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Michigan State vs. Bowling Green -- A Preview

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MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS vs the BOWLING GREEN FALCONS
THE JACK BRESLIN STUDENT EVENTS CENTER -- EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2011, 7:00 PM EST
TV: BTN (HD)
ONLINE RADIO FEED: Spartan Sports Network

Finals week is over, and Michigan State starts off the break by playing the Bowling Green Falcons (KenPom #183), a team the Spartans beat 74-39 last year. Let's take a look.

WHO HAS BOWLING GREEN PLAYED AND BEAT THIS YEAR?

The Falcons are 5-4 this season, with losses against Georgia (by 9), Western Kentucky (by 7), and Valparaiso (by 3) on the road, and a loss to George Washington (by 21) at home. Bowling Green's beat the best team they've faced so far this however; a three point win at home over Temple (KenPom #36). The Falcons are an experienced team -- five of their six players averaging more than 20 minutes a game are juniors or seniors. They won't be rattled by a Breslin Center crowd sans Izzone.
WHAT WILL BOWLING GREEN'S OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN BE?

Take it inside. 64.5% of the Falcons' shots are two pointers, and this percentage is fourth in the nation among all Division one teams. Their two-point percentage is mediocre (45.2%), but they compensate by avoiding turnovers (18.9% TO%) and taking the ball away at the rate of one every four possessions. You'd think a team that takes that has a high percentage of two-pointers would also have a high free-throw rate, but this isn't the case with the Falcons. They average a free throw attempt for every 3.7 field goal attempts. That rate is in the bottom 50 in the NCAA and suggests that they either have a lot of uncontested lay-ups and dunks or take an unusual number of mid-range jumpers.

WHEN WILL THE TURNING POINT IN THIS GAME OCCUR?

Most likely midway through the first half, when MSU enters the bonus. Bowling Green opponents shoot a free throw for every 2.2 field goal attempts they take. That is a lot. Penetration from the guards and the inside games of Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Draymond Green will all be crucial, as the Falcons only have one player taller than 6'7" who sees playing time. I expect many fouls to be called, and for MSU to gain a lead on free throws at some point in the first half.

WHERE SHOULD MSU FOCUS ITS ATTENTION?

Inside scoring and maintaining possession. Bowling Green lacks height on the interior, they're prone to fouling, and they allow opponents to make 53.8% of their twos, 317th in the NCAA. Holding onto the ball would be nice as well.

WHY SHOULD MICHIGAN STATE BE WORRIED?

I feel like I'm starting to repeat things I've said earlier in this preview, so I'll keep it short. Bowling Green's beaten a Temple team that will contend for the A-10 title along with Xavier and St. Louis. They can cause turnovers. If MSU's unfocused and loses the ball consistently, this game might be as sphincter tightening as the Central Connecticut State game.

HOW WILL THIS GAME PLAY OUT?

I expect it'll be close in the first half. The Spartans will turn the ball over trying to make a few passes that aren't there, take a couple threes early in the clock, etc. They'll get the ball inside however, get to the line, and start to pull away from there.

FINAL SCORE: MICHIGAN STATE 75, BOWLING GREEN 55