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Michigan State Basketball Preview: Arizona

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The Armed Forces Classic is here to remind Michigan State fans what direction up is.

State Farm Champions Classic Kansas v Michgan State Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

According to the latest exit polls, if I write a witty opening about the election and tie it into the basketball game:

46.9% Wouldn’t read it

25.6% Would laugh

25.5% Wouldn’t laugh

1.7% would laugh at a third party joke

Given those small odds, I would say that I should not make one of those kind of joke, but Tuesday night far behind us and focus on how Tom Izzo and crew are going to Make East Lansing Win Again.

Turn and face the change

This Michigan State basketball team is going to look a LOT different from the Spartan team that brought home the Big Ten title last March. Much like the football team, this squad is entering the year after losing some major talent to graduation (Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, and Colby Wollenman), had some players leave for other programs (Javon Bess and Marvin Clark Jr.), lost pieces early to the draft (Deyonta Davis) and had some injuries before the season began (UNLV Transfer Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling). Add all that up and you get a new look Spartan team on Friday night against the 10th ranked Wildcats of Arizona.

Projected Starters

Ready for the line-up you should get used to?

PG: Tum Tum Nairn (Junior)

G: Eron Harris (5th year Senior)

G: Matt McQuaid (Sophomore)

F: Miles Bridges (Freshman)

F: Kenny Goins (Sophomore)

That is right, you are looking at a relatively small starting lineup for the Spartans this year. Izzo was planning on running a much different system but knee injuries to Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling have both of them on crutches and not able to contribute until at least half way through the season. That being said, if the exhibition is any indication the ball will be going to freshman Miles Bridges a lot. He has averaged 27.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4 blocks through the first two exhibition games. Not only are the number impressive, so are the highlights.

Examples:

Long story short, the kid has the ability to jump out of the gym. It should be fun to watch.

The Matchup

The top-25 matchup is thanks to the Armed Forces Classic and will be played on a neutral court, the Stan Sherieff Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii. The Wildcats are set to start a big lineup, including freshman Lauri Markkanen who is listed at 7 foot-0. He is joined in the seven foot club by junior Dusan Ristic. This poses an interesting challenge for the Spartans as the tallest player in the projected starting 5 for MSU is Bridges at 6-7.

“To play against three 7-footers for our team is kind of the exact opposite of our team right now,” Izzo said. “It will be a good measuring stick. They are a very, very big team and hopefully, we are a very, very athletic team. Although, they have some good athletes. In some ways, it is like us. … Where we are a little bit weak right now is that our old guys don’t have as much experience as theirs.”

This is going to be something to watch all season, at least until Carter and Schilling get healthy. The possibility of rotating in other freshman like Josh Langford, Nick Ward, and Cassius Winston could lead to lineups that have 3-4 freshman on the court at the same time, something that is rare for Tom Izzo led teams.

What To Look For

This is going to be a game that MSU is going to want to keep the tempo and pace up, while Arizona is going to try their best to be physical and low the game down. The Wildcats do like to attack, so sticking to defensive assignments is going to be key.

The matchup down in the post is going to be something I am interested to take a look at. Arizona’s Ristic is going to be trying hard to win the battle on the glass while they have their leading scorer from last year, Kadeem Allen, returning as well. Pay attention to how Izzo’s squad is able to hold him on defense and look to exploit the speed vs the size matchup all night.

Prediction

We all know how well my predictions have gone over on this site so I am going to tell you to take this with a grain of salt.

MSU 65 Arizona 56

Let us forget how much 2016 sucked and rejoice. Basketball is back.