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Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Wofford Terriers

7:00 P.M. (ET), FRIDAY


Terrier bullets:

  • Overall record of 16-14 last season; 12-8 in Southern Conference play; Kenpom ranking of #233.
  • Team returns all 7 players who started 10+ games last season.
  • Terriers have split 8 games so far in new season.  Played Pitt to within 3 points on the road in season opener; led Panthers by 13 early in second half.  Lost by 14 at Illinois.  Best win is 3-point road win against Georgia.
  • Leading scorer is 6'6" junior forward Noah Dahlman, who is averaging 18.0 points/game on .589 FG shooting.  Chips in 6.9 rebounds/game to boot.  Dropped 20 points on 9-16 FG shooting against Pitt.  Brother of our own Isaiah.
  • No other player is scoring in double digits.  6'2" senior guard Junior Salters averaged 15.0 points/game last season, though.  He's knocked down 19 of 50 three-point attempts (.380) so far this season.
  • Wofford upset Purdue 69-66 two years ago.  Salters led the Terriers with 13 points in that game.

Last year Wofford was quite a bit better on offense than on defense.  Given that the team's roster stayed almost fully intact, it's not surprising that that situation continues to be true this season.  Oddly, though, they've seemingly reversed strengths.  Last season, they were good at offensive rebounding and not so good at holding on to the ball.  This season, the reverse is true.  Could just be a small-sample-size thing.

Roughly the same thing on defense: still not very good, but so far last season's strengths/weaknesses don't seem be carrying forward.

So I'll go ahead and give up on providing any masterful four-factor-driven story on how the Terriers will comport themselves tomorrow night.  (One positive [for us] that has carried over from one season to the next: They don't block many shots [Block% of 3.6% this season].  Expect Draymond Green, Delvon Roe, and Raymar Morgan to score with relative ease down low.)

Let's go big picture instead: 48 hours out from the UNC loss, I'm feeling a little better about the (college basketball) universe.  From pure a fan perspective, I'm disappointed this team hasn't been able to meet the early-season expectations that come with a preseason #2 ranking.  But, from an analytical perspective, I have to concede that Tuesday night's game probably doesn't have a lot of predictive value.  It was an early-season road game in a very hostile setting against a team that refused to miss shots in the first half.  MSU could have won, but it would have taken a superior performance.

I'm more concerned about the Florida loss, really.  That was a neutral court game in which it's hard to find a story to tell other than "We beat ourselves."  30%+ turnover percentage vs. a team that shot 5-24 from 3-point range.

Tom Izzo teams have certainly bounced back from bad nonconference losses to become conference title and Final Four contenders before.  I was kind of hoping we could take a smoother ride to that destination this season, though.

Anyway, the upcoming four-game stretch (leading into the Texas game) is a bit underwhelming from a fan excitement standpoint.  No real opportunities to show progress against a good opponent--only to be less-than-perfect against subpar competition or, perish the thought, pick up a really bad loss.

Onward and forward.  And maybe, in a few weeks, upward.