Who: Michigan State (19-4) at MichiganÂ (15-9)
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Tuesday, February 9th, 7 PM ET
Spread: MSU by 4 (and rising)
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, MSU KenPom Profile
Radio: 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.Â 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):