Preview: Michigan State

Submitted by Tim on January 27th, 2011 at 11:48 AM


The Essentials

WHAT Michigan v. #25 Michigan State
WHERE East Lansing, MI
January 27th, 2011
THE LINE Michigan +10.5

The Story

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.

Tempo-Free Breakdown

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:


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.


Steve in PA

January 27th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

When we play zone, we usually play much better.  With our lineup (young, smallish, and not top talent) playing man-man exposes too many flaws.  I think that JB has gotten stubborn with not wanting to play zone for some reason.

The 1-3-1 zone press is what made the team a few years back so dangerous on defense.  Since that year, we've run it very little for some reason.  I am a very big fan of it and have coached it to my teams and my son's team uses it quite a bit.  

Please JB, show us some zone defense tonight!


January 27th, 2011 at 1:32 PM ^

Hasn't been very successful at Michigan actually. It has been used as a change up on a few possessions and has caused some turnovers but it was a disaster the first couple years he tried to run it. I like the 1-3-1 as he has used it this year (ie a couple possessions a game to surprise the opposition) but would hate to see it often.

Also, I disagree that we have been better with the zone in general. Nothing has worked well in Big Ten play but earlier in the year when we were playing decent defense we used mostly man to man. The key is that since we play with 4 taller guards, they don't chase their man but switch off as the player they are covering moves to another area. That flexibility has been our biggest asset on defense and should continue.

Steve in PA

January 27th, 2011 at 4:09 PM ^

We haven't used it heavily since CJ Lee was a Senior and we beat a giant with it.  I've watched my captures from that season and we were in it easily 25% of the time.  

I think we aren't very effective with it for two reasons:

1.  We're only using it in halfcourt sets.  It is most effective when applied fullcourt after made shots.  If the opponent doesn't easily break it, it is good for chewing up 10-15 seconds before they can actually get in their offensive set.

2.  We do't use it enough.  Granted, these kids are all D1 players but so are their opponents.  1-3-1 is not a very easy defense to master at game speed against good opponents.  If the weakside defender isn't doing their job...Bam easy bucket.

When JB has used the zone this year it seems to stop the bleeding.  I don't want to see zone exclusively, but you HAVE to mix up defenses at this level when you don't have players that can play man-man defense consistently without getting burnt.


January 27th, 2011 at 12:39 PM ^

That seems like a generous score prediction. My guess is that with the departure of Kalin, the home court advantage, and MSU's relatively poor performance to date, Izzo will have his guys amped for this game. I bet MSU uses this as a "statement" game to get their season back on track.

MSU: 65

UM: 40(ish)



January 27th, 2011 at 12:39 PM ^

We've had so much good news as of late.

Meanwhile, there's been cracks in the golden tower of Izzo-dome.

Can we get the Angry Michigan Basketball Hating God to take a break for just ONE night and let us shoot well and out-play our rival.  PLEASE!  I have sacrifices to offer.  Just give me a sign.

(BTW, Love the Sparty logo.)

Yard Dog

January 27th, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

for my birthday.  I'm pumped to go, but I'm also bracing for the traditional "Asshole" chant upon entering Breslin.  My only saving grace will be my youngest one, who is a freshman at the hole by the Red Cedar.  May the shitty Sparty gear he dons give me some rest.



January 27th, 2011 at 4:27 PM ^

I think Coach Izzo (aka Angry MIdget) will have the Sparties fired up big time. I think they take out their frustrations on the young wolverines and beat them by 20. 75-55.

To be sure I also predicted the Patriots versus the Falcons in the Superbowl. May all of my predictions continue to be as right.


January 27th, 2011 at 5:01 PM ^

DOOM.  Michigan has been an absolute dog on the road this year and they're reeling.  MSU pulls away in the second half and covers the spread in a 12-16 point win.