As always, these are based off of the KenPom pages. Here is Michigan State's.
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I forgot how absolutely nerve-racking the Sweet 16 is. Really, though, there isn't a whole lot to be nervous about. For one, and more importantly, we've already surpassed expectations. And even the heightneed, ballooned expecations of early March were to get to the Sweet 16. We're already there. Everything else is absolutely 100% gravy. So, no need to put undue expectations on the team. If they lose, awesome season. If they win, incredible.
And for two, this game is a toss-up. A 50/50 affair. I would be equally unshocked with both a win or a loss. So, just let the ball tip and see where we end up.
Wait, did you hear? Apparently, these two teams matched up in the regular season. Still, with how much has changed in the past two months-and-change, I don't think you can learn too much at all from the January 10th contest. Sure, Sparty has gotten better since too, I'm sure, but I highly doubt they've made the same strives we've made.
But, just in case you think it plays a role. They whooped us up pretty good in the first half, with our young'uns still learning how to react on the road and the massive Breslin Center crowd had fun yelling and stuff. Sherron turned the ball over approximately 187 times in the first half, and our offense was absoltuely, completely non-existent. And then, there was halftime. When the second half started, we were a more composed team. We were no longer handing the ball over or offering them free paths to the basket or missing wide open shots. In the second half, we outscored the Spartans. Were a potential Sherron Collins three in transition to find the bottom of the net, cutting the lead to only 6 with plenty of time left, we may be talking about an entirely different game.
So, even in a game that was played so long ago (to show you how long ago it was, check this out: on the same day, Missouri played Nebraska to open up Big 12 play. They lost to the Cornhuskers, and scored only 41 points. Fastforward to Thursday night, where they scored triple-digits against the best defense in the country to move on to the Elite freakin' Eight. Yeah, things have changed) we are practically a brand new team now, we could have won. Add in what should be a neutral environment (although, who knows just how loud KC and Company can be), plenty of road experience if there is to be a crowd, and we should be money.
Rest of the preview, well, you know where it is...
The inconsistent aspect of Tom Izzo's squad. They'll have some games where they are hitting their shots, working it down low and (shock of the century) getting out in transition for easy hoops, and score 94 (vs. Oklahoma State) or even 78 (@ Ohio State). And then there are some games where none of that is really going on, and they only manage 54 (@ Michigan, @ Purdue). I have absolutely no idea which unit is going to show up Friday night.
eFG% (126th) -- Talk about inconsistent. This should be key. If Sparty's hot, well then that just sucks. And, there isn't a whole lot we can do. So, just pop out and stick hands in faces, try and force them to take jump shots. they aren't Dayton, but they still are more of a slashing team who like to work towards the goal. Keep them on the perimeter and make them get crazy hot to score.
Turnover% (198th) -- The main key, though, as far as Sparty's offense goes. They aren't good at holding on to the ball. Like, whatsoever. And I know that we're no Missouri when it comes to actually stealing the ball, but hopefully we can have a good day. I have a feeling we'll need extra possessions to win this one, and this should be the easiest way to pick them up.
Off. Reb% (4th) -- Yeah, this is what concerns me. We actually held them lower than their season average the first time we played, and that was with Cole and a host of players who had absolutely no idea what was going on. Hell, Matt freakin' Kleinmann got 3 first-half minutes. Nobody showed a single flash of boxing out or rebounding or any of that in the first game. And, while we still aren't great at it, we're much better. Box out, my friends.
FTA/FGA (39th) -- Like I said, they like attacking the rim. It's fine if you foul some of them, while others are quite dangerous from the free throw line. In any case, stay out of foul trouble Cole, please. And try not to foul.
- 3-Point FGA/2-Point FGA (22% 308th) -- See what I mean? They don't like the long ball. Chris Allen and Durrell Summers both shot in triple digits, but that's it. They'll take open ones, and they aren't terrible at actually making them, but their offense is outside-in. So, pack it in, Bill. Make them hit the long balls to beat you, please.
While their offense is incredibly inconsistent, their D is quite stout. Like, always. Typical, rough, in-your-face D that we've been seeing in East Lansing for years.
eFG% (89th) -- Not as good as I expected, actually. We'll likely get some open looks, but most likely not from three. They lock up the perimeter, more-or-less, making it paramount you hit the few open chances you get (coughBradycough). However, they'll give you your fair share of chances inside. Hey, Cole, you ready? Plus, Sherron should be able to get into the lane a bunch, as well.
- Turnover% (192nd) -- Way lower than I thought. This is awesome, because I'm petrified of teams that force turnovers, with our turnover-happy tendencies as it is. They still have the potential to turn us over, but we should be in pretty good shape. Hopefully.
Off. Reb% (6th) -- Think the Spartans dominate the boards? Geez. Again, the key here is the Morris Twins plus Mario Little. Gotta rebound, gotta get those invaluable second-chance points. They will likely be the difference in the game.
FTA/FGA (147th) -- Eh. Nothing to see here, move along.
Michigan State plays quite a few players, as they are incredibly deep, but there are 7 key players. That's who I focused on below:
Kalin Lucas (G) -- Big Ten Player of the Year. Not that good of a shooter, with a decent stroke from 3, but draws fouls pretty well and never gets called for them himself. Keep him out of the lane, though, and you should be fine. Sherron?
Travis Walton (G) -- Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He blew up against USC, but is usually extremely reserved on the offensive end, serving exclusively as a role player. Has zero long-range, hanging out around the mid-range game. He's almost assuredly where we'll hide Tyshawn, and shouldn't be hard to contain.
Durrell Summers (G) -- Probably their best perimeter shooter, Summers can also drive. The real underrated star of the Spartans, IMO, and will liekely be guarded by Brady. Unless, of course, we go crazy like the last time we played them and slide Brady on Raymar, leaving our 4 on the 6'4" Durrell. I actually think we'll go with the latter, meaning Summers could explode. Watch out.
Raymar Morgan (F) -- He's been cold for awhile, but could explode at any second and has off-the-charta athleticism. Whoever is on him, whether it is Brady or the Law Firm, keep him out around 15-feet. He's solid out there, but not nearly as consistent as when he's driving towards the lane and stuff.
Goran Suton (C) -- The number one reason I'm freaking out, really. Dude was just recovering from an injury when we played them last, and only played 20 minutes. He's pretty much a stud, though, who can occasionally pop out and knock down threes. Still, I'll live with that shot as long as he doesn't live on the offensive glass. That, I won't tolerate.
Chris Allen (G) -- Another pretty solid long-range bomber, he's all right at driving the lane. In a lot of ways, he's a helluva lot like the player who starts in front of him, Durrell Summers. Not quite as good, but virtually the same player. Play him the same way.
Delvon Roe (F) -- Another athletic freak. Dude is almost as ridiculous of a rebounder as Goran Suton is, we need to make it a priority to box him the hell out. Minimal offensive impact, and doesn't have a whole bunch of range, but can finish quite well really close in.
1) Offensive Glass (i.e. 3M, Show Up) -- This is where the game should be decided. Michigan State makes up for all of their other struggles, and there are quite a few, by being the second-or-third best rebounding team in all of the land. They freaking dominate you on the glass, even if you have 3 Dennis Rodmans on your frontline. So, while Cole will surely show up and get his double-figures, the key will be the matchup between 3M (Marcus, Markieff, Mario) and Michigan State's Delvon Roe, Marquise Gray and Draymond Green. If our 3M can outscore them off of the second-chance points and pile up the defensive rebounds, we should be in fine shape. So, please, whatever it takes, play well 3M. Please, please, please.
2) Three-Ball -- I'll keep on saying it. We managed to sneak through Minneapolis without really shooting the three well. That won't fly against the better teams we'll be facing from here on out. Please, somebody needs to get hot from out there. Sherron is shooting all right, not outstanding but pretty solid. But the rest of the team sucks from way out there.
3) Pressure-Free -- All of the pressure is off. While the game is really a 50/50 affair, nearly everyone I've seen in the media (save Digger) is choosing Sparty. No disrespect, Bob Stoops, but none-pressure, neither. Like I said in the opening, we've already exceeded expectations. So, go out there and have fun. Play loose.
After all, we're wearin' the blues.
Remember last time we wore the blues in the NCAA Tournament? Yeah, last year's Final Four. That was then that team finally felt truly like an underdog, and they responded with two incredible games en route to a National Freakin' Championship.
So, let's have the same attitude. Pressure-free, no need to go out and play up tight.
Wearin' the blues.