Game 24: Michigan at Michigan State Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: No. 22 Michigan (17-6, 7-3 B10) at No. 10 Michigan State (17-4, 6-3 B10) split-old-new-spartans-logo2jpg-80cf96e5cad6ebe9_large1[1]
Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
When: 1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, February 5th, 2012
TV: CBS / Live Stream
Radio: MGoBlue, 950AM, 1050AM, Sirius 91, XM 91
More: Beilein Video / Novak, Douglass & Hardaway Video / Pick to Click / Last Game

Michigan and Michigan State’s basketball rivalry has been as one sided as any over the past decade. Analysts, writers and fans constantly declare the rivalry “renewed” on each glimpse of Michigan success. Despite that persistent optimism, the Wolverines never won more than a game in a row against the Spartans from 1998 until 2011. A win here or there can be chalked up to a heroic effort or a flash in the pan but rivalries are truly reincarnated through consistent success, specifically against the rival in question.

A Michigan win in East Lansing Sunday would be another resolute step in the right direction. It would be the Wolverines fourth straight victory over the Spartans and 15th win in their last 21 Big Ten games. It wouldn’t wipe out the last decade of Spartan dominance but it would be a firm reminder that the stakes of this rivalry will only increase in the years to come.

Michigan State at Michigan 6
Photo: Dustin Johnston

Tom Izzo’s Michigan State teams have been defined by attacking the offensive glass without abandon and this team is no different. The Spartans are the best offensive rebounding team in the Big Ten, grabbing almost 39% of their missed shots, and enter this game after rebounding over half of their missed shots in a loss at Illinois. Despite Michigan’s reputation for running a “finesse offense based on the three point shot”, this Wolverine offense can score the ball and isn’t soft, proving their mettle in recent match-ups wit the Spartans. Michigan isn’t half bad on the defensive glass, ranking fifth in the league, and has thrived in late game situations this season, embodying a bit of the toughness required to win Big Ten games.

Michigan beat Michigan State in Ann Arbor a month ago but the Spartans have been the more consistent and effective team in Big Ten play. Michigan State has outscored conference opponents by .16 points per possession compared to Michigan’s .05. The Wolverines are a half game ahead of the Spartans in the Big Ten standings but both teams are within a game of first place. The importance of this game could multiply by Sunday’s tip off if Wisconsin is able to upset Ohio State at the Kohl Center this afternoon.

The Wolverines don’t have the pieces to completely shutdown Michigan State’s dominant presence on the offensive glass. The Spartans are going to get some rebounds just because they are bigger (Derrick Nix), stronger (Draymond Green, Branden Dawson) or more athletic (Adreian Payne) than the Michigan players attempting to box them out. However, Michigan can limit and contain the Spartans’ offensive rebounding attack and has the potential to hold them below the 36.5% offensive rebounding rate they grabbed in Ann Arbor. It’s tough to quantify “holding your own” on the defensive glass but the impact – second chance points – of Michigan State’s offensive rebounds might be the most important stat of the game.

Another key to the game lies in the box score’s free throw column. This isn’t about home court advantage or officiating conspiracy theories per se but Michigan’s defense relies on keeping opponents off of the free throw line. Michigan ranks first in the Big Ten in free throw rate (26.6% FTA/FGA) allowed but the last in free throw rate (28.1% FTA/FGA). Wolverine games have the fewest free throws for both teams and they are better equipped to win a game without free throws than with a heavy dosage of fouling.  The Wolverines need to play the disciplined defense that got them this far and avoid providing free opportunities for the Spartans or handicapping their limited depth with foul trouble.

Despite coming off one of their worst offensive performances in recent history, 41 points on 56 possessions at Illinois, the Spartans still have the league’s second most efficient offense. Their offensive rebounding prowess combined with consistent shooting inside (50.8%) and out (39.7%) has powered that attack with one exception: turnovers. Michigan State has turned the ball over on 19.4% of its conference possessions and the Big Ten Geeks point out that its offensive efficiency is more negatively affected by turnovers than any other Big Ten team. The turnover problem reared its ugly head in Ann Arbor as the Spartans gave the ball away on a quarter of their offensive possessions. Michigan’s defense, which forces more turnovers than every Big Ten team other than Ohio State, should be poised to exploit the Spartans turnover woes again in East Lansing.

Michigan State at Michigan 19
Photo: Dustin Johnston

Draymond Green’s knee remains a major factor in this game that’s impossible to judge at this point. After leaving the Illinois game apparently unable to walk, Green has practiced (both Thursday and Friday) and has proclaimed that it would take “death” to keep him out of this game. He rattled off a handful of other marvelous quotes including but not limited to: “Tell them to go at me and see if I can move”, “I’ve definitely got them figured out.” and “They hate us and we hate them. Or they might dislike us. But we hate them.” No one knows how Green will play. He hasn’t played well against Michigan over his career but six career games don’t define a player that’s a likely All-American. Green seemed to defer a bit offensively in the first meeting, opting to distribute the ball, but there’s no doubt that, if healthy, he’s capable of going out on a high note against Michigan on Sunday.

One side or another, someone is going to step up. Tim Hardaway Jr. told reporters on Friday that “you have to put stats aside” and “anything can happen and anybody can have their best game”. Last year it was Zack Novak and Stu Douglass in East Lansing and then Tim Hardaway Jr.’s huge second half in Ann Arbor. In the first match-up this year it was Trey Burke exploding for 20 points on 11 shots. Michigan fans, coaches and casual supporters will be looking to the No. 10 jersey, hoping for Hardaway’s first good shooting night since early January.

This just feels like a game Michigan State will win. The Spartans are undefeated at home and have been talking up this game for weeks. Ken Pomeroy gives Michigan a 15% chance at the upset and predicts a 10 point Spartan win, which is actually one point more than his computers projected for Michigan’s trip to East Lansing a year ago. The Wolverines know the recipe for beating Tom Izzo’s team but there’s little, if any, margin for error in this game.

Quotable: “We don’t want to just beat Michigan. We want to blow them out.” – Derrick Nix

  • Mith

    What a nice season its been so far, I’m just really enjoying getting to watch this team play.  I don’t expect a win at MSU, but I’ve got a funny feeling that we’re going to find a way to pull this one out.  I don’t think Green will be effective with the bum knee and I think THJr is going to bust out of his shooting woes.  I might be crazy but I’ve got a 62-58 kind of feeling.

    P.S.  If I’m wrong, don’t bet on the Pats, because I think they’re going to win tomorrow too.

  • Hokeisit

    The only thing Nix is blowing out is his manpon.  Pomeroy has barely been .500 picking winners during Michigan’s B1G schedule.  Michigan wins a close one, and Novak solidifies his legacy in Michigan lore.  

  • Alex

    I’ll be at the game, my first away game for Michigan ever.

    I’m not sure that Michigan wins this game but I’ve got the Giants tomorrow night.

  •  He was asked whether he’s figured some things out on U-M’s defense, which doubled him often in the last meeting and limited him to seven points.
        “I’ve definitely got them figured out.”
    Glad you figured us out to the tune of 7pts/game and a 3-3 record against Michigan in your career, Draymond. What a gigantic tool. GO BLUE.

    • JimC

      Ha!  And he was right the first time:  We hate you sparty.

  • Mattski

     I think he’s right that they are the haters. And hatred makes you blind. Just a little bit of that clear-thinking may take Michigan a little closer to victory tomorrow. Godspeed, Gentlemen!

    Had to go to my urban dictionary for manpon.   

  • gpsimms

    I love how Izzo whined about Darius Morris and his trash talk, and how mean everyone is in Crisler, etc.  All his players have done the last few years is talk trash.  I would give anything for Zack and Stu to graduate as winners against MSU, and for Draymond to graduate a loser against M.

    As for the game, I wouldn’t say I am confident, but I am weirdly optimistic.  The only guy on their team who really scares me is Dawson.  He could really give us problems.  But Novak owns Green, and we should get Stu on Appling more, to give Trey a break.

    I don’t necessarily agree about the free throw part though.  If the refs aren’t calling a ton of fouls, I see a game like the OSU one, where we have 2 free throws to their 12, and they are clutching and clogging lanes all day.

    If they call a lot of fouls, then maybe they get 22 FTs to our 12, but at least it helps our offense run smoother.

    Since we’ve become reliant on super efficient 2 pt shooting, we need that space in the lane for back cuts, etc.

  • Jeff

    Watching the OSU/Wisconsin game, and saw a play where Sullinger, I will say “embellished” a reaction to a near-elbow from Bergren. They reviewed it, but no flagrant was assessed. It was nowhere near the level of Thomas’ awful acting job, but it looked to me like there was minimal contact and Sullinger was trying to sell it. Anyway, it looks like Matta is coaching them to pretend like they’ve been elbowed when anything is close.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Well Wisconsin isn’t going to pull it off. I thought maybe with a win tomorrow and an OSU loss today that we’d have an outside chance at the title, but oh well. I think it’s clear OSU is in fact the best team in the conference. Regardless, I think I’d rather sweep MSU back to back years than win the B10 title.

    • maxwell’s demon

      Hmm, maybe spoke too soon.

      • gpsimms

        hm, maybe you said “maybe i spoke to soon” to soon.

    • gpsimms

      uh, how was that a travel?

      • maxwell’s demon

        Definitely not a travel, probably could have called a charge though. 

        • gpsimms

          i think you’re right.  i just enjoy eddie hightower is all.  you can always count on him to make a bizarre call.

          • gpsimms

            and jump around like a crazy person whilst doing it.

          • maxwell’s demon

            Haha yeah.

  • SamGoBlue

    Dylan and Pomeroy are far too pessimistic on this team.

  • snoopblue

    Ineffective Green = Michigan win. That’s it.

  • jemblue

    “Ken Pomeroy gives Michigan a 15% chance at the upset and predicts a 10 point Spartan win, which is actually one point more than his computers projected for Michigan’s trip to East Lansing a year ago.”

    How can that be?  Last year we were 11-9 and 1-6 in league play when we went there.  I know MSU is having a better season this year too, but I don’t think they’ve improved by as much as we have since then. 

    • ChathaM

      Does anyone know why Pomeroy’s formula consistently seems to undervalue Michigan? I have no idea how his numbers work, but there must be a logical explanation as to why the Michigan predictions keep coming out this way. 

      • maxwell’s demon

        I’m not sure if you mean just for this season or beyond, but as far as this season goes, I will comment. While he may have the best predictor out there, and fwiw I am subscriber, I think it’s clear that there are two main issues. The first being, too much emphasis on margin of victory and not on results. A team that wins a bunch of close games is essentially considered lucky by his method. Second, there seems to be a lack of flexibility. While Michigan has very slowly trended upwards over the course of B10 play, their ceiling was severely limited by their non-conference standing. So when you consider these two factors, it’s easy to see how Wisconsin is ranked where they are and we are ranked where we are.

        • ChathaM

          I did mean just for this season. Thanks; that all makes sense.

      • guest

        As Maxwell said, U-M had a bunch of uninspiring wins against poor teams, whereas Wisconsin demolished their pre-conference cupcakes.

        KenPom uses schedule-adjusted, per-possession statistics in his predictive modeling, so our ugly wins factor heavily into his undervalued ranking of us. KenPom doesn’t “see” wins or losses but rather the per-possession statistics of each game.

        The corollary to our ranking is Wisconsin, who is good but certainly not a top 4 team.

  • ChathaM

    It’s nice to know that, no matter the outcome, Beilein will be complementary towards MSU, and won’t say anything whiny. The UM players definitely have taken on the personality of their coach when talking about the matchup. Class act.

  • FGCU Maize Rage

    Trying to stay optimistic here. In Zack We Trust.

    Michigan 70
    Michigan State 67

    Maize Rage better take over the Breslin like last year. That game last year was one of the highlights of my college experience.

  • Kyle

    LOL I love how you used the new logo.. A friend of mine went there and they had some stupid candle light visual to make the school use the old one and not use the newly designed one. Same kind of crap they did for Izzo when he was going to leave. 

    This friend of mine annoys me so much though, he still clings to his life at East Lansing after graduating from there 2 years ago.. His intensity for his school never ceases to amaze me, his willingness to fight people to defend his school was the biggest shocker though. I don’t know why it bothers me so much?

    • Mattski

      That logo looks like some high-schooler cooked it up with Windows Draw.

    • waltInAA

      The logo resembles a frog. 

      Remember Kermit – “it’s not easy being green”. Be charitable toward your friend and show some pity.

  • Mattski

    Something I just gleaned over at mgoblog: Brandon Wood has been removed from MSU’s starting line in favor of senior walk-on Austin Thornton. According to the post, Wood was not getting it done on the defensive end, and when his 3-point shooting slumped. . .
    Grittier D. But Thornton doesn’t provide much offensively aside from three-pointers, the post says. 
    Draw your own conclusions.