|WHAT||Michigan v. #25 Michigan State|
|WHERE||East Lansing, MI|
7:00 PM EST
January 27th, 2011
|THE LINE||Michigan +10.5|
After a surprisingly strong start to the season Michigan was riding high at 10-2 and some of the more optimistic fans (yours truly included) were predicting a finish on the NCAA bubble. A win over Penn State and blowout losses to Purdue and Wisconsin - both on the road - didn't change the equation much. Close losses to #2 Kansas and #1 Ohio State in Crisler Arena gave further hope.
Then it all came crashing down. A previously solid Michigan defense was exposed in road debacles against Indiana and Northwestern, dropping from the top 20 nationally to the worst in Big Ten play. Jordan Morgan says "we thought our defense was good just because it was good, but really it was the hard work we were putting in." The team needs to get back to focusing on defensive play, rather than expecting the success to come.
Of course, Michigan's season - as painfully as it's unfolded - can't be looked at as a disaster, because there were almost no expectations coming in. That's not the case for the other side.. The Spartans have failed to live up to the usual hefty expectations--unfair though they may have been. Michigan State has dropped to an UNACCEPTABLE #25 national ranking (John Beilein: "That's not struggling"), and the perception is that they're reeling.
The perception isn't helped by the recent suspension of Korie Lucious for the remainder of the season. Though Lucious hasn't started any games this season, he's playing starter minutes (4th on the team in minutes/game) and was leading the Spartans in assist rate. He didn't accomplish much in two games against Michigan last year, but he's played a bigger role for the Spartans in 2010-11.
And of course, what would a Michigan-Michigan State basketball game be without the Rivalry Factor? Indiana native Zack Novak said "I hate them as much as people who have been here their whole lives," though his fellow Hoosier expatriate Stu Douglass backs off a bit, saying "I wouldn't call it hate." Either way, the Spartans have owned this "rivalry", winning every game since that duo has been in Ann Arbor. It's been over 10 years since Michigan has won in the Breslin Center (or even kept it to single digits), and Michigan is going to have to break their run of poor form if they want to end that streak.
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Michigan State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||State Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. MSU Def eFG%||107||75||S|
|Mich Def eFG% v. MSU eFG%||164||111||S|
|Mich TO% v. MSU Def TO%||21||210||MM|
|Mich Def TO% v. MSU TO%||232||201||S|
|Mich OReb% v. MSU DReb%||303||84||SSS|
|Mich DReb% v. MSU OReb%||58||32||S|
|Mich FTR v. MSU Opp FTR||342||159||SS|
|Mich Opp FTR v. MSU FTR||61||219||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. MSU AdjD||70||18||S|
|Mich AdjD v. MSU AdjO||76||50||S|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
The advantages for Michigan State come where you'd expect: rebounding and not sending Michigan to the free thrown line. Sparty's not the exceptional rebounding team they've been in the past, but early rebounding competency from the Wolverines has faded as the schedule has gotten tougher, and Michigan has gone with Evan Smotrycz at the 5 more frequently.
All said, this isn't the statistical nightmare on paper that I've come to expect from these contests. Though Michigan has had at least their share of struggles, State is in a similar boat, albeit against tougher competition.
One key will be for MIchigan's bigs to stop committing silly fouls. Jordan Morgan said, "I'm learning from a lot of mistakes I've made," but learning means very little if it's not applied in game situations. Foul trouble among the bigs must be avoided, as State's Draymond Green and Delvon Roe are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Spartans' talent in the frontcourt. Another key is to defend Michigan State's athletes, and prevent the Spartans from getting up and down the court in transition, and getting into the lane on drives from the likes of Kalin Lucas. That can be a tall task, as even John Beilein admits that Michigan's quickness is a weakness.
Rivalry games mean lots of coverage across the internets:
- Dylan asks questions of KJ from The Only Colors.
- KJ returns the favor, and TOC's Pete does the same with Remember Bo of Maize n Brew.
- MSM coverage from AnnArbor.com, the Free Press, and the Detroit News.
- Finally, game previews from TOC and from UMHoops.
At least one Wolverine fouls out, more likely two. I'll guess Jordan Morgan and Tim Hardaway Jr. Darius Morris picks up his play, though not to early-season levels. He finishes in double digits scoring, and is close in assists. The Wolverines will come closer than they have in a long time, but still fall in Breslin, 76-68.