Hoops Preview: Michigan State

Submitted by Ace on January 12th, 2018 at 5:17 PM


WHAT #28 Michigan (14-4, 3-2 B1G) at
#3 Michigan State (16-2, 4-1)
WHERE Breslin Center
East Lansing, Michigan
WHEN Noon ET, Saturday
LINE 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 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.

Happy 33rd Anniversary, Mom & Dad. Let's Find A Cure For CFS. on Crowdrise

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:

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.

Prediction: Robinson starts and gets pulled by the first TV timeout, hopefully before Michigan is in too big a hole.


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 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.

Four Factors explanation

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.


MSU by 9.

Too much size, too much talent, too much uncertainty with Wagner's ankle.


UMHoops preview and in-depth matchup breakdown.



January 12th, 2018 at 5:28 PM ^

Unfortunately, I see this game going the way of the UNC game earlier this year.

We'll find ourselves down 25-30 points, and crawl back to only losing by 18.

Nowhere to hide Duncan out there. Teske and Wagner will get into foul trouble, just simply based on how often MSU attacks the rim, and that they have 5 big men capable of bruising our 2 guys. Livers and Poole will probably look bad, but this game will be a huge learning experience for them. We just have to remember that the future is bright, no matter how bad we look in this game.

MSU wins 82 - 64, and let's hope it's the only time Jaren Jackson plays against Michigan, and the last time we have to see Miles Bridges. Please go to the NBA. Thanks. 



January 12th, 2018 at 5:52 PM ^

on the bench.

We'll see Davis a little bit against Shilling and the other subs and he'll hold up fine agaisnt them to buy us some time with our two bigs not needing to combine for 40 min.

MSU is going to come out really fired up.  Just have to take the first punch and play patiently.  I highly doubt we go down 30. We'll be in it.  We're a good team, and MSU isn't that much better.


January 12th, 2018 at 6:27 PM ^

I just don't see how we can have a starting 5 out there that can defend their monster trio.

Simpson vs Winston is even

Rahk vs Langford is even

Bridges vs Matthews  - Edge goes to Bridges

Jackson vs Livers or Duncan - Edge over Livers, huge edge over Duncan

Ward vs Wagner - Edge to Ward. vs Teske I'd say it's an even matchup.

They have been running a ton of PnR with their bigs on the elbows, almost always resulting in dunks or fouls. 

I just don't think we can find 3 players than can keep up with those three for MSU. And once Wagner and Teske get into foul trouble, everything will get much worse. 

I'd love to be wrong, but I don't think Bridges and Langford will go 20 minutes without scoring like they did against Rutgers. 

They'll be floor slapping and dunking their way to a comfortable win. 


January 12th, 2018 at 7:08 PM ^

pose a lot of individual matchup problems for us, AND I would even say that Langford will be a load for Rahk.

BUT, I think we pose similar matchup problems.  Livers/Duncan will draw JJJ away from the basket, which makes him a much less effective shot blocker. If they can hit a few threes, that'll be great.

That open lane will be ripe for Z driving on Winston (who isn't a great defender), Rahk driving on Langford and Wagner driving on Ward (he killed him in Ann Arbor last year, hopefully he can do that at 90 percent), plus the aforementioned back doors.

Matthews should be able to do his thing on offense and I think he might step up to the occasion of defending Bridges.

JJJ isn't really a go-to, high usage guy so I think Livers should be able to keep him off the boards.  He will get a couple open threes so hopefully he doesn't make them.

The one matchup I do hate is Wagner trying to guard Ward, so that could be the back breaker.  If he goes 6-6 like he did in EL last year, we'll be in trouble.  If he goes 6-11 with 2 TOs like in AA, we'll be in it. And Teske should be fine on him like you mentioned (but that closes up the lane on offense a little bit).


January 12th, 2018 at 7:21 PM ^

There's no logical way for us to match up well with these guys.

That being said, there's always games where you just shoot the lights out ... as opposed to the games where nothing falls. I am not thrilled about this one based on what I have seen so far.


January 12th, 2018 at 5:47 PM ^

had to do with him starting.  It was a game at Breslin which is a tough place to play and the entire team laid an egg against a good team.  THJ was 1-11!!  Jmo and Horford had 4 TOs combined in just 15 minutes which was the same number of TOs McGary had in 26 min. Other than Trey, the entire team was terrible.

If Livers is going to be overwhelmed at tip time, I don't see him being any less overwhelmed when Duncan gets pulled after giving up a few baskets, so might as well let him work through the jitters right away.

Seems like you start the kid and hope he's not overwhelmed (again, probably won't be any more overwhelmed because he's starting than he will be simply to play at Breslin) so you don't have to waste those few baskets Duncan will give up.  But Beilein definitely knows his guys and knows best. Curious to see what he decides.


January 12th, 2018 at 5:39 PM ^

Wagner will probably be on the bench in 2 minutes with 2 fouls.

Then it will be dunk o rama clinic while our 3s clank off the rim over and over.

Bad matchup this year.


January 12th, 2018 at 7:42 PM ^

OMG!!! The 1-3-1 a "junk defense"!!! OMG!!! Not if you have a coach who knows how to play/coach it. You can maintain excellent on-ball pressure and trap out it better than any other defense. Michigan's question would be who plays on the baseline. (The 2-3...now there is a junk zone defense...we only played it for show then rotated to something else.)


January 13th, 2018 at 12:27 AM ^

said this six days ago and gets bombed on every bball thread: "Simpson is not really a point guard. Brooks is a PG and needs to be out there to get this team started on the right foot. My contention is that Brooks needs to be playing 25 minutes a game to really let him get his feet under him. Simpson is great in relief of Brooks."

You either don't know much about basketball, don't even watch it, or you've created an absurd (but well executed) parody/troll account.

OMG + 3 exclamation points?  I'm thinking parody account?

The 1-3-1 is a total junk zone.  There's a reason no one runs it.  All zones are pretty much junk defenses but at least the 2-3 is run successfully by some teams and it's well-suited for modern basketball by putting four out and one in (two in the corners, two up top and one in the middle). The 1-3-1 basically wastes a defedner near the FT line.

Lloyd's Boy

January 12th, 2018 at 6:12 PM ^

I have a feeling that the Beilein autobench ploy when players get their second foul in the first half will haunt us. Our post defense (- Teske) commits too many weak fouls, and all it takes is for Mo, Matthews, or Livers to pick up two early ones to put this game out of reach. I very much hope I'm wrong, but have a hard time seeing us pull out the W. Really tough matchup for our squad.


January 12th, 2018 at 6:18 PM ^

Beilein's openly been less rigid with autobench over the last couple years, even if he's still more conservative than I'd like on that front. He's been afforded the luxury of sticking tighter to the two-fouls-and-out rule this year because this team has a better bench than the last couple and he's wanted to find a way get the young guys minutes anyway. We'll see how it goes tomorrow but I could see Beilein being less cautious than his reputation would suggest.

JWG Wolverine

January 12th, 2018 at 10:11 PM ^

Thanks Ace for all the hard work that you do here! Your analysis is always appreciated, and the laughs you give us on podcasts! Of course, keep up the good work in your deep knowledge of Michigan hockey!!!!! (/s)

I plan on donating soon and absolutely love the fact that you are putting this tremendous group of people into use for obviously a good cause. Plus, the incentives you have given us are just awesome! Can't wait to see it all happen!

The fact that you have done such great work for our enjoyment through all of the hardships you have been through is beyond inspiring. Your father's story inspiring as well.

I swear someone's cutting onions in here...

Forever Go Blue and God Bless!

Here's to hopefully a great big Michigan victory in your honor this weekend, as the Purdue game didn't really work out.

Arb lover

January 12th, 2018 at 8:18 PM ^

Since OSU and Maryland, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Michigan upsets Sparty.

If "go green" goes crazy, please be aware that East Lansing has three really dumb regulations that wouldn't hold up in a real court, but you know, East Lansing.... In East Lansing:

1) Don't be within 300 feet of a couch fire, including on public rights of way, or you might be arrested. 

2) Don't find yourself on a (public) street that was dispersed with pepper spray within 2 hours prior or where they made an announcement on loudspeaker to leave (2 hours prior) [unclear].

Oh, and something my six year old should watch out for:

3) No throwing snowballs on public sidewalks. 

You can't make this stuff up, folks. 


January 12th, 2018 at 10:41 PM ^

Thought about starting thread, but decided to post this here.  

Michigan commits:

Brandon Johns scored 38pts and pulls 12 boards in a win with Beilein in attendance and

David Dejulius scored 41pts in his teams win.