Expect to see … Michigan edition

Rivalry time. Michigan State ventures to Crisler Center to take on the Wolverines on Tuesday night. It’s a nice matchup between two relatively young and very talented teams.

While their games are different, their successes are not so far. Both teams fell to Duke and played a tough early season schedule. Now, in conference play, they are coming off losses in their last games, which normally takes some luster from a game, but not this time.

Here is what you should expect to see:

1. Michigan State dominate the glass and the paint

The Spartans are eighth nationally in rebounding. Michigan, well, it isn’t. The Wolverines rank 229th. The size of the Spartans simply poses a huge problem for Michigan — who have played Indiana’s Cody Zeller and UCLA’s Josh Smith, but haven’t seen a combination like Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix.

Payne and Nix combine to average about 15 points and 9 rebounds per game, but beyond the stats, it is how they alter the offense. And Michigan’s Jordan Morgan will have his hands full trying to do anything against the Spartans post game. Nix should fare very well with his post moves and get some good looks, and Tom Izzo should be looking to run plays through him early and often.

Defensively, Payne is a game changer — as long as he stays out of foul trouble. Again, Morgan will have a hard time.

2. Michigan rely on the three

As if Michigan needs any more reasons to throw up shots from behind the arc, the aforementioned Spartans post defense will bring plenty of kick-outs and lead to even more reliance upon the three.

In the Wolverines’ loss at Iowa, they shot 31 threes and made only eight. For the season, they shoot 34.8 percent and the Spartans allow 30.2 percent on threes.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz essentially live by the three — especially the last three. All four take close to (if not more than) half their shots behind the arc. If those shots go down, they should win. If they don’t, there is little chance they come out on top.

3. Michigan State pressuring Trey Burke

Keith Appling has shown he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the Big Ten and he should be matched up with the freshman Burke for at least a good portion of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is on Hardaway, at times.

Burke averages 2.6 turnovers per game, and also plays excessive minutes for a freshman leading the Wolverines with 34.3 per game. Appling and Wood should be used to pressure Burke, and even Brandan Kearney, who has shown he is a reliable option in the past few games. The game plan on the young point guard is simple: Wear him down and force him to make mistakes.

The matchup of Appling and Burke, both slashers who get to the hoop and draw fouls, likely is the one to pay most attention to in the game.

4. Michigan break out the 1-3-1 zone occasionally

Michigan coach John Beilein is known as a coach who will use the 1-3-1, similar to the defense Northwestern employs. Based on how MSU struggled to find openings against the Wildcats defense, it would not be surprising if Beilein used it as well. It helps counteract a team with greater size, which is what led to the awful performances from Payne and Nix at Evanston.

5. Michigan State getting Brandon Wood involved early

Wood has been an interesting player so far. He is a great shooter, and makes a lot of smart plays, but still is adjusting. This much is clear: He does most of his scoring early in the game.

Izzo has talked about running plays for him, and we haven’t seen too much of it yet. This would be a good time to look to get him involved and streaking early. More so than any other Spartan guard, he has the ability to go off at any time.

The scoring of Wood and Trice will be important for Michigan State coming out on top.

6. Michigan put the ball in Hardaway’s hands … a lot

I am not sure how the Spartans plan on matching up, but Appling likely is going to see some time on Hardaway, despite the size difference. Hardaway is a unique blend of size, shooting ability and driving ability.

Draymond Green will spend a lot of time on Novak and Smotrycz, as will Dawson. Neither of those players has the skills to take over a game, though, like Hardaway possesses. Smotrycz has shown signs of being a great player this season, but has been struggling for the past week. (Michigan should be looking to get him heavily involved, too).

No matter who matches up with Hardaway, it will either be a mismatch in size or quickness. Kearney might be the best physical match, but experience-wise that is a nightmare. He is a streaky player, who will often settle for jump shots instead of driving. If he gets going and recognizes a bigger defender on him and elects to drive, he will create problems. But, if he settles for long threes and misses a couple … it might be a long night for Michigan.

When the matchup is broken down, Michigan State has decisive advantages in the post and also in overall athleticism. Appling’s defense should be enough to throw Burke off his game and hold him to less than 15 points. Green will record a double-double, as is expected most nights.

Green and Appling make the plays late and free throws make the game look like it was not close, when in reality, it will be.

Michigan State 72-62

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Posted on January 16, 2012, in Basketball and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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