Expect to see … Minnesota edition

The Spartans travel to Minnesooooooota tonight for the season’s second meeting.

The first one went according to plan, as the Spartans routed the Golden Gophers 68-52 in East Lansing and Tom Izzo won his 400th career game.

This one has potential career-changing implications as well: Michigan State needs a win to hold its lead in the Big Ten.

1. A high level of physicality

Minnesota will bring a physical zone defense, both half-court and press. They also have good size in Ralph Sampson III in the post and Rodney Williams on the wing.

Draymond Green, as he usually is, will be the matchup problem and will run plenty of the offense down on the block. Branden Dawson scored 16 against the Gophers last time, and also will provide a matchup problem in his size and strength. Those two have been on a tear lately for MSU in getting to the hoop and finishing incredibly well, and with contact many times.

Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix can’t be pushed around in the post by the hard play the Gophers will bring. Payne, at times, has allowed himself to be pushed around and bullied in the post by smaller players (i.e. Michigan’s Jordan Morgan). He needs to bring his toughness to this one.

2. Keith Appling get his jumper going … at last

Appling has been in a major slump shooting the ball for some time and he is due for a breakout. While his best work all season has come when he is getting to the hoop and getting out in transition, hitting jumpers will force teams to respect that element of his game more — which will open more for him offensively. He has connected on just three of his past 28 3-point attempts.

Against Minnesota, to see Appling get his rhythm back a little bit would be a welcome sight.

3. Good decision making from MSU’s guards

This will be imperative. The Minnesota defense will force the guards to make decisions quickly to stay away from the zone defense it presents. Brandon Wood’s injured shoulder is supposedly back to normal, so he will get more playing time in this one than he has in the past couple. Thus, Brandan Kearney probably will see less. But, in any capacity, those two will have to make good, timely decisions with the ball when they are on the court.

Appling, of course, will be pivotal in this as well.

4. Force the issue defensively

Minnesota is young, especially in its backcourt. See a pattern? Yeah, this game should be decided in the backcourt in a lot of ways. The team which takes cares of the ball and runs its offense will win.

In the last meeting, MSU had 10 steals and eight blocks because of its defensive pressure. Appling will do his usual good job at the point, Thornton will be relied upon to keep the pressure up on the perimeter.

Forcing Minnesota to go down low to Sampson bodes well for MSU, he got in early foul trouble in the first meeting. Nix and Payne will have to up the physicality — as mentioned above.

Ideally, frustrating Sampson and the Gophers on offense will lead to more turnovers, but also more fouls on the other end — which seemed to be the case with Sampson and Williams last time.

Despite this being a road game, and The Barn is not an easy place to go in and win, the Spartans know what is at stake in each of the remaining four games and have shown the ability to step up to the moment most of the season.

Izzo will have his team ready and so will Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, but Izzo’s game plan was outstanding against Minnesota last time. It will be again. Dawson stays hot for MSU and the Spartans win 62-56.

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Posted on February 22, 2012, in Basketball and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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