Talking Points -- A Michigan State at Michigan Basketball Preview

KJ and Dylan did a great breakdown of the game yesterday. If you're like me, you'll also want a few talking points whenever your friends/coworkers/clergy members inquire about what you think will happen today. My friends, I am here to help. The following are seven points -- some derived from statistics, others from my intuition/gut/black tar opium fever dreams -- to help you look smart and be prepared for today's match. Here they are:

  • Michigan's one of the most efficient inside scoring teams in the NCAA. We can't let them score inside. It's true -- usually John Beilein's teams are associated with good outside shooting, but the Wolverines' three-point percentage has been somewhat average (35.0%) this year. Their two-point percentage (55.5%), however, has been elite, ranking them 5th in division one. Despite the high two-point percentage, it hasn't led to many shots from the foul line -- Michigan averages about 3 free throws for every 10 field goal attempts, that's good for 311th. Hopefully MSU learned its lesson from Northwestern, which is to watch drives to the basket.
  • We can't let that one tall guy beat us from three, or the other tall one get inside. The "tall guy" who can get you from three is Evan Smotrycz, a 6'9", 235 lb. forward who's been Michigan's most accurate shooter from behind the arc this year. He's been hitting them at a 45.8% clip, not good you guys. The interior player is Jordan Morgan, a 6'8" 240 lb. athletic forward who excels at getting in the post and scoring from four feet and less. The good news is that Michigan hasn't been running the pick and roll as well as last year.
  • We have to make Tim Hardaway shoot the three. If Hardaway beats MSU by making a few too many insane threes, fine. Michigan State has received the Craig Moore/Talor Battle/Jon Diebler treatment before, and if the Spartans lose due to a Brandon Paul-esque performance, so be it. Hardaway's been efficient from inside the arc however, hitting 55.3% of his twos and drawing five fouls every 40 minutes as well.
  • Who's that new guy, Trey Clarke or something? Anyway, MSU needs to watch him. First, it's Trey BURKE. Second, I could list a bunch of stats, but here's the main one. When Burke's on the floor, he assists on 30.5% of Michigan's baskets; that number puts him 90th among all of division one. His replacement most of the time, Stu Douglass, assists on 12.6% of Michigan's made baskets. I'm sure there's some overlap when they're both on the floor, but Burke's the better point guard, and if he picks up two quick fouls, expect Beilein to (stupidly from a UM point of view) pull him, which should make the Wolverine offense less efficient.
  • Who's that one guy that always draws charges? I hate him. That guy is Zack Novak, and he makes Chris Kramer's flopping game look like Cosmo Kramer. Let's get to the last talking point.
  • We need to be emotional, but we can't be too emotional. Remember the MSU-UM football game this past season? The ending was great, but the middle was muddled by a litany of unneeded personal fouls. It's nice to play intense, but it's even nicer to play smart. The Spartans can't let their emotion cause them to overpursue -- Michigan's inside cuts to the basket will hurt them seriously.
  • So, who do you think will win? Yeah, I know I'm supposed to post something tangible, such as how MSU's rebounding advantage will help (although Michigan's been good at keeping opponents away from offensive rebounds -- opponents only collect 27.9% of their misses, 27th best in D1), or I'm supposed to say something intangible, such as Michigan State will be focused off of their loss in Evanston and guard the heck of the offense. I'm thinking something simpler:
  • Who do I think will win? Pfft, Michigan State, duh. FINAL SCORE: MICHIGAN STATE 70, MICHIGAN 63.
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