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Previewing MSU vs. Texas

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Cooper Neill

Game time: 2 p.m.
Location: Jack Breslin Student Events Center
Online streaming: (ESPN3 in the Western U.S.)
Radio: Spartan Sports Network

If I told you there was a team that played better defense and turned the ball over more than MSU, would you believe me?

Well, that's Texas. The Longhorns rank No. 5 in adjusted D, as well as No. 308 in turnover percentage (MSU is 11/269). This is the recipe for an ugly game Saturday — the Izzone reunion game.

This will be the sixth time in seven years these teams meet, after a one-year break last season. MSU won the first three of those, but lost the last two, including a 67-55 blowout in Texas' first trip to Breslin in 2010. This is a pretty nice nonconference series these teams have.

As of Tuesday, Texas was looking pretty putrid, sitting at 6-4 with an 0-2 record against the KenPom top 130 (blowout loss to Georgetown, two-point loss to UCLA). The Longhorns most notable moment of the year had been an 86-77 loss to Chaminade in Maui.

But then Wednesday happened. Texas recorded 12 steals (out of 18 UNC turnovers) and beat No. 32 North Carolina 85-67. The Longhorn D held the Heels to 37.5 percent on 2s and 15.8 on 3s. I know North Carolina is not typical UNC, but Wednesday was a reminder that there still is a lot of skill on Texas.

The Horns sit at No. 44 in KenPom, while MSU is No. 18.

As mentioned, the Texas D has been stout. Along with being No. 5 in adjD, it's No. 1 in opponent eFG%, No. 2 in opponent 3pt% and No. 3 in opponent 2pt%. Perhaps the only good news is that the Horns are just No. 226 in steal percentage, but the UNC numbers are above. Texas also is No. 12 in block percentage. (Remember this when MSU's offense is struggling and someone by you says "But Texas sucks.")

On offense, it's not great. No. 183 in adjO, No. 266 in eFG%, No. 227 in 3pt% and No. 273 in 2pt%. The aforementioned poor turnover rate is 24.4. By comparison, MSU is 23.0. The Horns have an adj. tempo of 68.1, so pretty average. As for offensive rebounding, just No. 129 on offense, compared to No. 156 on defense. Still, Bowling Green had its share of offense boards.

The difference between these teams is that MSU's offense has still been pretty good (No. 46 in adj, No. 41 in eFG%, No. 24 in 2pt%, No. 191 in 3pt%. Winning the offensive rebounding battle could make up for some turnovers in this one.

As for the personnel, it's a pretty deep team. Nine players average at least 10 minutes per game and just two have started every game. The leading scorer is Sheldon McClellan at 15.5 points per game, along with 4.5 rebounds with a 25.1 usage rate. Julien Lewis averages 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Jonathan Holmes averages 7.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and a little more than one block per game. Cameron Ridley averages 6.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Branden Dawson had a few shots blocked against Bowling Green, so his matchup will be one to watch.

Perhaps the top player, guard Myck Kabongo has been sitting out during an NCAA investigation. Yahoo! Sports reports Kabongo has been suspended for the season, but Texas is appealing. Don't expect to see him Saturday.

KenPom, who was one point off the MSU/BG final score, predicts a 63-55 MSU win and gives the Spartans a 78 percent likelihood of winning. This has low-scoring, many-turnovers written all over it. Even if it's ugly, a win going into the Christmas break and Big Ten play certainly would be good for momentum and confidence.