Death From Above: At Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on February 5th, 2012 at 1:02 AM

[ed: whoops. This was supposed to publish 12 hours ago.]

tom-izzo-michigan-state[1]THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan at MSU
WHERE Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
WHEN 1 PM Eastern, Sunday
LINE MSU –10 (Kenpom)


Right: Izzo's permanent expression should Michigan win this game.


Pretty much the same team already covered in the post dedicated to the game at Crisler, with two major exceptions.

Exception one: Draymond Green's knee. Green and Izzo have been telling everyone only death will prevent him from going and he'll be essentially fine. Green's mom keeps popping up in these stories to say less optimistic things, though. The most recent:

“I think he’d play if he still had a crutch,” Babers said.

Green does still have some swelling, she said, and he’s still feeling the effects of the stomach flu that he picked up over the weekend. Babers said she wouldn’t be surprised if Green comes off the bench and plays less than usual Sunday.

While Green's health is important, he's not an electric athlete and is short for a PF, so Michigan's four-guard lineup has been effective against him in the recent past. He struggled to seven points in Crisler earlier this year. If he's limited, Michigan will see a lot more of Branden Dawson.

Dawson's an intimidating athlete who is a horse on the offensive boards and will likely take up a bunch of Green's slack on the other end of the floor if he's replacing him in the lineup. He is not a three point shooter, however, and lacks Green's point forward skills. He's also a freshman and may be vulnerable to defensive lapses against Michigan's complicated offense.

Exception two: Brandon Wood has been booted from the starting lineup in favor of senior walk-on Austin Thornton:

Senior Austin Thornton was told he'll start in Wood's place, with both players finding out about the lineup change halfway trough Friday's practice. … Wood's issues, as Izzo sees them, are mostly on the defensive end. When the 6-foot-2 veteran of four college basketball programs was hitting shots, those deficiencies were somewhat masked.

Michigan scorched MSU's interior defense to win by a point despite ugly outside shooting in the first matchup, so Izzo goes with gritty stereotype and coaches' favorite to staunch the bleeding.

Thornton doesn't provide much offensively aside from three-pointers but he is hitting 40 percent this year on admittedly infrequent attempts. His usage is miniscule; Izzo's plan may not hold up to reality if Green is not effective and he has to find shots.


Since losing to Michigan the first time out MSU has throttled Purdue and Minnesota at home and lost a horrendously ugly game at Illinois by a single point.


Conference four factors:

Factor Offense (Rk) Defense (Rk) Avg
Effective FG%: 53.0 3 43.5 3 49
Turnover %: 19.4 8 18.9 8 20.8
Off. Reb. %: 38.8 1 29.1 3 32.5
FTA/FGA: 34.7 7 34.6 6 36.5

Another notable number: opponents are hitting just 28 percent of their threes in conference play. Despite this, they shoot buckets of them (35%). Opponents don't shoot well from two, either—Michigan's 17 of 24 in the first game much have driven Izzo nuts.


Test Green. Obviously. Michigan should run him around the court as Novak gets a bunch of screens and see how he reacts. Actually they should do that anyway: Novak's inability to get shots off has been a major drag on offensive efficiency.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: if Green is fine, go to page 21. If Green is not fine, go to page 25.

PAGE 21. Draymond Green is basically himself. This is bad since MSU has played very well this year and is at home. Unless Michigan gets hot from three it's hard to see them keeping up when they have to fight the usual road woes. Where do the points come from if Michigan is abdicating offensive boards, MSU isn't giving up the relentless parade of easy buckets they did in Ann Arbor, and the free throw line is a rumor?

PAGE 25: Draymond Green is severely limited. This still isn't great but removing Green from the equation puts a lot of pressure on Keith Appling to create all the shots. That's a dicey proposition with Appling 2 of 19 in his last two games and apparently incapable of playing 31 minutes a game without passing out from exhaustion. Travis Trice and Brandon Wood will just about have to split 40 minutes in that event to give Michigan State a second ballhandler. That could lead to additional easy twos for Michigan.

Novak would get to double hard on any post stuff since Dawson is not a shooter, but the downside would be Dawson clubbing Michigan on the boards even more than he is already expected. Defensive rebounding has gone poorly for Michigan the last two times they've played State and a Green injury just means even more time for a dynamic guy on the offensive glass.

Non-Green related items? Non-Green related items.

Hardaway versus Thornton needs to be a win. Hardaway has closed out lackadaisically for much of the year; if he's got a Thornton matchup he needs to close out hard, hard, hard. Thornton's shooting 39% from two and is not much of an assist threat. If he gets an open shot just within the line, fine.

Meanwhile on the other end of the floor, Hardaway needs to be a productive user of the energy he won't be spending on defense. Michigan has not figured out how to get Hardaway effective shots much this year but the above three point defense and Hardaway's cold shooting makes it seem clear what he should do: go inside.

Hope they're not shooting well from outside. Michigan is resigned to giving up a fair number of open threes as they try to fight their lack of size.

Get handsy and take care of the ball. Michigan beat Indiana largely because turnovers were 14-6. With MSU projected to have a huge offensive rebounding advantage, it gets really hard to win if Michigan isn't winning turnovers by a significant amount. Turnovers cannot be rebounded and often lead to good transition shots on the other end.


MSU by ten.


UMHoops preview. on the Aneurysm of Leadership.



February 5th, 2012 at 1:32 AM ^

I don't think we'll lose by 10. I'm not extremely optimistic about winning, but we won't get blown out


Also if we lose I hope everyone is prepared for the trolls to be out in full-force. Remember, don't engage them, just hit them with the -1 mod and they'll go away soon enough


February 5th, 2012 at 3:03 AM ^

Am i the only one expecting a Win for MIchigan tomorrow??I just rewatched the first Michigan vs MSU game and now pumped for tomorrow. Go Blue!! I'm predicting Stu will be on fire tomorrow along with Trey. Hardaway will get the game winner shot.Morgan needs to stay away from the foul trouble while dominating the Def Board, otherwise it would be the OSU game result. So, I'll say 72-70 Michigan.


February 5th, 2012 at 8:26 AM ^

I hope the game starts on page 25, otherwise I dont like our chances. B1G road game against our rivals is supposed to be a loss, but it sure would be great if the seniors extended the winning streak to 4!


February 5th, 2012 at 9:27 AM ^

Brian, is your reference to the Aneurysm of Leadership in relaton to others' stories meant to be a slight dig at journalists recycling the same story repeatedly?


February 5th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

I get that MSU is favored.  They are at home and in the B1G that is a big advantage.  But they have the same record, pretty much the same strength of schedule and about the same amount of quality wins.  I don't get why MSU is ranked much higher and thought to be so much better.  MSU is not a top 10 team in terms of talent.  Izzo gets the best out of them, but they don't have any superstars.  Its hard for me to think they will win this game by double digits.  We shall see.


February 6th, 2012 at 11:23 AM ^

I get where you're coming from, but what about Zach Novak?  Other than Michigan, his only other offer was from Valpo.  Stu Douglass?  Only other offer from Western Michigan.  These guys are the face of Michigan basketball.  Thornton has been to 2 final fours at Michigan State.  FoRealz!