[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Hoops Preview: 2018-19 Michigan State Part Two Comment Count

Brian March 7th, 2019 at 2:19 PM


WHAT #5 Michigan (26-4) vs
#4 Michigan State (24-6)
WHERE Breslin Center
East Lansing, MI
WHEN 8 PM Saturday
LINE Michigan State –4, 67% to win (Kenpom)
Michigan State –2.2, 59% to win (Torvik)


Maaaaaan, really need this game right here. Not only is it for a regular season title but if this is what a road loss to Indiana does…

…the post-game presser in the event of a Michigan win would be must-see TV.

Michigan recovered from the previous loss to post wins over Nebraska and at Maryland. In those games Zavier Simpson was lethally effective and Jordan Poole was much improved. If those trends continue this game might look a lot different than the first one.


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Click for big.

Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 0 Cassius Winston Jr. 6'1, 185 89 29 123 No
Egads, a bonafide PG. #3 assist rate nationally, shooting 51/42, big usage. Defense better this year.
G 34 Matt McQuaid Sr. 6'5, 200 85 14 126 No
3&D McPoyle shooting absurd 39/44 split, allergic to rim. Does mostly deserve D rep, somehow.
F 21 Aaron Henry Fr. 6'6, 210 48 15 102 Yes
Composite #141 FR mostly a dunk on assists guy. 25 TO rate when he tries to create. Very occasionally shoots a 3.
F 35 Kenny Goins Sr. 6'6 230 73 15 112 No
Gritty grittenstein has added okay good (38%) three point shot out of nowhere. Rebound magnet, creates nothing. Excellent block rate for 6'6 guy.
C 22 Xavier Tillman So. 6'8, 245 80* 20 121 Yes
Excellent utility guy shooting 65% in B10, rebound magnet, top 100 block rate, gets some steals, 71% at line. Very dependent on assists, 4.9 fouls per 40.
G 23 Foster Loyer Fr. 4'11 170 13 19 101 Yes
Gnome gets about 4 MPG. 4/18 from three on season. 27 assist rate, 30 TO rate.
F 1 Kyle Ahrens Jr. 6'6, 210 45 13 114 Meh
Low usage Not Just A Shooter hitting 63/30 from the floor. Injury Q.
F 2 Gabe Brown Fr. 6'7, 210 15 12 129 No
Composite #101 FR is Just A Shooter hitting  34% from deep.
C 15 Thomas Kithier Fr.* 6'8, 225 30 12 144 Yes
Deep bench backup unearthed when Ward went out. 20/25 on season, 11% usage.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


Like the Maryland game, this rematch comes so quickly on the heels of the previous game that there's been little change in the state of the opponent. Nick Ward is a "million to one" to play, FWIW. Sixth man Kyle Ahrens missed MSU's Tuesday game against Nebraska and but is probably going to give it a go. Josh Langford remains out for the year. The chart above stays as it was for the first game.

Brief personnel notes building on the first preview:

  • I reiterate: Xavier Tillman is better than Nick Ward. Once you take out tomato cans this is what Ward on/Tillman off looks like for MSU:
  • Look at that two point percentage on offense! There's some three point luck on D but I don't think that's entirely a coincidence. See: Wagner, Mo.
  • This doesn't mean MSU is better without Ward because they have to put Kithier out there for 10 MPG… but Kithier is ~+0.04 in efficiency when he's on the court relative to non-Kithier lineups. So maybe they're better without Ward.
  • Kenny Goins is 3/9, 4/7, and 6/9 from three in his last three games—the first against Michigan. It's like he has a Former Walk-on Invisibility Cape. The only guy you can leave open from three is whoever the SF is. Aaron Henry is 8/25 on the year and Kyle Ahrens is under 30%.
  • Winston from three over the same span: 1/7. From two: 18/27. Assists: 29. TOs: 9. You cannot shut him off by taking away his threes.

In lieu of more reiteration,


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nope [Campredon]

Michigan largely shut off MSU's transition game, limited MSU to 25% from three, scored 1.13 PPP… and lost because MSU shot 68% from two. Winston repeatedly exploited gaps in Michigan's pick and roll coverage, extending to the sideline to keep Teske in his face and then hitting the roller once the guy tagging him had his internal "recover to shooter" timer go off.

The results: 94% shooting at the rim with a third of MSU's shots coming there. The rate at which Michigan gave up shots at the rim wasn't much different than their season average (35%). The fact that they were half uncontested dunks was different. Michigan is top 100 at preventing those shots from going down, holding opponents to 58%.

That and an anomalous MSU turnover performance (six TOs, about half their season average) combined with Jordan Poole struggling to see Michigan put up its worst defensive performance of the season by some distance.

On the other side of the ball, MSU started with two screen approaches. The first was going under everything, which was a specific Zavier Simpson tactic that didn't work very well when applied to other Michigan players…

…and led to a 5/11 first half from three for Michigan.

The other was switching them. In the first half, eh, not so much.

In the second Michigan did not find Teske under the basket when this happened and the mobility of Tillman made it relatively difficult to drive him; Poole settled for step-back threes that did not go down. Michigan had just 6 assists for the game. The subsequent Nebraska game saw more switching; this time Michigan had drilled the dump-down sufficiently to get Jordan Poole five assists.

Michigan still performed decently well on offense because they hit a bunch of free throws and had 12 OREBs; they were 7/26 from three for the game, falling off after the good start.


On offense:

  • MSU is 70th in average possession length but this really understates their tempo. MSU is sixth nationally in the number of shots that go up in the first ten seconds of the clock.
  • They're good inside the line and out and 14th in eFG%, first in the league inside the line.
  • They remain pretty pretty bad at TOs, sitting exactly 200th.
  • They're 20th in OREBs, first in B10 play.
  • They're #1 nationally in assist rate.

On defense:

  • They are again outstanding in eFG%. A team with two 6'8 guys at center is second nationally in 2PT% D because they're top 20 in block rate. Both of these hold up in league play. Flat out bizarre.
  • Like Maryland they're horrible at forcing TOs, 326th.
  • They're 11th in DREBs, which is also bizarre given their OREB rate. They do try to block a ton of shots, I guess.
  • They give up a reasonable number of threes but in league play opponents are hitting just 29%. That's probably luck.


Oblig transition mention. Michigan seems to have this mostly down. MSU got one bucket on a push after a Michigan make; otherwise their transition was off steals and the occasional long rebound. It's something to keep an eye on but mostly in case Michigan has some regression. They probably won't.

Poole sanity check. Poole can get work done against this MSU team. When not chucking bad threes he had 9 points on 7 shot attempts, two assists, and a TO. He was able to bust past Ahrens and Winston semi-regularly. The issue with the jacked-up threes seems to have been addressed over the last two games.

So too has Poole's defense, which has never been Matthews-quality but has generally been good enough to lock down guys like Gabe Kalscheur and his ilk. Here he missed boxouts, closed out poorly, fouled absurdly, and generally looked like a bad facsimile of himself. A response is critical for Michigan's chances.

Pick and roll coverage. Very bad in the last game after being superb for pretty much the whole season before that. It's a timing and rhythm thing; Winston will no doubt get Michigan sometimes but they have to shut off the parade of bunnies at the rim.

If Matthews is available and full go I wonder if Michigan will do what they didn't in the first game: put him on Winston and live with Simpson on McQuaid and Poole on Aaron Henry. Matthews's extra length might be able to bother Winston's array of seemingly unerring floaters, and Simpson's less likely to get lost chasing McQuaid around.



Pick and roll attacking. Going under induced 7 threes from Simpson on which he got six points, which they'll probably live with; Michigan got it back by using that tactic to get Livers and Brazdeikis some open looks. Meanwhile: a switch on Teske has to end up with the ball in Michigan's most efficient offensive player's hands.

Related: Simpson had just two assists in the previous game, among six total. Michigan's offensive structure didn't work out.

Castleton? 11 minutes of Thomas Kithier in the last game and just two for Brandon Johns, who gave up a couple of buckets to Winston in that brief time. Livers got the other minutes at the 5. If Castleton can work the PNR like he has in the last two games against Kithier that would be a boost.

As always, fouls. Both teams have virtually irreplaceable players at C and PG. An extended autobench situation would be very bad who whoever it befalls.


Michigan State by 4.



March 7th, 2019 at 2:52 PM ^

One of the hardest basketball games that I can remember to predict.  There is not one outcome (Michigan close, Michigan blowout, MSU close, MSU blowout) that would truly surprise me. 


March 7th, 2019 at 3:14 PM ^

Not me.  This team is capable of playing far better than they have in recent BIG play.  We have seen bits and pieces of different players excelling at the same time, but they have not yet "put it all together" in BIG play.  The last 10 minutes of the Maryland game was really encouraging to me.  I am not saying it is a likely outcome, but I don't think Michigan storming Breslin is entirely out of the question.

But like I said, I can see another scenario in which Michigan is never in this game.  It is a really hard game to call.


March 7th, 2019 at 3:51 PM ^

Not sure why you're taking offense to that.  You said "the last 10 mins were encouraging"; Michigan played nearly perfect basketball the last 8-10 minutes of the game.  Of course it's going to look great.  

If you had said the Maryland game was encouraging, I would definitely agree!  It's just that so many fans get upset when we don't play like we did the last 10 mins of Maryland, it's just not sustainable.

I see people saying here that we need the offense to play better this time around against MSU.  Our offense the first game was better than the Maryland game and one of our best performances of the season (almost exact same PPP as the Villanova game).  This game is ALL about improving on D.


March 7th, 2019 at 6:35 PM ^

They've played extremely well the last two games overall.  Crushed the betting lines, and hence vastly exceeded the expectations even for a top 10 team, such that Michigan has been the 2nd best team in the country since Feb 27, per Torvik (trailing only UVA).

Don't let the low score fool you about the first half at Maryland.  1) It was a very low possession half so the offense wasn't that bad and the offense was executed extremely well, the open shots just didn't fall and 2) holding Maryland to 24 points and winning a half at their place by 4 is very good.

As for Michigan in big ten play, in the month of January, they were 7-1 against a tough schedule and ranked 5th in the country in Torvik. In February, despite having three losses (against a gauntlet of a schedule), they were 9th in the country per Torvik.

Michigan has had a couple bad games and some inconsistent individual play but overall, they've performed as a top 10 team consistently throughout the season.


March 7th, 2019 at 2:56 PM ^

I honestly have no idea what will happen in this game. Both teams have had big wins and head-scratching losses. We blew out Villanova, Purdue, and UNC and then lost to last-place Penn State. MSU lost three in a row and got swept by Indiana but beat us at Crisler.


March 7th, 2019 at 3:50 PM ^

Michigan losing to PSU (a team playing like a top-10 program for over month) is way more explicable than MSU getting swept by Indiana.  But yeah, it does feel like either of these teams could turn it on for 20 minutes and blow the doors off each other and then 10 minutes later struggle to get to the basket.

A State Fan

March 7th, 2019 at 3:10 PM ^

I can't get Torvik's site to load right now, but I think MSUs home/road TO splits are pretty wild. Like 15% at home, over 20% on the road, leading to like 18.5% overall. The composure @Michigan was really an outlier, but I could see MSU with 15% in this game. Of course, any time someone other than Winston is dribbling that's gotta be like a 40% chance of something bad happening, so if M can get him to give it up a bit that'll be a big boost.

Hard to see Winston being at 130 ortg on 34% usage again, hoping for a couple random 3s from like Brown or Henry, those would feel like free points. If MSU can get to 7 or 8 made threes, I'll feel really good about that.


March 7th, 2019 at 6:48 PM ^

130 on 34% usage is barely better than his season average.  I can definitely see him doing that again.  Matt McQuaid matching his season Ortg on nearly double his usual usage, and Tillman getting a ton of easy dunks are things Michigan needs to limit.  Winston will probably get his.  It's the weird guys we need to do a better job against, and to your point, their ability to contribute will probably be the key.

Boner Stabone

March 7th, 2019 at 3:21 PM ^

I would be very surprised if UM wins this game.  MSU is going to be totally jacked with Senior night, rivalary, championship on the line, etc....  I just cannot envision Michigan going into that hell hole environment and getting a win.  


March 7th, 2019 at 3:31 PM ^

Matthews injured himself early in the last matchup but kept playing through it. He ended with a 54 ortg and Michigan had its worst defensive performance. Whether or not Matthews plays it's likely wherever those minutes go will be more effective than hobbled Matthews that day.

Another key factor is that John Beilein has had a full week to prep for this game. The first match was coming on 2-days rest road game in Minneapolis.


March 7th, 2019 at 3:49 PM ^

I said prior to our Maryland game, that I thought that we COULD win there and if we did, then we WOULD win at MSU. I’m sticking with that. Go Blue!


March 7th, 2019 at 3:55 PM ^

I have no idea about this game.  The turnover luck feels like the one part of last game that should revert a bit.  If it does then this feels like a toss-up.  And I could see MSU coming out a bit too amped for this game, especially with senior night and all that.  They'd settle down, but if UM can keep it close early on I trust Michigan to be able to stay in it until the end.


March 7th, 2019 at 4:09 PM ^

Even if Matthews is 100%, we still need to find more minutes for Livers. He only played 18 minutes in the first game. 

Livers and Iggy are the only two shooting better than 40% from 3...gonna need a few of those to drop on Saturday.


March 7th, 2019 at 6:54 PM ^

Completely agree.  This the perfect kind of game to not play Matthews as much as usual and play Livers more since MSU doesn't have a good, high-usage wing for Matthews to guard.

The starting lineup for the last two games is a much better lineup against MSU.  Iggy is fine defending Henry and having three shooters surrounding Simpson and Teske on the pick and roll makes for much better offense.