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Michigan State Spartans Basketball vs. Santa Clara Preview

The Spartans technically open up play in the Orlando Classic when they face Santa Clara in East Lansing.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After a convincing win over Loyola on Friday, the Spartans start their play in the Orlando Classic in East Lansing (don't ask me why) against Santa Clara. You have questions about Santa Clara, I have answers.

  • So what's a Santa Clara? A university in Santa Clara, California, in the heart of the Silicon Valley. You may remember such famous past Santa Clara students as Steve Nash, Steve Nash, and Steve Nash.
  • How did they do last season? They finished with an overall 14-19 record, going 6-12 in the West Coast Conference. Their best win of last year was a two point victory over St. Mary's on the road, and they lost to Gonzaga twice by two points. All in all, not too bad.
  • Has Michigan State played Santa Clara before? Yes, once in 1995, as Santa Clara beat MSU 77-71 in the Maui Invitational in Tom Izzo's third game as coach, as the aforementioed Steve Nash poured in 23 points. TIME FOR VENGEANCE Y'ALL.
  • How has Santa Clara looked this year? They're 2-1 on the season, with wins over Cal. State Fullerton and San Diego Christian, with the loss coming at Utah State. They're ranked 126th in KenPom, which would currently rate them as the second-lowest team in the Big Ten. Rutgers is taking up the caboose right now at 128th.
  • How many tall guys do they have that see siginificant playing time? By my count, there's two guys over 6'6" that see a decent amount of minutes. 6'8" Yannick Atunga is a very good rebounder, but he's going to get in foul trouble -- he averages a foul for every four minutes on the floor. 6'9" freshman Matt Hubbard is one potential mismatch. He's made three of his five threes taken this year, and grabs about one in four of all defensive rebounds available so far this season.
  • Can Santa Clara pull the upset? Absolutely they have a chance to, because they've shot behind the arc well so far this season. They've made 42.5% of their threes so far this year (contrasted with 42.9% of their twos), although in the loss against Utah State they went 6 of 24 behind the arc. They're also most likely going to hold onto the ball, as they only turn it over on 15.2% of their possessions (31st in D1 currently).
  • And why will they lose? Because if the Broncos don't score from outside, they generally don't score efficiently. That 42.9% from two I mentioned earlier puts them in the lowest quadrant of D1 teams, and when they do miss, they do a slightly less than average job of rebounding their own misses (29.6%, 206th in D1). The one part of their defense that is way above average is their two-point defense, opponents have only been making 34.4% of their shots inside the arc.
  • Aren't all these numbers kind of flawed because of the small sample size at the start of the season? Absolutely. But at this point it's mostly what we have to go on.
  • So what do you predict will happen? I think we all get frustrated at the beginning because Santa Clara makes a couple quick threes and get out to a hot start. I think Travis Trice and Bryn Forbes answer back though, and eventually the post presence of Branden Dawson, Matt Costello et al. makes the difference.
  • KenPom predicts a 74-60 MSU victory with a 91% chance that MSU wins. Will you go with that? For some reason I think the game will be slightly closer. Let's say 68-60 MSU.
  • Can we burn The Land Grant Trophy for scrap someday? Some things are too unholy, and thus impossible to burn, sadly.