#28 Michigan (14-4, 3-2 B1G) at
#3 Michigan State (16-2, 4-1)
East Lansing, Michigan
|WHEN||Noon ET, Saturday|
MSU -9 (KenPom)
MSU -10.3 (Torvik)
MSU -9.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Gus Johnson
Analyst: Jim Jackson
Right: A formidable front duo, and this doesn't even picture another lottery prospect. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
THE THING I HAVE TO MENTION FIRST
The response to the CFS fundraiser has been nothing short of incredible. You've raised over $14,000 in a little over a day. MGoCommenter Gordon had the idea to tie the fundraiser into this game; he's generously pledging a dollar per point Michigan scores tomorrow. The outpouring of support here has been incredible. A special thank you to Matt Demorest of HomeSure Lending, who donated a thousand freakin' dollars. Real ones! Every time I think this community can't blow me away, y'all find a way to do so.
I feel guilty asking for more, but this is a remarkable time for the CFS/ME community and this wave of newfound awareness can make a huge difference in researching a cure. You've already blown past the $10,000 stretch goal, which means I'll be getting the Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn haircut. I want to add a couple more.
So, if this hits $20,000, I'll dye that Wild Thing haircut blue. If we hit $25,000, I'll make it half blue and half maize. (My hairline, unfortunately, precludes a winged helmet pattern.) If we somehow get all the way to $30,000, I'll open up a contest to the people to draw a Michigan-related tattoo I'll get to commemmorate this whole thing. Something along these lines, perhaps.
I'm learning not to apologize for repeatedly putting this out there. Here's the widget again. Every little bit helps.
Let's get me some ink.
Uh, meanwhile, this doesn't sound great, especially given Moe Wagner's paramount importance to Michigan's chances of beating the Spartans:
Beilein says Moe Wagner is still not fully healthy. Asked if there’s anything new with the injury, he says, “I’m not at liberty to say.”
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) January 12, 2018
Wagner has struggled to get back on track since rolling his ankle against Texas in mid-December. It's a concern that the effects are lingering a month later. Michigan is going to have a very difficult time scoring against MSU if Wagner isn't able to stretch the floor. He's almost certainly going to play unless he reaggraves the issue; we'll have to wait and see how close he is to 100%.
Sliding down a spot, John Beilein finally said Isaiah Livers could step into Duncan Robinson's spot in the lineup. The upside: from a purely basketball standpoint, this is absolutely the game to do so, as Robinson simply doesn't have a workable matchup against MSU's starting lineup. The downside: a freshman making his first career start at Breslin without freaking out is kind of a big ask.
Beilein said he’ll consider starting Livers tomorrow. But recalled Mitch McGary’s first career start, also at Breslin, where he was completely overwhelmed and the team got run out of the building.
So, we’ll see.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) January 12, 2018
Prediction: Robinson starts and gets pulled by the first TV timeout, hopefully before Michigan is in too big a hole.
THE LINEUP CARD
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.
|G||5||Cassius Winston||So.||6'0, 185||67||23||133||Not At All|
|Welp. Fourth nationally in assist rate, 13th in three-point shooting.|
|G||1||Josh Langford||So.||6'5, 210||65||22||114||Not At All|
|Sharpshooter, raised efficiency while taking on bigger role. Late-clock scorer.|
|F||22||Miles Bridges||So.||6'7, 230||69||25||120||No|
|Lottery prospect #1. Powerful, skilled all-around force.|
|F||2||Jaren Jackson Jr.||Fr.||6'11, 242||65||22||114||Not At All|
|Lottery prospect #2. Unicorn. Great shot-blocker, good rebounder, hits threes.|
|C||44||Nick Ward||So.||6'8, 250||50||28||125||Yes|
|Tremendous post scorer. Great rebounder and shot-blocker. Drives Izzo nuts.|
|G||11||Tum Tum Nairn||Sr.||5'10, 175||52||9||124||Yes|
|Out there for defense/leadership. All but ignored on offense.|
|G||20||Matt McQuaid||Jr.||6'4, 200||50||16||118||No|
|Just A Shooter™ type making 37% of his triples, right on career mark.|
|F||34||Gavin Schilling||Sr.||6'9, 240||25||18||109||Very|
|Great rebounder, offense mostly confined to putbacks. Turnover-prone.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
This may not carry as a strong a not-in-the-face feeling it would've last week now that Michigan played Purdue to the wire and MSU got boatraced by OSU before finding themselves in overtime at home against Rutgers. State is still the #3 team in the country, however, and this matchup provides some serious in-the-face potential for Michigan.
It all starts up in the frontcourt, where MSU has a trio of stars. The least heralded NBA prospect, center Nick Ward, is a 70%-shooting post monster who leads the country in offensive rebounding rate, boasts a top-100 block rate, and draws the second-most fouls nationally. As we saw last year, Ward—who's hilariously listed at the same 250-pound weight as Moe Wagner—is an absolute load who Wagner has a tough time stopping; the same goes on the other end, where Wagner's quickness and ability to spread the floor gives Ward trouble.
Next to Ward is five-star freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., a potential top-ten pick in this year's NBA Draft. Jackson's addition has been the main reason MSU's defense has taken a big leap and leads the country in eFG% against. He's an incredible athlete for being 6'11"; he's a superlative shot-blocker, strong rebounder, can defend in the post and on the perimeter—often in the same possession—and he's got the shooting stroke to hit 44% of his threes. Again, he's 6'11". He's an absolute matchup nightmare.
Speaking of which, Jackson's presence allows All-American sophomore Miles Bridges to play the three, where he physically overpowers just about any college wing. While his shooting numbers are down from last year, he's still a tank who makes an impact on both ends of the floor.
The backcourt has changed significantly since last year despite featuring a lot of the same faces. Sophomore Cassius Winston has cut out the turnovers that prevented him from gaining more of Izzo's trust last year. His assist rate remains absurd—44.2%, top-five nationally—and he's draining over half of his three-pointers. He's not a limited player, either; he can get to the bucket and convert.
Rounding out the starting lineup is two-guard Josh Langford, another deadeye outside shooter in the midst of a sophomore breakout. He's become more aggressive as well, taking more twos than Bridges and making 49% of them. Langford and Winston, especially the latter, have both been effective late-clock scorers, which is never easy.
There's depth, too, especially up front. Gavin Schilling, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins give Tom Izzo a trio of viable big men to throw out there when he gets fed up with the enigmatic Ward. Matt McQuaid is a good three-point gunner. Tum Tum Nairn still can't shoot a lick, not that he tries much, but he plays good defense. This is a complete, talented, scary team.
Small sample size caveats apply.
My goodness. State's only minor weaknesses are turnover-related: they commit a few more than ideal and don't force many on the other end. That's not a significant problem when you boast the fifth-best eFG% offense and the flat-out best eFG% defense in the country. MSU blocks over 20% of opponent two-point attempts; in related news, opponents are making 35% of their twos.
One thing hidden by MSU's overall tempo number: they actually like to move at a fast pace on offense, and their tempo gets dragged down by opponents taking the whole clock to try to find a crack in the defense. Michigan is a good transition defense team. Hopefully they make MSU's offense look a little disjointed by forcing them to play halfcourt ball the whole game.
Don't dig too big a hole. It's always difficult to get off to a decent start at Breslin, and that goes doubly so if Beilein decides to start Robinson against this MSU starting lineup. That will go poorly. Robinson's only semi-viable defensive marks in this game are McQuaid and maybe Goins, both of whom come off the bench. I don't think Michigan has a chance if Livers doesn't play at least 30 minutes, and even that might not be enough if the team finds themselves on the wrong side of an early run because there was nowhere to hide Robinson on defense.
Even out the post battle. The really difficult part of defending this MSU team is they're far too good at drilling threes to give much help in the post, and that's a problem with Ward down there. Wagner and even Teske are going to have a hard time slowing Ward. Those two, especially Wagner, need to find a way to play straight-up on Ward and get just enough defensive stops to allow their offense to make up the ground. In a game that should see Michigan be more perimeter-oriented than usual, Wagner's gonna need to can some threes.
Not in the face. Box out, gents. Getting overwhelmed on the defensive boards is how this one could get out of hand.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
MSU by 9.
Too much size, too much talent, too much uncertainty with Wagner's ankle.