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Michigan State Basketball: Michigan Preview

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Michigan State takes on in-state rival Michigan in Ann Arbor

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Time: 2:00pm EST

Channel: CBS

KenPom Line: MSU -2

Scouting report

  • While Caris LeVert reportedly said "he will most likely be back" for the game tomorrow, he likely won't be playing at the near All-American level he was playing at before his injury which caused him to miss the last nine games. He also may not play heavy minutes just yet but regardless he someone that may be able to flip the matchup in Michigan's favor if he can still provide shooting and defend Denzel Valentine well enough. He's not too dissimilar from a player MSU has already faced in Louisville's Damion Lee.
  • Zak Irvin has been playing at higher level than he was earlier this season after recovering from his back surgery that took place during the summer. He's become more well rounded and is shooting 44% from deep after shooting a horrid 21% in nonconference play. He's going to be the most interesting player in this matchup as he's going to be at the 4 likely going against 6'10" Deyonta Davis. While Davis has a size and length advantage, he's not someone you want to see chasing Irvin around screens.
  • Interestingly, Derrick Walton has been great from 3 this year (46%) but very poor from inside the arc (35%). Hoop-math says that he's solid at the rim (56%) but his 2-point jumpers are going in just 26% of the time. His assist rate isn't particularly high as Irvin's has been higher in B1G play. He does a good job of getting to the line but arguably his biggest contribution to the team is his defensive rebounding where his 20.3% is just behind Davis (20.6%) and Valentine's (21.4%) marks.
  • Duncan Robinson is very much a player who don't leave alone even if it means a much less contested shot at the rim. He's shooting 49% from 3 on the year but is in a bit of slump as he's shooting 36.6% in conference play. He doesn't do much else besides outside shooting but having someone to draw that kind of attention at all times is something every team wants.
  • Mark Donnal is Michigan's primary big man who's been much better in conference play than many think he could after his first year and a half of college basketball. He has a very good offensive rebounding percentage (Michigan as a team doesn't really send anyone other than their bigs to the offensive glass), but he's going up against one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country including Costello who has been outstanding in that aspect. He has a bit of range so you don't want to give him a ton of open space but he's not a total stretch-5 by any means.
  • From what I can tell Aubrey Dawkins doesn't create for himself a ton but he's a great finisher both at the rim (77%) and from outside where he's shooting 45% on 3's. He had a few mental lapses defensively against Indiana and hopefully MSU can take advantage of that with one of Harris or Forbes getting open looks from outside.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

MSU on Defense

Things to watch for

  • The most interesting matchup in this game will be Zak Irvin at the 4 and whoever MSU throws in there. Deyonta Davis has been the starter for the last few games and I don't expect that to change tomorrow. His offense when he creates it mostly consists of rising up over his defender for a jump hook where his jumping ability and length allows him a clean look a good amount of the time. He also has a good chance to give Irvin fits on the offensive glass. However, Irvin is a pretty similar player to Shavon Shields in play style (Shields is a bit bigger, Irvin is a better shooter) and Shields absolutely torched whoever was guarding him against MSU. Izzo may ultimately play more Clark or Bess if Davis/Goins/Schilling are having issues defending a more perimeter-oriented 4 in Irvin.
  • How healthy is Caris LeVert? I have a gut feeling (aka zero soruces) he'll play less than 20 minutes in his first game back but if he's healthier than most expect him to be, he could be a major player in this one. He was well on his way to being an all-american with a 129 ORtg on a very good 26% usage while shooting 45% from 3. A healthy LeVert scares me a good amount as his length and athleticism could give Valentine trouble when he tries to create.
Bottom Line

MSU is favored in Vegas by about 3.5 points and that's probably about right. Even if MSU isn't able to keep up its two-big lineup against Michigan, Costello should have a decent sized advantage against the less experienced Donnal. Valentine will likely have the edge against whoever is guarding him and hopefully the wing (most likely Harris) that's forced to guard Derrick Walton will have enough length to affect his outside shooting.

MSU 76 - Michigan 71