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The last game before conference play has Michigan State hosting the Buffalo Bulls

Hello Spartan Nation,

After a major lull in our basketball schedule, with just 2 games played over the last 3 weeks, we are on the edge of jumping into the conference slate. First, though, we have one more tune-up, a visit from the Buffalo Bulls.

(Note: this article is being written under the assumption that there will be a game. In all seriousness, the town of Buffalo is in emergency mode after a major snowstorm dropped over 4’ of snow this past weekend. Large numbers of people died, loads more were without power. And now warming temps are causing new issues with the large amount of snow starting to melt. So, let’s put out some good vibes to the people of Buffalo.)

Assuming the Buffalo athletic department did not use Southwest Airlines to get their team to Lansing Airport, this game will happen and I am not writing this preview for nothing.

Before we get into a little analysis of the opponent for tomorrow’s game, let’s quickly discuss a couple big items from the Spartan locker room.

First, tomorrow will represent the return of Keon Coleman to Izzo’s squad, as our football team did not go bowling. It is hard to say at this point what role Keon will play on this year’s squad. But what is known is that he is an incredible athlete that can move around the court with a good deal of power and speed. He did show us last year that he has some moves on the offensive side of the ball. At the very least, he will make for a better product when the bench gets cleared at the end of a game that has long been decided. But, more importantly, he could be someone who steps in with the second unit to provide energy, and even some scoring, or fill in minutes for someone having an off night.

Second, and more significant, this game marks Malik Hall’s return from injury. His last game was on November 18, when he scored a dozen points in our win over Villanova. Obviously, Malik is a starter on this team. He is one of its best scorers with the team’s best FT% and second best FG% (not including players named Cooper and Whitens), and is crucial to the depth of our roster (I assume Akins will slide back to the bench).

But there is another point that is worth mentioning. I can not take credit for this; someone said it in one of the comment sections recently, and I will ask whoever it was to identify yourself in this comment section and get your praise. We will have to see if this is correlation or coincidence, but it seems like the falloff from Mady Sissoko’s strong start occurred around the time that Hall went down with his injury. Is there anything to the theory that Malik was a big help to Mady’s game on both ends, helping him on defense and helping him get easy looks on offense? I hope so. Let’s get Malik AND early-season Mady back!!

Alright, let’s talk about the Buffalo Bills. Excuse me, the Buffalo Bulls. Either the townsfolk of Buffalo struggle in the creativity department or they were worried about having a hard time remembering a second name, so they just made them as close as possible to one another. If they ever get another major team, they will probably name it the Balls. (Editor’s Note: I am definitely buying a trademark on the off chance that becomes a professional soccer team based in the frozen tundra of upstate NY)

Here is what I know about this team (spoiler alert: not much). Okay, they are not a good team. They are currently 6-6. They have only played 2 teams from major conferences, UCONN and West Virginia, and they lost those games by 20 and 18 points respectively. All their other opponents were from low or mid majors; they played a school named St. John Fisher. After MSU, they begin their conference schedule in the MAC, where they were picked to finish middle of the pack in preseason polls.

It is hard to draw any conclusions on what this team does or does not do well as a result of the low level of competition. But, from a quick glance at their team stats, two things jump out. One, they generate a lot of steals, getting nearly ten a game. Two, conversely, they also turn the ball over frequently, averaging over 15 per contest. For comparison’s sake, MSU averages 4.8 steals and 11.2 turnovers.

Individually, Buffalo’s leading scorer is Curtis Jones, a sophomore guard. It doesn’t appear as though one person is tasked with creating the bulk of the opportunities on offense; they have seven players who are averaging between 1.5 and 3 assists, the highest being 2.8. Similarly, it looks like several players on this roster are contributing to their steal totals. They must be coaching up some active hands. Let’s look out for that during the game and see if anyone ends up in Izzo’s doghouse for getting their pockets picked.

Overall, I am sure none of us are sweating this game. My predictions:

-Malik Hall plays 18 minutes, scores 7, gets 1 block on defense which draws a cheer from the Izzone, and is very vocal during timeouts.

-Hauser leads the team in scoring with 22.

-Mady gets a double-double.

-Lil’ Izzo gets on the court for the final 2 minutes, but does not score.

-Final score: 88-59.