Game 26: Michigan State at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: No. 12 Michigan State (22-5, 11-3 B1G) at No. 20 Michigan (18-7, 10-3 B1G) MSU[1]
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
When: 12:00 p.m., Sunday, February 23rd, 2014
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 1050 AM, 91 Sirius/XM
More: Shot Chart Scouting | Pick to Click | Opposition Q&A | Podcast

The Michigan State, Michigan rivalry has always been important to both schools, but the rivalry has moved into the national spotlight over the last three years.

Michigan has won five of the last seven meetings, including two at the Breslin Center, and both teams have been among the most consistent in the Big Ten over the past three seasons. The Spartans and Wolverines shared their last Big Ten Championship and Michigan has been to a Final Four more recently. The two in-state programs are standing on level footing for one of the first times ever.

This year, the Wolverines and Spartans will play for sole possession of first place with two weeks to play.

Michigan enters Sunday’s tilt with a week of rest to regroup from a disappointing loss to Wisconsin. Michigan State will be on short rest after blowing out Purdue on Thursday night in a game where the Spartans set the school record for made threes on impressive 17-of-32 perimeter shooting.

The Spartans

Michigan State has the fourth best offense, 1.12 points per possession, in the Big Ten and the second best defense, 1.00 points allowed per possession. After Thursday’s beat down of Purdue, Michigan State has outscored its opponents on a per-possession basis by more than any conference team other than Iowa.

This isn’t quite your traditional Michigan State offense either. The 2013-14 Spartans shoot more threes than any of Tom Izzo’s Michigan State teams, attempting 36% of their field goals from long distance.


They also knock them down effectively. Michigan State is shooting 39.9% from long range in Big Ten games, second in the Big Ten only to Michigan. The Spartans have five consistent long range shooting threats in their rotation and that makes them harder to guard when they attack.

The Spartans still do a good job on the offensive glass, rebounding 32% of their conference misses (4th) and they’ve managed to clean up the turnover issues that plagued them the last several years, giving the ball away on just 16% of their Big Ten possessions (3rd).

One of Michigan State’s problems in Big Ten play has been free throws. The Spartans are ranked 10th in the conference in offensive free throw rate and 10th in the conference in free throw late allowed. Only Penn State and Illinois have been ‘out-attempted’ at the free throw line by a higher rate than Michigan State.

Michigan State defends the rim better than any team in the conference, despite playing without two of their better defenders (Payne, Dawson) for much of the conference season. Spartan opponents are shooting just 43.2% on two-point attempts, the lowest percentage in the conference, and the Spartans lead the Big Ten in block percentage. The Spartans are dominant on the defensive glass, rebounding a Big Ten-best 74% of their opponents’ misses and force turnovers on a respectable 18% (4th) of their opponents’ possessions.

Gary Harris Northwestern v Michigan State s1BuKo6ALopl[1]Personnel

Gary Harris is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.9 points per league game. He’s been in a bit of a slump, but snapped out of it against Purdue with 25 points on 7-of-11 (6-9 3pt) shooting. Harris is a lethal three-point shooter, can attack the rim and loves to get out in transition. He’s also Michigan State’s best perimeter defender and did a terrific job on Nik Stauskas in the first meeting.

I wrote a lot about Adreian Payne before the first meeting thinking that he might play, but it’s still relevant now. Payne is the second most efficient post player in the Big Ten, trailing only Frank Kaminsky – who Michigan fans know plenty about. Payne is a great pick-and-pop player and has scored 20+ points in three of five games since returning from injury

While Payne’s offensive abilities pose a problem, the bigger concern for Michigan might be Payne’s effect on the offensive glass.

Denzel Valentine does a bit of everything, but his greatest strengths are rebounding and passing, an unusual combination in a 6-foot-5 forward. Valentine is shooting 43% on twos and 32% on threes and, as we covered, his best shooting spot is the right corner.

Keith Appling missed time with a wrist injury, but has played in Michigan State’s last two games. He was ineffective against Nebraska (2 pts in 19 minutes) and had nine assists against Purdue, but only attempted one field goal.

Travis Trice has taken on a larger role with Appling’s injury. He’s a knockdown shooter when open on the perimeter and it’s important to run him off the line because he’s not a great finisher in the midrange or at the rim.

Branden Dawson is supposed to have the pins removed from his hand this week and there’s been discussion that he could try to play limited minutes in Ann Arbor, even with some sort of protection on his hand. Dawson doesn’t bring a lot offensively, but he’s a monster on the offensive glass and could probably make an impact even with a wrapped hand. Matt Costello replaces most of Dawson’s physical play, hustle and rebounding around the basket when Dawson is sidelined.

Kenny Kaminski is a prototypical stretch four man that attempts 75% of his field goals from long range and connects at a 48% clip.


  • Defensive Rebounding: Michigan actually outrebounded Michigan State in the first meeting and it will be tough to do that with Payne in the lineup. Since that game, Michigan has had disappointing defensive rebounding performances in four of the last six games. Defensive rebounding not only helps the defense finish possessions, clean rebounds can also jumpstart the Wolverine offense.
  • Transition Defense: Michigan State runs as well as any team in the Big Ten. Michigan… doesn’t generally do a good job of stopping transition offense. Iowa really exploited the Wolverines in transition in Iowa City, but Michigan has been better of limiting transition opportunities on its home floor. On the other hand, Michigan needs to find some easy baskets in transition against an otherwise stout Spartan half court defense. Whichever team can win the transition game will have a major advantage.
  • Payne or Harris?: Payne or Harris? Michigan will worry about what Adreian Payne can accomplish after a disappointing defensive performance against Frank Kaminsky, but doubling Payne can leave the Wolverines exposed at other spots. It’s important to take away the easy (pick and pop) looks for Payne and make sure that he is challenged on every attempt. I suspect Michigan will try to avoid doubling Payne early on, but may be forced to if he’s on his game.

Bottom Line

Ken Pomeroy likes Michigan, predicting a 72-68 final score and giving the Wolverines a 65% chance at the win. Michigan would be in the Big Ten driver’s seat with a victory, but will need to shore up some defensive concerns from recent losses.

  • Mith

    I think Blue has a good shot, but I sure wouldn’t give them a 65% chance to win! I wish I felt that confident! Anyway, obviously a huge opportunity here to get a cushion with 4 very winnable games left.

  • tjm32

    So way off topic, but…with news of Zetterberg having back surgery and expected back in 8 weeks, does that raise hopes for anyone that we could see an early March return for Mitch? Maybe about the time of the B1G tourney?

  • guestavo

    Dawson is out. Gives Izzo a final excuse.

    • Ben

      He doesn’t make excuses about players being out, he just says he has to play “weird guys” over and over and then says he was forced to play other players too much when they actually were playing less or the same than players on the other team lol. Like how he said he was “forced” to play appling (37 mins) and harris (38 mins) way more than he wanted when levert played 39 and stauskas played 38 in the very same game.

      • Ben

        ….causing them to be “gassed.” Levert and stauskas were somehow not “gassed” because they were able to get more rest, according to Izzo. Probably had something to do with UM playing on two off days after Iowa and being on the road, while MSU had just 3 off days after IU at home and then had to play another home game….Izzo logic.

    • Chezaroo

      Intensely dislike MSU, but anybody that thinks Izzo is an excuse maker vastly does not know what he’s about. What they’ve accomplished up to this point with the ongoing lineup issues is amazing to me.

      • guestavo

        Well you bought into that narrative. They are the same team that lost to UNC fully healthy.

        • Chezaroo

          I only buy into results my friend. He is a super coach.

          • guestavo

            His results this year don’t dictate the narrative you’ve bought into.

      • AlwaysBlue

        Don’t know what he’s about? I’ve heard enough of his post-game press conferences to think I have an idea. Michigan’s season…minus two NBA first rounders and a pre-season All American, is far more amazing.

        • Chezaroo

          Love our effort this year. Players come and go every year and injuries come unpredictably. I’m no Izzo apologist, but we have had the same team intact for what 18 consecutive games? Mitch was pretty much never in our rotation, and practiced hardly ever, so we new our fate. MSU has had to retool on the fly with significant injuries to 3 starters. Hard to overcome those disruptions without falling apart. Hate to see where we would have been if we lost Caris for 6 games, Nik for 4, and GR3 for 8
          right in the middle of the season? Just a hunch, but I don’t think Max, Spike, and Morford minus one would have given us much in reserve. Hoping we match their energy and effort tomorrow, cause it’s a great opportunity. Go Blue!

  • MLaw

    50/50 game. We have had a number this year. It feels like whoever shoots the 3’s better will win, but I agree that rebounding could play a huge role in how teams get out in transition.

    Strategy question: do you help off Appling given his recent wrist problems. We could treat him like Craft and sag off which allows more post presence, better rebounding, and another body in Payne’s way. Then again Keith is a tremendous competitor and could easily scorch us.

    • guestavo

      Play off Valentine

      • MLaw

        Good alternative. Makes some sense.

    • Hops

      Definitely…at least until he hits 2 threes.

  • Chezaroo

    Total different challenge this time with Payne in the lineup. Their options offensively just explode with him out there. They looked awesome against Purdue, how many times did they beat the Boilers down court after a MADE basket? That transition attack is our biggest worry IMO amongst many. Izzo wants this bad and we better be prepared to match their intensity early. Afternoon starts have not been kind to us. It’s right there in front of us, how bad do we want it?

    • guestavo

      To be fair, Sundays have not be fair to Sparty, either. We don’t lose back to backs this year. Defensive rebounding is our biggest concern. Stopping them in transition would be nice but we can’t let them have multiple tries imo. Our offense will be fine.

      • Chezaroo

        Hope your right about the offense, that display against Wisky was horrible. Who knows who is going to show up? If anybody watched our games vs. Duke, Indiana, or Wisconsin it’s hard to have any faith in what we’ ll show. Conversely what Spartan squad is going to surface? The Nebraska effort or the Purdue effort? Wild and unpredictable year so far, Go Blue!

        • guestavo

          Even with our offense being horrible, we came within a few points of leading. Offense is NEVER our issue. Getting beat up on the boards in the first half is what really killed us and gave them life.

          • Chezaroo

            LOL! Yeah those two extra offensive rebounds Wisky got in the rematch totally determined the game. Nothing wrong with us that a few made 1st half jumpers wouldn’t have fixed. Those 19 first half points had nothing to do with putting us in an almost impossible position to recover from did they? It was those two more offensive boards that did it. When you and Toto get back from Oz try and accept that we are totally capable of being terrible on offense. It won’t hurt. See ya at the game Sunday if you have a ticket. Go Blue, and our jump shooters!

          • guestavo

            Look at the first half offensive rebounding discrepancy. Box score warriors rarely know what they are talking about.

  • Ben
    • Ben

      Terrible refs against us but UM wins 78-77 with dunk at the buzzer.

  • jakelam2116

    I can buy into the idea of helping off Appling. It will be interested to see the minutes breakdown between him and Trice, who obviously can’t be helped off at all.