great, highly contested game. Win or lose, this is much see TV. I think M will win this one, The teams are pretty much equal in my eyes, but I think (hope) the home court will prove the difference. Go Maize Rage! Win or lose M is on track to have a fine season. As Coach B likes to say, “you grow more from a loss”. After last season everyone should realize Coach B’s team get better as the season progresses. Worry not ye of little faith, and enjoy a great rivalry game against the hated Spartans. Isn’t it grand that it’s a rivalry again.

  • GregGoBlue

    If you weren’t pumped up before reading this preview, then you sure should be by the time you hit the comments section. Let’s go blue! 

    • JimC

      I’ll be there screaming my lungs out.

      LET’S BRING IT TONIGHT MICHIGAN!!!!

  • MGoTweeter

    Don’t really have anything new to add, but I just wanted to harp on the two things that I believe will be the biggest keys.  Rebounding obviously is one.  Michigan does not need to win the rebounding battle, but they need to hold their own.  Typically this matchup has meant a rugged, low scoring affair where quality shots are few and far between.  Offensive rebounds become huge in games like this as do turnovers for that matter, but I am less concerned about those.  State has been dominant on the offensive glass at times this year and at times it was their only offense, the UNC game comes to mind.  Its an absolute must that Michigan limits those opportunities while at the same time creating a few of their own at the other end.  

    The other key is that third and maybe even more important fourth, scorer for both teams.  Burke, Hardaway, Appling and Green are all going to get points.  Each team will probably get something out of a third guy as well, but which team gets that fourth guy to step up and contribute.  It would not surprise me at all that the team that wins this game, is the team that gets four guys into double figures.  

    The last two games have been troubling for the UM offense and MSU is not a great team to break you out of that slump.  But neither was going to the Breslin last season, so tonight I think we see either Douglass or Novak knock down some big threes and Evan Smotrycz finally break out of his funk and score 15+.  

    Go Blue!

  • MGoTweeter

    Don’t really have anything new to add, but I just wanted to harp on the two things that I believe will be the biggest keys.  Rebounding obviously is one.  Michigan does not need to win the rebounding battle, but they need to hold their own.  Typically this matchup has meant a rugged, low scoring affair where quality shots are few and far between.  Offensive rebounds become huge in games like this as do turnovers for that matter, but I am less concerned about those.  State has been dominant on the offensive glass at times this year and at times it was their only offense, the UNC game comes to mind.  Its an absolute must that Michigan limits those opportunities while at the same time creating a few of their own at the other end.  

    The other key is that third and maybe even more important fourth, scorer for both teams.  Burke, Hardaway, Appling and Green are all going to get points.  Each team will probably get something out of a third guy as well, but which team gets that fourth guy to step up and contribute.  It would not surprise me at all that the team that wins this game, is the team that gets four guys into double figures.  

    The last two games have been troubling for the UM offense and MSU is not a great team to break you out of that slump.  But neither was going to the Breslin last season, so tonight I think we see either Douglass or Novak knock down some big threes and Evan Smotrycz finally break out of his funk and score 15+.  

    Go Blue!

    • MGoTweeter

      whoops double post

  • Alex

    Think this is going to be a great game. Unfortunately, I have to miss the first half, but I think the team plays inspired in less than two hours.

    Whoever wants this more is going to win. If this is anything like how the Kansas game went last night I will be quite happy.

    Let’s Go Blue.

  • jemblue

    Is that Pomeroy’s personal prediction or just what his computer formula produced?

Previous post:

Next post: