Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
When: 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, 2020
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/Spartan Sports Network radio
Detroit Mercy (0-0): No. 219 (Kenpom)
1 - Antoine Davis (6’1” junior, WO), Jordan Gorman (5’10” senior), Jamail Pink (6’1” sophomore), Joey Liedel (6’0” freshman)
2 - Dwayne Rose Jr. (6’4” senior), Brad Calipari (6’0” senior, WO), Kyle LeGreair (6’0” freshman)
3 - Marquell Fraser (6’5” senior), Matt Johnson (6’4” senior)
4 - Chris Brandon (6’7” junior), Bul Kuol (6’7” senior), Noah Waterman (6’11” freshman)
5 - Taurean Thompson (6’11” senior), Willy Isiani (6’8” junior)
What a difference a year makes. Last season, with an NCAA-post-season ban imposed on him Mike Davis (formerly of Indiana, UAB, and Texas Southern — yes, that Mike Davis who has beaten highly ranked Tom Izzo teams in the Breslin with both Indiana and Texas Southern), could not recruit and could not surround his other-worldly-talented son with quality Division I players. The team finished 8-23, second-to-last in the Horizon League, and generally had a miserable time. Bad at early every aspect of the game, Detroit was No. 306 in Kenpom’s ratings, succeeding only in attacking the offensive glass, making free throws, and jacking a lot of three-point shots.
This year, with the ban lifted, and with a fleet of transfers and renewed purpose, Detroit should be a far tougher opponent. Kenpom’s pre-season ratings have Detroit at No. 219, and my guess is that they finish better than that even. The reasons are simple: Mike Davis is a solid coach, the team added some size and a bit of quality to its front-court (assuming Waterman’s immediate eligibility waiver comes through soon), and, of course, they return one of the more electric scorers and all-around impressive guards in the country in Antoine Davis — more on him below.
This team runs a “heliocentric” offense focused on Davis’ scoring, shooting, and creation abilities. So it will be interesting to see how Mike Davis incorporates the new talent, and tries to improve a disastrous defense. Expect Thompson (the one-time MSU target, Syracuse recruit, Seton Hall transfer, and, in his final act, Detroit grad-transfer) to be the featured front-court player, and Dwayne Rose Jr. (Derrick Rose’s nephew) and Brad Calipari (John Calipari’s son) to add some scoring punch in the back-court.
I do not think that anyone can confidently say what this team will play like (other than maximizing Davis), but the context of this game portends a far closer game than might be expected: Michigan State is coming off a huge win at Duke, Davis (father and son) are attempting to resurrect the long-dormant Detroit program, there is history between the programs (Izzo is just 1-3 against them), and there is something in the air.
Antoine Davis is the guy:
He is quick, has the ball on a rope, will pull-up from anywhere, can score at all three levels, and is simply fun to watch. On two heinously bad teams over the last two seasons, Davis, in mega-usage roles (more than one third of all possessions end with Davis), has put up offensive ratings of 107 and 100 in his first and second seasons. That is incredibly difficult to do. He shoots 43 percent from two-point range, 35 percent from three-point range, and 88 percent from the free throw line for his career. Oh, and to be clear, those percentages are on an incredibly high volume: each of his two seasons he has taken more than 300 two-point shots, more than 300 three-point shots, and more than 140 free-throws.
Davis also passes terrifically, does not turn it over much, and draws plenty of fouls. This kid is a flame-thrower, an incredible basketball player, and probably the best pure scorer that Michigan State will play this season. If Detroit can find some solid guys to play with him then they could play a major spoiler in the Horizon league, potentially in the postseason, and certainly in the Breslin Center.
Beyond Davis, Calipari and Rose Jr. can really shoot from three-point range, and Fraser and Johnson can contribute some on the wings too.
Make Davis inefficient, put the clamps on the other shooters, do not allow Thompson to get any easy buckets.
This will mostly be about limiting Davis, who I fully expect to get 30 points in this one. Rocket Watts, Aaron Henry, Joshua Langford, Gabe Brown, and AJ Hoggard will all cover him some, and I expect the length and help to do a solid enough job in making him get his numbers inefficiently.
Ideally, Michigan State really dominates this one early and often so that Langford, Brown, Hoggard, Kithier, Sissoko, and Marble can get a lot of minutes and really start to find their grooves.
I would not be surprised to see this one close through the first six minutes of the second half.
MSU 85 UDM 65