Previewing MSU vs. Miami

Gregory Shamus

Game time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: BankUnited Center - Coral Gables, Fla.
TV: ESPN
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com (ESPN3.com in the West)
Opponent blog: State of The U
Q&A: Here

MSU will do its part to represent the B1G in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge when it heads to Coral Gables to take on the Miami Hurricanes.

The Big Ten lost the first 10 challenges, but has won the last three. MSU is 6-6 all-time. It used to be the only Big Ten school with an above-.500 record, but that has changed in recent years. MSU won to get back to .500 last year, and Ohio State is 6-5. (Nebraska is now 1-1).

A year ago, Miami reached the second round of the NIT and finished at 20-13. They entered this season with the NCAA Tournament as a very reachable goal. The opened the season No. 40 in KenPom's rankings, but suffered stunning 63-51 loss to Florida Gulf Coast. They rebounded with an impressive 77-62 home win against Detroit. The Canes currently are No. 60 by KenPom.

You may remember their coach, Jim Larranaga, whose George Mason team eliminated MSU in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

One thing to watch in this game will be the energy. Tom Izzo has already expressed frustration with his scheduling and the amount of games MSU has already played (6) and travel (Germany, Atlanta, now Miami). The Canes have played just four games and haven't left the state.

Overall, this is a pretty solid offensive team for Miami. Effective FG% of 52.9 (54th in KenPom), 56.3 2P% (17th). They do have a 5.2 block percent on offense (33rd), but their OR% is 34.1 on offense (128th) and 29.3 on defense (89th), so there could be a few rebounds to be had.

MSU has had 20 turnovers in each of the last two games, and Miami's steal% on offense is 11.1, so this could get sloppy at times.

Miami's top scorer is sophomore guard Shane Larkin, averaging 17.3 points 4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game for an offensive rating of 117.3. He does average more than three turnovers per game. Reggie Johnson is the force inside. The 6-foot-10 Johnson averages 11.7 points and 10.0 rebounds. He gets hacked, as he has 27 field goal attempts (10 makes) and 25 free throw attempts (15 makes). He's used on 31.9 percent of possessions, which is 30th in the nation.

Overall, the Hurricanes have five players averaging double-figures, with the other three being guard Durand Scott, forward Kenny Kadji and guard Trey McKinney Jones.
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As for MSU, it was said above, but this team is getting run ragged, especially Keith Appling. I imagine Appling will have the task of guarding Larkin, but he also has become the only reliable part of the offense. It's unclear right now if Travis Trice or Gary Harris will be available for this game, but Trice's return certainly would be beneficial to give Appling a little rest.

Trice has been dealing with a concussion, while Harris is dealing with a shoulder injury, though both did return to practice Monday. I wouldn't expect a ton out of either of these two.

The most important players in this game might be Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. The Canes are a big team, and we'll probably see Nix and Payne on the floor together quite a bit.

But No. 1, the turnovers need to be cut down. Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson and Russell Byrd have each had major problems with the ball in the last two games. Appling is the only one who can be trusted with the ball right now. (Ducking Delvon did a great piece on turnovers, by the way. Check it out).

KenPom predicts a 64-62 MSU win. Vegas has Miami -2.5, so this should be a good one. Get past Miami, and MSU should be on a good winning streak heading into the Texas game. But if I'm making a prediction, I'll go with the Canes in a narrow one over an undermanned and tired MSU squad.

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