Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. The Citadel Bulldogs

Your MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS vs. THE CITADEL BULLDOGS
MCALISTER FIELDHOUSE
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
7:00 P.M. (ET), MONDAY

TV:ESPNU

Bulldog bullets:

  • Overall record of 20-13 in 2009; 15-5 in Southern Conference play; KenPom ranking of #191.  Best win was on the road vs. Davidson.
  • Lost to MSU in East Lansing by 14 last season.  Raymar Morgan scored 26 points on 11-12 FG shooting.
  • Team returns 3 of 5 starters.  6-4 record to date this season.  Lost by 19 to West Virginia on the road.  Best win is a 7-point neutral-court victory over Eastern Michigan.
  • 6'1" junior guard Cameron Wells is The Citadel's best player: 17.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.1 steals per game.  Shooting .492 on 2-pointers, .833 from the line, doesn't take many 3-pointers.
  • Second-leading scorer is 6'2" junior guard Zach Urbanus, who's averaging 13.7 points/game on .507 three-point shooting.
  • Top post player is 7'0" senior Joe Wolfinger, who's averaging 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.  The big guy can shoot it from outside, too: .424 three-point percentage on 33 attempts.  Wolfinger transferred from Washington, after averaging just 5.9 minutes/game for the Huskies last season, and received a waiver from the NCAA to be able to play immediately.
  • Despite a superdeep roster (24 players! Do military schools have drafts for their sports teams?), only 7 players have appeared in all 10 of the team's games.

The Citadel's tempo-free profile indicates they're quite a bit better on offense than on defense.  They don't turn the ball over much (TO%=18.5%) and they've been extremely prolific from beyond the arc, taking 42.2% of their FG attempts from 3-point range and knocking down 39.0% of those attempts.  (Their official stat sheet shows a team 3-point% of 35.8%, indicating they actually didn't shoot all that well against the two Division II teams they've played.)

The positive here is that the Bulldog's outside shooting tendencies should theoretically play into MSU's hands, as the Spartans have held opponents to a 27.4% three-point shooting percentage to date.  The negative is that 3-point shooting barrages are how upsets of mid-major over top-25 teams tend to happen.

Defensively, the Bulldogs are allowing opponents to match their shooting proficiency from 3-point range (precisely) at 39.0%.  They also don't block many shots (block%=3.5%), which would indicate that Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green will be able to get their shots off on the inside.

MSU should be able to score efficiently in this game.  They just need to make sure The Citadel doesn't score even more efficiently.  (One potential obstacle on offense: the Bulldogs play at a very methodical pace: adjusted tempo of just 59.6 possessions/game.  Fast break opportunities will be few and far between.)

Sagarin makes MSU a 12.5-point favorite.  This is a bit of a dangerous game to schedule--all downside, no upside--but I like the fact that Tom Izzo scheduled a road game against a lower-profile opponent again this year.  It breaks up the monotony of games against less talented teams and focuses the team to play with more intensity.

P.S. Obviously a very tough break for Ohio State over the weekend, losing Evan Turner for the next eight weeks after he injured his back on an attempted dunk.  You hate to see a conference race as promising as the Big Ten's this season not get started without all of the league's junior stars in action.  As far as the impact on MSU's Big Ten chances, I note that MSU's only game against the Buckeyes doesn't take place until Feburary 20, when Turner should be back on the court.  (HT: Spartalytical.)

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