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Michigan State Basketball: Providence Preview

MSU takes on the Providence Friars in the championship game of the Wooden Legacy led by National POY candidate Kris Dunn

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Boise State

Location: Anaheim, CA

Time: 10:00 PM EST 

Channel: ESPN2

KenPom Line: MSU -7

Some thoughts on Providence's playing style.

  • Kris Dunn is good. Like first-team All-American good which is why he's in the top 8 for both ESPN and DraftExpress' top 100 NBA draft prospects. He's a better and stronger Darius Morris type in that he's a bigger, athletic point guard who's not known as a shooter. His steal percentage leads the country and he's able to bother the player he's guarding due to his 6'9" wingspan. Denzel Valentine is playing arguably the best basketball in the country and Dunn might be the one guy that's making it an argument.
  • Two things the Friars do very well is take care of the ball on offense, and force turnovers on defense. A lot of their high steal rate has to do with Dunn but they also have 3 other rotation guys who have a higher steal rate than the highest MSU rotation player. They also do a great job of taking care of the ball with only one of their seven rotation players sporting a TO rate higher than 14% (MSU has multiple with the number depending on your definition of rotation player).
  • Providence has a big starting lineup at 6-4, 6-5, 6-8, 6-8, and 6-9. They mostly just use a 7 man rotation with the other two standing at 6-3 and 6-7. The only two real shooters are 6-8 freshman small forwad Ryan Fazekas who's 12-27 (44.4%) from 3 and 6-5 shooting guard Junior Lomomba who shot 4-7 (57.1%). Outside of those two the team is shooting 24.3% from 3 so hopefully the non-shooters get overconfident in their abilities.
  • Ben Bentil is their starting center who's shooting under 40% from the field but appears to be their second option offensively behind Dunn. It appears as though he has some shooting touch for a big man but overall it's probably a win for MSU when he's isolated in post-ups.
  • Aside from not turning it over, Providence is slightly above average in the other three aspects of the Four Factors on offense. While they're good at forcing turnovers and they don't put opponents on the FT line (which are two aspects that don't usually go together), they allow a pretty high eFG% and they're not great on the defensive glass.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

[MSU might be able to exploit Providence on the offensive glass despite the height difference]

MSU on Defense

[MSU doesn't force turnovers and Providence doesn't turn it over]

Things to watch for

  • Can MSU find someone to stop Dunn? As a 6-4 point guard, Dunn has a big size advantage over Nairn who's probably not as big as the 5'11" he's listed at. From watching Dunn's highlights earlier this year when he played Harvard, he was able to post up a smaller defender on a couple possessions leading to scores. Right now one of MSU's weaknesses might be being able to check a shooting guard sized player as Forbes is just okay defensively, Harris has been bad, and McQuaid has had some fouls trouble. Alvin Ellis might end up playing a role in this one if he can show an ability to keep Dunn in front of him as well as being a threat to hit open shots.
  • If Super Valentine doesn't show up, who else can take on a scoring load? I asked on Twitter who might be the Robin to Valentine's Batman and KJ (correctly) said that it might just be Tum Tum. In the past two games he's averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 assists shooting 11 of 18 from the floor with zero turnovers. However, he might have some issues against Dunn who's quick, athletic, and long. His shooting form has been fine this year and he's now finally starting to gain confidence in it due to finally seeing it going in.
  • Will Eron Harris get out of Izzo's doghouse and make an impact? Harris was in the game for 1:05 in the first half against Boise and during that time he picked up two fouls. He's had flashes where he's looked solid as his first step might be the best on the team along with Tum Tum and he has a good feel for passing the ball. Right now he's behind Valentine, McQuaid, and Forbes for wing minutes and he's yet to show he can guard well enough to be deserving of a significantly bigger role.

Bottom Line

I don't think this Providence with just a 7-man rotation has the horses to hang with these Spartans who love to get out and run in transition. MSU has enough weapons on offense and has enough rim protection that can potentially bother Dunn and the other Friars at the rim. MSU loves to get their shooters open by running them off screens and Providence size advantage will probably hurt them as it will likely be harder to stick to the shooters.

MSU 76 - Providence 71