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Michigan hoops preview: Michigan State

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015


UM-MSU
Michigan (13-12, 6-7) vs Michigan State (17-8, 8-4)
Tuesday, Feb. 17 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9:00 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
63.8 Points/gm 72.0
(560-1,345) 41.6 Field Goal % 47.1 (668-1,419)
(192-549) 35.0 3-pt FG % 40.0 (191-477)
(282-376) 75.0 Free Throw % 62.2 (273-439)
11.3 FT Made/gm 10.9
30.9 Reb/gm 39.0
11.7 Assists/gm 17.4
10.0 Turnovers/gm 12.4
Defense
62.6 Points/gm 61.2
(581-1,319) 44.0 Field Goal % 38.7 (523-1,350)
(162-474) 34.2 3-pt FG % 30.0 (138-460)
34.0 Opp. Reb/gm 30.8
5.6 Steals/gm 5.8
1.8 Blocks/gm 4.6
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.9)*, Zak Irvin (13.4) Points/gm Travis Trice (14.5), Denzel Valentine (13.4)
Caris LeVert (4.9)*, Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Branden Dawson (10.0), Denzel Valentine (6.0)
*Out for season

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan is out of NCAA Tournament contention barring a Big Ten Tournament title, but the young Wolverines still have much to play for. As Drew Hallett pointed out, no current Michigan State player has won in Ann Arbor. Michigan has had the upper hand in the rivalry the past few seasons, and a win tonight would be five in a row at Crisler and seven of the past 11 overall for Michigan. Let’s take a look at Michigan State.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Denzel Valentine 32.0 14.4 44.1 43.3 84.0 6.0 4.3 2.6 0.2 0.9
Travis Trice 32.8 13.4 38.1 36.7 68.4 3.4 5.4 1.6 0.2 1.3
Branden Dawson 30.5 11.9 53.2 00.0 44.4 10.0 1.9 2.0 1.5 1.4
Bryn Forbes 28.6 9.4 47.0 45.5 80.6 1.4 1.2 1.0 0.1 0.8
Gavin Schilling 18.4 6.0 60.2 00.0 48.2 4.4 0.5 1.1 1.8 0.3
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Matt Costello 19.4 7.4 59.8 00.0 69.6 5.6 0.7 1.0 1.2 0.4
Marvin Clark Jr. 10.2 5.0 53.0 40.5 75.0 2.2 0.1 0.8 0.4 0.2
Javon Bess* 12.3 2.7 47.8 50.0 42.9 2.9 1.0 0.8 0.3 0.3
Lourawls Nairn Jr. 17.7 2.3 39.3 25.0 50.0 1.5 2.6 1.0 0.0 0.2
Alvin Ellis III 8.9 1.4 20.0 20.0 57.9 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.4
*Injured
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 at Navy W 64-59
Nov. 18 #4 Duke* L 71-81
Nov. 21 Loyola (Ill) W 87-52
Nov. 24 Santa Clara W 79-52
Nov. 27 Rider# W 77-45
Nov. 28 Marquette# W 79-68
Nov. 30 #11 Kansas* L 56-61
Dec. 3 at Notre Dame^ L 78-79 OT
Dec. 6 Arkansas-Pine Bluff W 85-52
Dec. 14 Oakland W 87-61
Dec. 17 Eastern Michigan W 66-46
Dec. 20 Texas Southern L 64-71 OT
Dec. 22 Citadel W 82-56
Dec. 30 #12 Maryland L 66-68 2OT
Jan. 5 Indiana W 70-50
Jan. 8 at Iowa W 75-61
Jan. 11 Northwestern W 84-77 OT
Jan. 17 at #14 Maryland L 59-75
Jan. 21 Penn State W 66-60
Jan. 24 at Nebraska L 77-79
Jan. 29 at Rutgers W 71-51
Feb. 1 Michigan W 76-66 OT
Feb. 7 Illinois L 54-59
Feb. 10 at Northwestern W 68-44
Feb. 14 #23 Ohio State W 59-56
Feb. 17 at Michigan
Feb. 22 at Illinois
Feb. 26 Minnesota
Mar. 1 at #5 Wisconsin
Mar. 4 Purdue
Mar. 7 at #22 Indiana
*State Farm Champions Classic, #Orlando Classic, ^ACC/Big Ten Challenge

While the previous meeting has set off a four-game losing streak for Michigan, the Spartans have won three of four including that game. The only loss was a 59-54 home loss to Illinois, who Michigan lost to in overtime last Thursday. On Saturday, Michigan State topped Ohio State thanks to a three by Denzel Valentine with 3.2 seconds remaining.

The Series

Michigan leads the all-time series 97-76 and has won three of the last five meetings and six of the last 10. Michigan leads in games played in Ann Arbor, 60-28, and has won the last four. Michigan State won this season’s previous meeting, 76-66 in overtime in East Lansing.

Notes

• Michigan State ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (72.0 points per game) and third in scoring defense (61.2)

• Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (47.1 percent) and second in three-point percentage (40.0). The Spartans defense leads the Big Ten in opponent field goal percentage (38.7) and against the three (30.0).

• Michigan State is the Big Ten’s worst free throw shooting team, shooting just 62.2 percent

• Michigan State leads the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-8.2) and assists (17.4 per game). The Spartans lead the conference in defensive rebounds (27.1) and rank tied for third in offensive rebounds (11.9).

• Branden Dawson leads the Big Ten with an average of 10.0 rebounds per game. He’s the only player averaging double-digit rebounds and leads the conference in both offensive rebounds per game (3.2) and defensive rebounds per game (6.8 – tied with Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky)

• Travis Trice ranks third in the Big Ten in assists per game (5.4) and leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.3)

• Bryn Forbes ranks third in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (45.5)

Michigan State 76 – Michigan 66 OT

Monday, February 2nd, 2015


UM vs MSU(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan visited rival Michigan State on Sunday afternoon with its two best players sidelined and nearly came away with a win. With Caris LeVert out for the season and Derrick Walton Jr missing a second straight game, Michigan at one point in the first half had a lineup featuring two true freshmen, two walk-ons, and Zak Irvin. Ultimately, the Wolverines fell in overtime, 76-66.

Michigan got off to a hot start, taking a 15-8 lead eight minutes into the game. But Spike Albrecht, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Aubrey Dawkins each picked up a pair of fouls and were forced to the bench the rest of the half. That left walk-on Andrew Dakich to run the offense for the remainder of the half and Sean Lonergan to see extensive minutes.

An 10-2 Michigan State run over the next seven minutes gave the Spartans the lead. Then Denzel Valentine took over, hitting a pair of threes in the final two minutes of the half, and Michigan State took a 29-24 lead into the locker room.

Michigan opened the second half with a 10-4 run to regain the lead less than four minutes into the half on an Irvin steal and breakaway dunk. But MSU’s Bryn Forbes answered right back with a three. Albrecht countered with a circus layup in which he was fouled, and he converted the three-point play. And so the rest of regulation went, back and forth.

Four Factors
Michigan Michigan State
48.4 eFG% 53.4
18.9 OReb% 37.1
15.9 TO% 17.4
16.1 FTR 37.9

Michigan held a 45-40 lead at the 13:19 mark, but Michigan State scored the next six. Michigan State went up 51-48, but Albrecht tied it with a three. An Aubrey Dawkins three-point-play gave Michigan a 61-57 lead with 5:06 to play, but four straight Branden Dawson points tied it up. After Dawkins’ basket and free throw, Michigan went scoreless for four minutes and 24 seconds, allowing MSU to seize a 66-61 lead with a minute left.

Albrecht nailed his third three-pointer of the game with 42 seconds remaining to pull Michigan within two. Michigan then sent Valentine to the free throw line and he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Albrecht missed a layup, but Max Bielfeldt was there to tip it in and tie the game with 20 seconds left. A Travis Trice three-point attempt at the buzzer missed and the game went to overtime.

Valentine opened the extra period with a layup and Bielfeldt turned it over, leading to two more Spartan points. Bielfeldt missed a three on Michigan’s next possession and Matt Costello made a layup putting MSU up six. At that point, Michigan was in desperation mode, but the Wolverines were unable to score in the overtime period, falling 76-66.

Albrecht and Abdur-Rahkman each scored 18 points on a combined 14-of-27 shooting and 5-of-8 three-point shooting. Irvin was the only other Wolverine in double figures, finishing with 11 points, but he made just 1-of-6 three-point attempts. Bielfeldt scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Dawkins added seven points.

As a team, Michigan shot 43.5 percent overall and 30 percent from downtown, while Michigan State shot 46.6 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range. MSU dominated the boards, out-rebounding Michigan 43-29 and shot 12 more free throws than Michigan, converting those into eight more points.

Michigan (13-9, 6-4) returns home to face Iowa (13-8, 4-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-1 0-0 1-1 0 1 1 1 3 0 0 0 0 15
02 Spike Albrecht* 6-13 3-6 3-3 0 2 2 4 18 2 1 0 0 37
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 8-14 2-2 0-0 0 3 3 2 18 1 1 0 0 32
21 Zak Irvin* 5-14 1-6 0-2 0 4 4 3 11 3 2 0 2 41
24 Aubrey Dawkins* 3-5 0-2 1-1 2 2 4 5 7 1 1 0 1 35
03 Kameron Chatman 1-4 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 2 0 2 0 0 11
04 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 3 0 0 1 0 0 16
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
30 Austin Hatch 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
44 Max Bielfeldt 3-10 0-1 1-3 2 7 9 1 7 1 2 0 2 33
Totals 27-62 6-20 6-10 7 22 29 19 66 8 11 0 5 225
Michigan State 27-58 8-22 14-22 13 30 43 13 76 19 12 7 10 225
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Michigan State

Saturday, January 31st, 2015


UM-MSU
Michigan (13-8, 6-3) vs Michigan State (14-7, 5-3)
Sunday, Feb. 1 | East Lansing, Mich. | 1:00 p.m. EST | CBS
Offense
64.8 Points/gm 73.5
(448-1,087) 41.2 Field Goal % 47.5 (574-1,209)
(163-461) 35.4 3-pt FG % 39.5 (156-395)
(238-321) 74.1 Free Throw % 63.1 (239-379)
11.9 FT Made/gm 11.4
31.9 Reb/gm 39.6
12.2 Assists/gm 17.4
9.9 Turnovers/gm 12.6
Defense
62.0 Points/gm 62.1
(459-1,050) 43.7 Field Goal % 38.2 (437-1,143)
(132-383) 34.5 3-pt FG % 30.4 (119-391)
33.8 Opp. Reb/gm 30.9
5.9 Steals/gm 5.8
1.9 Blocks/gm 4.2
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.9)*, Zak Irvin (13.6) Points/gm Travis Trice (14.0), Denzel Valentine (13.9)
Caris LeVert (4.9)*, Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Branden Dawson (10.1), Denzel Valentine (6.1)
*Out for season

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan picked up its sixth conference win on Tuesday, beating Nebraska 58-44. Now, the Wolverines travel to East Lansing for the first of two meetings with rival Michigan State. A win would keep Michigan in second place in the Big Ten, just a game behind Wisconsin. A loss would drop Michigan into the middle of the pack. Let’s take a look at the Spartans.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Travis Trice 33.1 14.0 38.8 37.3 69.6 3.5 5.5 1.6 0.1 1.3
Denzel Valentine 31.5 13.9 43.6 41.7 86.0 6.1 4.1 2.6 0.3 0.8
Branden Dawson 29.2 11.6 51.4 00.0 46.9 10.1 1.9 2.0 1.1 1.4
Bryn Forbes 28.9 9.8 50.0 47.3 83.3 1.4 1.2 1.1 0.1 0.8
Gavin Schilling 18.3 6.9 65.2 00.0 48.1 4.5 0.4 1.2 0.9 0.3
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Matt Costello 19.0 7.6 60.4 00.0 70.5 5.6 0.7 1.1 1.0 0.3
Marvin Clark Jr. 11.2 5.4 52.6 37.1 73.1 2.5 0.1 0.9 0.5 0.2
Javon Bess 12.5 2.9 50.0 50.0 42.9 3.0 1.1 0.7 0.2 0.4
Lourawls Nairn Jr. 17.3 2.0 33.0 00.0 50.0 1.3 2.6 0.9 0.0 0.3
Alvin Ellis III 8.5 1.4 20.8 18.2 60.0 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.2 0.5
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 at Navy W 64-59
Nov. 18 #4 Duke* L 71-81
Nov. 21 Loyola (Ill) W 87-52
Nov. 24 Santa Clara W 79-52
Nov. 27 Rider# W 77-45
Nov. 28 Marquette# W 79-68
Nov. 30 #11 Kansas* L 56-61
Dec. 3 at Notre Dame^ L 78-79 OT
Dec. 6 Arkansas-Pine Bluff W 85-52
Dec. 14 Oakland W 87-61
Dec. 17 Eastern Michigan W 66-46
Dec. 20 Texas Southern L 64-71 OT
Dec. 22 Citadel W 82-56
Dec. 30 #12 Maryland L 66-68 2OT
Jan. 5 Indiana W 70-50
Jan. 8 at Iowa W 75-61
Jan. 11 Northwestern W 84-77 OT
Jan. 17 at #14 Maryland L 59-75
Jan. 21 Penn State W 66-60
Jan. 24 at Nebraska L 77-79
Jan. 29 at Rutgers W 71-51
Feb. 1 Michigan
Feb. 7 Illinois
Feb. 10 at Northwestern
Feb. 14 Ohio State
Feb. 17 at Michigan
Feb. 22 at Illinois
Feb. 26 Minnesota
Mar. 1 at #5 Wisconsin
Mar. 4 Purdue
Mar. 7 at #22 Indiana
*State Farm Champions Classic, #Orlando Classic, ^ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Michigan State has been up and down this season, playing Duke, Kansas, and Notre Dame tough in the non-conference, but also losing to Texas Southern and Nebraska at home. The Spartans also lost both meetings with Maryland and are still looking for a resume-boosting quality win. Beating Michigan won’t earn that, but it’s an important game for both teams’ postseason hopes.

The Series

Michigan leads the all-time series 97-77 and has won three of the last four meetings and six of the last nine. Michigan State leads in games played in East Lansing, 48-37, but the teams have split the last four meetings at the Breslin Center. Last season, Michigan won the two regular season meetings, topping State 80-75 on the road on Jan. 25, and winning 79-70 on Feb. 23. Michigan State got revenge in the Big Ten Tournament championship game with a 69-55 win over the Wolverines.

Notes

• Michigan State ranks tied for fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (73.5 points per game) and fifth in scoring defense (62.1)

• Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (47.5 percent) and second in three-point percentage (39.5). The Spartans defense leads the Big Ten in opponent field goal percentage (38.2) and is tied for first against the three (30.4).

• Michigan State is the Big Ten’s worst free throw shooting team, shooting just 63.1 percent

• Michigan State leads the Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-8.7) and assists (17.4 per game). The Spartans lead the conference in defensive rebounds (27.5) and rank tied for second in offensive rebounds (12.1).

• Branden Dawson leads the Big Ten with an average of 10.1 rebounds per game. He’s the only player averaging double-digit rebounds and leads the conference in both offensive rebounds per game (3.3) and defensive rebounds per game (6.8)

• Matt Costello ranks second in the Big Ten in shooting percentage (60.4)

• Travis Trice ranks second in the Big Ten in assists per game (5.5) and leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5)

• Bryn Forbes ranks second in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (47.3)

Overmatched: Michigan State 35 – Michigan 11

Monday, October 27th, 2014


Michigan-MSU(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan went to East Lansing as the heavy underdog Saturday afternoon hoping to pull off a big upset the way Michigan State did from time to time over the past few decades. But while the Wolverines remained close on the scoreboard into the second half, the game was far from being closely contested and Michigan fell 35-11.

Michigan won the coin toss, but that would prove to be the only thing it would win all day. Michigan State made an early statement, taking the opening possession right down the field for an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The drive was highlighted by a pair of long passes, a 24-harder from Connor Cook to Tony Lippett on the second play, and a 28-yarder to Keith Mumphery on 3rd-and-8. Two plays later, Cook scrambled for 13 yards, bowling through Michigan safety Delano Hill in the process. Hill was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for shoving Cook after the play. Jeremy Langford got the touchdown from two yards out. Message sent.

UM-MichiganState-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Michigan State
Score 11 35
Record 3-5, 1-3 7-1, 4-0
Total Yards 186 446
Net Rushing Yards 61 219
Net Passing Yards 125 227
First Downs 13 22
Turnovers 3 2
Penalties-Yards 4-27 8-88
Punts-Yards 6-254 4-150
Time of Possession 26:14 33:46
Third Down Conversions 5-of-14 6-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 1-8 2-13
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 0-for-0 5-for-5
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-of-2 3-of-4
Full Box Score

The Michigan offense went three-and-out, but the defense held strong on State’s second possession. On the first play of Michigan’s second possession, Devin Gardner fumbled the exchange with De’Veon Smith and State recovered at the MSU 38. The Spartans strung together 12 plays, moving down to the Michigan 5-yard line before Cook was stopped in the backfield and then sacked on consecutive plays. Michael Geiger missed a 36-yard field goal.

Needing to find some offense, Doug Nussmeier dialed up an end-around to Dennis Norfleet on the first play, but he was tackled in the backfield for a four-yard loss. A false start backed Michigan up five more yards. On second down, Gardner threw a screen pass to Justice Hayes that had potential for a big gain, but MSU linebacker Ed Davis got by two Michigan linemen to stop Hayes for just a 4-yard gain. On 3rd-and-15, Gardner connected with Amara Darboh for 24 yards and a first down. But the Michigan drive stalled at the 45-yard line.

The two teams traded punts, neither offense able to get much going until Michigan got the break it needed. Jarrod Wilson forced tight end Josiah Price to fumble and Michigan recovered at Michigan State 31-yard line. But the Michigan offense was unable to gain a yard and Matt Wile booted a 48-yard field goal.

Michigan State took possession with 3:22 remaining in the first half and immediately got to midfield thanks to a 24-yard Langford run. The Spartans punched it in eight plays later to take a 14-3 lead into the locker room. It was the fifth time this season that Michigan’s defense has given up a touchdown in the final two minutes of the first half and although it was only an 11-point deficit, it felt unreachable.

Michigan started the second half with possession and a chance to make a statement like State did to start the game, but after gaining one first down, Michigan was forced to punt. Michigan State punted it right back, but on 3rd-and-11, Gardner was intercepted by R.J. Williamson, who raced 29 yards for a touchdown. After another Michigan punt, Cook found Lippett along the sideline and he beat Hill for a 70-yard touchdown to break open the game at 28-3.

Michigan managed to avoid a third straight game against the Spartans without a touchdown after Frank Clark recovered a Langford fumble to give the Wolverines the ball at the MSU 33. On 3rd-and-10, Gardner connected with Funchess for 24 yards to the 9-yard line. Gardner then found Freddy Canteen for eight yards and Smith ran it in on the next play. Michigan completed the two-point on a pass from Gardner to Jake Butt.

A failed onside kick attempt gave MSU the ball at the Michigan 48. Needing only to run out the clock with a 17-point lead, Michigan State pounded the Michigan defense with Langford. In seven plays, he rushed for no gain, eight yards, three yards, 27 yards, two yards, three yards, and on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line, a five-yard touchdown.

Michigan State racked up 446 total yards compared to Michigan’s 186. The Spartans had a balanced attack with 227 yards passing and 219 rushing, while Michigan managed just 121 passing and 65 rushing. As it has done all season, Michigan State controlled time of possession, 33:46 to 26:14. Gardner completed 13-of-28 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions. Funchess had five catches for 64 yards while Darboh caught two for 41. Smith rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Langford rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries for the Spartans, while Cook went 12-of-22 for 227 yards and a touchdown.

At 3-5, Michigan returns home to face Indiana (3-4, 0-3) next Saturday. With Ohio State looming at season’s end, the Wolverines have to beat Indiana to have a chance to become bowl eligible and avoid a third losing season in seven years.

Michigan-Michigan State game preview

Saturday, October 25th, 2014


Game Preview_Michigan State_banner

Ten years ago current Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was a part of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, but wearing the other colors. He felt the sting of one of the best Michigan wins in the history of the rivalry, on the losing end of what Michigan fans affectionately refer to as ‘Braylonfest’. Now he hopes to help Michigan recapture that magic.

But Michigan will need to reverse a disturbing trend that started on the day of that epic comeback. In each of the past 10 years, Michigan has scored fewer points against Michigan State than the previous year. From 45 in 2004 to 34 to 31 to 28 to 21 to 20 to 17 to 14 to 12 to six. The first four of those resulted in wins, as did the 12 points scored two years ago. But if that trend continues Michigan will lose for the sixth time in the last seven years.

UM-PennState-small-final
Quick Facts
Spartan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – ABC
MSU Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (8th season)
Coaching Record: 88-47 (70-30 at MSU)
Offensive Coordinators: Jim Bollman (2nd season)
Dave Warner (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi (8th season)
Returning Starters: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense)
Last Season: 13-1 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: MSU 29 – UM 6 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 63-33-5
Record at Spartan Stadium: Michigan leads 17-13-1
Current Streak: Michigan State 1
Last 10 Meetings:  Tied 5-5
Last Michigan Win: 2012 (12-10)
Last Michigan Road Win: 2007 (28-24)

Michigan State has taken advantage of the instability of Michigan’s program since Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season. Since then, the Spartans have been the Big Ten’s most stable program, winning two of their eight all-time conference titles and three straight bowl games, including last year’s Rose Bowl.

This season has been no different as Michigan State leads the Big Ten East division with a 6-1 record overall and 3-0 record in conference play. The only blemish was a 46-27 defeat at third-ranked Oregon in Week 2. But aside from the Ducks, Michigan State’s schedule has been pretty light thus far with non-conference wins over Jacksonville State (FCS), Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming, and conference wins over #19 Nebraska, Purdue, and Indiana.

The Nebraska win was certainly a quality one as it stands as the Cornhusker’s only defeat to date. In that game, Michigan State held a commanding 27-3 lead at the end of the third quarter before allowing Nebraska to pull within five points after three straight fourth quarter touchdowns. Nebraska actually had the ball at the Michigan State 37 in the final minute, but Tommy Armstrong Jr was picked off to end the game.

Since then, the Spartans have struggled against two of the Big Ten’s bottom-feeders. Purdue scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to pull within seven points with six minutes remaining, and like Nebraska, had the ball in the closing minutes with a chance to tie it up. But Michigan State intercepted quarterback Austin Appleby and returned it for a touchdown to inflate the final score. Last week against an Indiana squad starting a true freshman quarterback in his very first collegiate action, Michigan State allowed the Hoosiers to hang around for the first half thanks to running back Tevin Coleman’s 132 yards on 15 carries. MSU pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win, but Indiana exposed some gaps in the Spartan defense.

So what does that all mean? For one, Michigan State isn’t as invincible as it seems. But can Michigan actually go into East Lansing and pull out a victory? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Michigan State offense: When Michigan State has the ball

The most surprising aspect of Michigan State this season has been its offense. Even MSU writers can’t believe how much progress has been made since the first half of last season when the Spartans offense looked much like Michigan’s has looked at times this season. Through the first seven games this season, Michigan State ranks third nationally in scoring (47 points per game), 12th in total offense (525.1 yards per game), 15th in rushing (260 yards per game), and 42nd in passing (265.1 yards per game). It also ranks first nationally in time of possession (36:22), first in sacks allowed (four), and 17th in third-down conversions (47 percent).

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

Connor Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (Michael Hickey, Getty Images)

The main reason for the success of the MSU offense is the development of junior quarterback Connor Cook. While his completion percentage is down 2.7 percent from last season, Cook ranks second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and fourth in passing yards per game with 234.4.  He has thrown for at least 230 yards in five of seven games, and the only two he didn’t — against Eastern Michigan and Wyoming — he attempted fewer than 10 passes and backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry each saw extended action.

It certainly helps that Cook has a talented receiving corps to throw to, led by 6’3″, 185-pound senior Tony Lippett, who has caught 39 passes for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s the only receiver in the Big Ten averaging over 100 yards per game (112.3) and he leads the conference in touchdown receptions and yards per catch (20.2). He has scored in every game except last week and he also had a 32-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. Sophomore tight end Josiah Price is the second-leading receiver with 15 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns, while five other receivers have over 100 yards and at least one touchdown: Junior Aaron Burbridge (158 yards and one touchdown), junior Macgarrett Kings Jr (142 and one), senior Keith Mumphery (123 and one), sophomore R.J. Shelton (102 and one), and junior A.J. Troup (100 and two).

The backfield is led by talented senior running back Jeremy Langford who ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 94.9 rushing yards per game, though he’s a far cry from the top four. But Langford has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the last four games and scored three touchdowns last week. Unlike the four ahead of him, he shares the backfield, and while it’s not a complete share, his backfield mate, senior Nick Hill, has 76 carries for 465 yards and six touchdowns. Last week he recorded the first 100-yard performance of his career with 178 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Sophomore Delton Williams also plays a role as a home run threat, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and five touchdowns on just 33 carries.

The offensive line had to replace three starters from last season, but the unit has done a great job of protecting Cook. The Spartans lead the nation in sacks allowed with just four in seven games. The only lineman to start every game at the same position this season is sophomore left tackle Jack Conklin. Fifth-year senior Travis Jackson has started six games at left guard and one at center, while regular center Jack Allen has started five and should return from an ankle injury this week. Junior Donovan Clark has started every game, six at right guard and one at right tackle, and sophomore Kodi Kieler has started six at right tackle.

Michigan offense vs Michigan State defense: When Michigan has the ball

Defense is how Mark Dantonio built Michigan State into a power over the past few years, and while this year’s version is good, it’s not quite at the elite level it has been recently. Pat Narduzzi’s defense ranks 34th nationally in scoring (21.6 points per game), ninth in total defense (292.7 yards per game), eighth in rush defense (100.3 yards per game), and 19th in pass defense (192.4 yards per game). Statistically, it’s very comparable to Michigan’s defense which most Michigan fans have been down on. The two areas that are considerably better than Michigan’s are third-down defense (25 percent compared to 36) and sacks (26 compared to 18).

Narduzzi had to replace seven full-time starters, but returned a solid core including junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, senior end Marcus Rush, and senior linebacker Taiwan Jones. Calhoun and Rush have combined for 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. The interior of the line is new this season, but juniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas have held up well, but have given up some big runs up the middle the past few weeks.

Jones leads the linebacking corps with 30 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and three sacks, but junior SAM linebacker Ed Davis leads the team with six sacks and eight tackles for loss. Junior Darrien Harris rounds out the group at the STAR spot with 25 tackles, 1.5 for loss, half a sack, and an interception.

The secondary is led by senior safety Kurtis Drummond, whose 33 tackles, six passes defended, and two interceptions lead the team. The strong safety, freshman Montae Nicholson, is young and prone to mistakes, while junior safety R.J. Williamson, ranks second with 30 tackles to go along with five passes defended and a pick. Junior cornerback Trae Waynes is a star and definitely one of the top corners in the Big Ten. He has 23 tackles, two for loss, one sack, six passes defended, and two interceptions. The field corner is sophomore Darian Hicks and he’s much more vulnerable than Waynes.

Special Teams: The other third

Sophomore kicker Michael Geiger is solid, having converted 7-of-11 this season with a long of 42, although he’s just 2-of-5 from 40-plus. Senior punter Mike Sadler has been around forever and ranks 10th in the Big Ten with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. He has downed 11 of 31 inside the 20 while only two have gone into the end zone.

The return game is pretty lackluster, ranking 60th nationally on kicks and 89th on punts. Shelton ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 22.2 yards per kick return, while Kings Jr ranks fifth with an average of 6.9 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Of course the most vulnerable Michigan State defense in several years gets to face the worse Michigan offense in several years. On Thursday, Spartan Tailgate writer Chris Vannini told us that he thinks Michigan will be able to make some big plays as teams have done on MSU this season. Apparently he hasn’t watched Michigan much as the Wolverines have struggled to make big plays against anyone other than Appalachian State.

Michigan’s defense will be one of the best Michigan State has faced this season, similar to Nebraska’s which held MSU to just 27 points, their fewest of the season. But unlike last week when Michigan was able to pressure Christian Hackenberg all day, the Spartan offensive line will protect Cook. That will allow him to pick apart the secondary just like Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Rutgers’ Gary Nova did.

Expect Michigan to hang around through the first half, but with the inability to make big plays Doug Nussmeier’s offense will have a hard time stringing together enough scoring drives. Michigan State will pull away in the second half with efficient, time consuming drives and keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy in East Lansing for the sixth time in seven years.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 13

Michigan State Q&A with Chris Vannini of SpartanTailgate.com

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014


MSU Q-A_banner

Each Thursday throughout the season we collaborate with that week’s opponent blog to get some questions answered by the guys who know more about their team than we do. This week, we partnered with Chris Vannini, writer for SpartanTailgate.com, part of the 247 Sports Network. He was kind enough to answer questions about the way Michigan State fans view Michigan at the moment, how the MSU offense got so good, what — if anything — Michigan’s offense can exploit on Saturday, and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVannini.

1. Michigan State has five wins in the past six years, and is big favorites again this week. It’s got to be getting old, right?

It’s certainly something no one saw coming, having only happened once before, when MSU went 6-0-2 from 1956-63. Yet even in the build-up to this week, it’s clear more intensity is coming from one side, and that’s the MSU side. Now, part of that is certainly because of U-M’s struggles and a developing apathy amongst U-M fans, but this won’t last forever, so MSU fans are making sure they enjoy as much as they can.

2. But seriously, how do Michigan State fans view the current state of the Michigan program and Coach Hoke? With glee, with pity, or what?

More than anything, I think it’s a feeling of, “I told you so.” When Hoke came in and started cleaning up in recruiting, many stories were written about the second coming of a 10-Year War between U-M and OSU, especially after MSU’s 2012 struggles. But it turned out that was an anomaly, and a program that had developed players for five years continued to do so. No one is wondering if MSU can sustain under Mark Dantonio anymore. Years of top recruiting classes and fast starts followed by players not developing and seasons falling apart have taken away any benefit of the doubt U-M receives, while MSU is getting that benefit for the first time, as shown by their high ranking despite the Oregon loss.

3. Since Mark Dantonio took over, the Spartans have had great defenses and average offenses. What’s different about this season? How did the offense get so good, especially after how bad it was the first half of last season?

I’ve never seen a unit improve as much as MSU’s offense did throughout last season, and I don’t think I ever will again. Even MSU’s offensice coaches were surprised, because the offseason is typically when that development happens. With where things ended last year, and with all the skill players coming back (other than Bennie Fowler), we figured the offense could have to carry the team early in the season. But we didn’t see this coming, an offense that is on pace to be the most prolific in school history.

The passing game and Connor Cook continued where they left off, and Cook has played himself into NFL first-round pick consideration. Replacing holes on the offensive line was the question mark. They’ve dealt with some injuries, and aren’t as deep as a year ago, but the results have been promising. MSU is still a solid, not great, running team, and MSU has allowed the fewest sacks per game in the country. Cook has time, and he can find his bevy of receivers, especially Tony Lippett, who has gone from being benched early last season to being one of the best receivers in the country this year, catching everything.

4. By now, we’re used to a vaunted MSU defense, but it seems that MSU has taken a minor step back defensively so far this season. Michigan is actually allowing 0.2 fewer points per game and fewer rushing yards per game. Is there anything that Michigan’s offense has any hope of exploiting this week?

The biggest issue for this defense has been big plays, and it’s because the safeties have struggled. Kurtis Drummond has been inconsistent, and RJ Williamson and true freshman Montae Nicholson have been sharing time at the other safety spot. MSU has allowed 19 plays of at least 30 yards, which is No. 103 nationally. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they’ve been really bad at getting explosive plays on offense. But it’s something most teams have been able to do to MSU this season. The defense as a unit has gone from “elite” to “good,” and the big plays are the biggest problem.

5. Where do you see Michigan State having the biggest advantage this week, and why?

I think it has to come down to MSU’s defensive line against U-M’s offensive line, as it did a year ago. Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush are both playing great on the outside, and Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath and Malik McDowell have the tackles more disruptive than a year ago. I don’t expect minus-48 rushing yards, but I think Michigan will have trouble getting anything going on the ground, especially with Derrick Green out.

6. Finally, what’s your prediction and how will it happen?

I’m going to go with a 38-24 MSU victory. With the weather looking nice, I think both teams will be able to move the ball (yes, including U-M). MSU will be able to move up and down with the pass, and I think U-M will be able to hit some big plays. Everyone has done it to MSU this year. I don’t see why U-M won’t. But I think it’ll be MSU’s offense that’s the difference in this one, unlike years past.

First Look: Michigan State

Monday, October 20th, 2014


FirstLook-MichiganState

Two weeks ago Michigan stopped the bleeding with a 18-13 win over Penn State, allowing the Wolverines to head into a bye week with momentum. But now the toughest game of the season so far awaits, a trip up I-96 to face rival Michigan State, which enters 6-1 and 3-0 in the Big Ten. It’s no secret that the rivalry has turned in the last six years. Does Michigan have a chance to win back Paul Bunyan? Or will Michigan State continue its recent domination? Let’s take a look at how the teams compare through the first seven games of the season.

Michigan State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Michigan StateMichigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 47.0 | 21.7 3 | 105
21.6 | 21.4 T34T30
Rushing Yards 1,820 | 1,149 702 | 655
Rush Avg. Per Game 260.0 | 164.1 15 | 64 100.3 | 93.6 8 | 4
Avg. Per Rush 5.4 | 4.7
3.4 | 2.7
Passing Yards 1,856 | 1,231 1,347 | 1,452
Pass Avg. Per Game 265.1 | 175.9 42 | 108 192.4 | 207.4 19 | 36
Total Offense 3,676 | 2,380 2,049 | 2,107
Total Off Avg. Per Game 525.1 | 340.0 12 | 110 292.7 | 301.0 9 | 10
Kick Return Average 21.1 | 19.1 60 | 97 20.9 | 19.5 70 | 44
Punt Return Average 6.9 | 7.8 89 | 68 13.7 | 14.4 115 | 117
Avg. Time of Possession 36:22 | 30:38 1 | 45
23:38 | 29:22
3rd Down Conversion Pct 47.0% | 41.0% 17 | 62
25.0% | 36.0% 3 | 44
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 4-15 | 15-96
T1 | T82
26-186 | 18-150
T4 | T41
Touchdowns Scored 44 | 18
20 | 16
Field Goals-Attempts 7-11 | 8-12
4-5 | 13-14
Red Zone Scores (33-38) 87% | (16-17) 94% 41 | 8
(15-17) 88%(20-22) 91% T94 | T105
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-38) 74% | (13-17) 76% (11-17) 65% | (11-22) 50%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .246 | -.015
36 | 67 -.269 | -.163 39 | 50

Mark Dantonio has built Michigan State into a power in recent years through a punishing and aggressive defense, but this year’s team is getting it done with its offense which ranks third nationally in scoring (47 points per game), behind only Baylor (49) and Marshall (47.4). The Spartans have scored 56 or more points in three of seven games and 45 in two of the other four. The other two were both 27-point outputs in a loss to Oregon in Week 2 and a win over Nebraska in Week 5. UCLA, Arizona, and Washington State each scored more than 27 against Oregon, while the 27 MSU scored on Nebraska are the second-most the Cornhuskers have allowed this season.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 29 Jacksonville State W 45-7
Sept. 6 at #3 Oregon L 27-46
Sept. 20 Eastern Michigan W 73-14
Sept. 27 Wyoming W 56-14
Oct. 4 #19 Nebraska W 27-22
Oct. 11 at Purdue W 45-31
Oct. 18 at Indiana W 56-17
Oct. 25 Michigan
Nov. 8 #13 Ohio State
Nov. 15 at Maryland
Nov. 22 Rutgers
Nov. 29 at Penn State

What’s more is that the Spartans are equally effective on the ground and through the air as opposed to recent years when the running game carried the offense. The running game ranks 15th nationally, averaging 260 yards per game, while the passing game ranks 42nd, averaging 265.1 yards per game. Michigan State has been held below 200 yards rushing just twice — 123 yards against Oregon and 188 against Nebraska. But while the running game didn’t work against Oregon, the Spartans racked up 343 yards through the air, their second-best passing performance of the season. Likewise, the two biggest rushing games — 336 yards against Eastern Michigan and 338 against Wyoming — were the two lowest passing performances — 160 and 195.

While the offense is balanced, it has the ability to control the ball, as evidenced by the fact that Michigan State ranks first nationally in time of possession, averaging 36:22 per game. In addition, the Spartans have allowed only four sacks all season, tied with Duke and Wisconsin for the fewest in the nation. So the Michigan State offense is dangerous on the ground and through the air, doesn’t let opposing defenses get to the quarterback, and possess the ball better than anyone in the country. Doesn’t sound like Michigan State does it?

It’s a good thing for Dantonio that the offense took such a big leap forward this season because his defense isn’t nearly as stout as it has been the past couple years. It’s allowing virtually the exact number of points per game as Michigan (21.6 versus 21.4), has a slightly better pass defense and a slightly worse rush defense. Aside from giving up 46 points to Oregon, State’s defense allowed 31 to Purdue two weeks ago and let Indiana to run all over them last week. Granted, the latter two both resulted in wins, but not thanks to the defense.

Michigan State held four of the first five opponents under 100 yards rushing — Oregon’s 173 yards was the exception — but Purdue and Indiana have both had success the past two weeks. Purdue averaged 5.2 yards per carry and Indiana averaged 6.4. Perhaps they have found something they can exploit. Of course, neither Purdue nor Indiana possessed a defense capable of holding Michigan State’s offense in check, so they both lost. Last season, only four of 14 opponents eclipsed 100 yards and they were four of the final five games of the season.

Four of seven opponents have passed for over 200 yards against the Spartans, but MSU’s pass defense numbers look much better after holding Indiana to just 11 passing yards last week on 5-of-16 passing. That shouldn’t be a surprise, however, as Indiana was starting a true freshman quarterback for the first time — the first playing time of his career — after losing starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld for the season. Oregon threw for 318 yards, Nebraska for 282, Jacksonville State for 222, and Purdue for 211.

While Michigan State’s offense and defense are both very good, the special teams leave something to be desired. MSU ranks 60th in kick return average, 89th in punt return average, 70th in kick return defense, and 115th in punt return defense.

Unlike Indiana and Purdue, Michigan has a defense that can allow it to remain in the game if its offense can find a way to put up points. But it will take a flawless performance in order to do so.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Connor Cook 108-176 1,641 16 5 234.4
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Jeremy Langford 125 664 7 36 5.3
Nick Hill 76 465 6 76 6.1
Delton Williams 33 239 5 80 7.2
R.J. Shelton 15 127 1 30 8.5
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Tony Lippett 39 786 8 71 112.3
Josiah Price 15 244 4 67 34.9
Aaron Burbridge 13 158 1 22 22.6
Macgarrett Kings Jr. 14 142 1 29 20.3
Keith Mumphery 9 123 1 43 17.6
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Kurtis Drummond (S) 29 4 33 2.0-6 0-0 (2 INT, 6PD)
Taiwan Jones (LB) 15 15 30 7.5-20 3.0-11
Ed Davis (LB) 14 14 28 8.0-31 6.0-25
Marcus Rush (DE) 17 8 25 6.5-40 3.5-34
Shilique Calhoun (DE) 16 6 22 7.5-81 5.0-70
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Michael Geiger 7 11 42 43 43
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Mike Sadler 31 1,259 40.6 11 2
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Michigan State in the coming days.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Michigan State

Monday, October 20th, 2014


Five-SpotChallenge_Banner1

Congratulations to Hazel Parker for picking up his first win of the season. He won twice last season and three times in 2011. He was the only contestant under 100 points last week with a deviation of 96, topping second place tooty_pops by 42. As is usually the case, Hazel Parker wasn’t the closest in any single category, but was the most consistent across the board. He was third-closest to Christian Hackenberg’s passing yards (52 away), sixth-closest to Michigan’s rushing yards (28 away), second-closest to the minutes until Michigan’s first turnover (three away), and third-closest to the longest field goal (three away). He wins a $20 M Den gift card.

Kashkaav correctly predicted that the longest field goal would be 45 yards, while Maizenblu62 was only one away. Kfarmer16 was the closest to Devin Gardner’s longest completion, only one away with his prediction of 44 yards. Bigboyblue and BigHouseBrandon were the closest to the minutes until Michigan’s first turnover. It happened 16 minutes into the game and they both predicted 17. MEKMichigan’s prediction of 67  yards was the closest to Michigan’s rushing total (64), while Kashkaav’s guess of 180 was the closest to Hackenberg’s passing yards (160).

No one correctly predicted the final score, although MichiganMack was the closest with his prediction of Michigan 20 – Penn State 12. The average score prediction was Michigan 24 – Penn State 23 and 14 of the 21 contestants picked Michigan to win.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated.

After a bye week, Michigan heads up the road to face rival Michigan State. Here are this week’s questions.

Third time’s the harm: Michigan State 69 – Michigan 55

Sunday, March 16th, 2014


MSU BTT win 3-16-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

With the Big Ten regular season title under its belt and a possible one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan faced off with Michigan State for the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday afternoon. But instead of running the table and pulling off a three-game sweep of the Spartans, Michigan was outplayed and handed a 69-55 defeat.

Nik Stauskas started the game just as he left off the previous two meetings. His first shot of the game was good for three, and after a pair of Adreian Payne free throws, Derrick Walton Jr added a three to give Michigan an early 6-2 lead. The Wolverines widened it to 9-4 before Michigan State scored 12 straight to take a 16-9 lead.

After a Michigan time out, Stauskas hit another three to stop the run, but Michigan State kept the foot on the pedal. The Spartans’ game plan was clear from the start: get the ball inside and take it to Michigan’s big men. It worked as Jordan Morgan and Jon Hoford both picked up several fouls in the first few minutes, forcing John Beilein to turn to Max Bielfeldt for major minutes.

Keith Appling made a layup to put Michigan State ahead 23-14 and Beilein received a technical foul — his second in the last four games. Travis Trice made both free throws, but Stauskas responded with a four-point play to negate the whole sequence. Michigan State took a 38-29 lead into the locker room.

The second half started out as badly as possible for Michigan as Michigan State scored eight straight and Michigan missed its first six shots. Suddenly, a nine-point halftime deficit was 17 just three minutes into the half. Morgan ended the Spartan run, but Dawson answered with a jumper of his own. Michigan was never able to get closer than ten the rest of the way and Michigan State captured its fourth ever Big Ten Tournament crown.

For the game, Michigan shot just 31.5 percent and 26.1 percent from three-point range. Michigan State, meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the field despite making just 2-of-17 from downtown. Michigan had no answer for the Spartans’ inside game without Morgan and Horford for most of the game.

Stauskas led Michigan with 17 points on just 4-of-14 shooting. He hit 3-of-5 three-pointers, but often struggled to find an open shot, especially in the second half. Walton was the only other Michigan player in double figures with 11 points, while Caris LeVert scored just seven on 2-of-10 shooting and Glenn Robinson III just six on 2-of-8 shooting.

Three Stars

***Adreian Payne***
18 points (6-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3PT, 5-of-5 FT), nine rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, two turnovers in 29 minutes

**Branden Dawson**
15 points (7-of-8 FG, 1-of-1 FT), six rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, in 24 minutes

*Gary Harris*
15 points (7-of-13 FG, 1-of-5 3PT), two rebounds, two assists, three steals, one turnover in 30 minutes

Quick Hitters:


___________________________________________________________

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 2-8 0-3 2-2 1 2 3 2 6 0 0 0 1 31
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 1-4 4-5 1 3 4 3 11 1 0 1 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-14 3-5 6-6 1 1 2 1 17 1 3 0 0 39
52 Jordan Morgan* 4-6 0-0 0-0 4 2 6 4 8 0 2 0 0 20
23 Caris LeVert* 2-10 0-4 2-3 0 1 1 0 7 4 3 0 1 34
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 11
05 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
15 Jon Horford 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 4 0 0 1 1 0 5
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
21 Zak Irvin 2-5 2-5 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 0 0 0 0 15
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-2 0-2 0-0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 13
Totals 17-54 6-23 15-16 13 15 28 15 55 7 9 3 3 200
Michigan State 27-54 2-17 13-15 14 24 38 19 69 14 10 6 7 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Michigan State

Sunday, March 16th, 2014


Michigan-Michigan State header_BTT

Michigan staved off an Ohio State comeback on Saturday afternoon to beat the Buckeyes for the first time in seven tries in Big Ten Tournament play and advance to its first championship game since 1998. Michigan State, meanwhile, held off Wisconsin to reach its fourth championship game and first since winning it in 2012. Thus, it set up a third meeting between the two intrastate rivals, but just the first ever meeting in Big Ten Tournament play.

In the Jan. 25 meeting in East Lansing, Michigan State was without the services of both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson and Michigan capitalized with a 80-75 victory. In the return meeting on Feb. 23, the Spartans had Payne back but were still without Dawson and Michigan once again pulled out the win, 79-70. This time around, with the championship on the line, Tom Izzo’s squad is healthy and out of excuses.

Can Michigan beat MSU for the third time in less than two weeks and become the seventh Big Ten team to win both the outright regular season title and the tournament championship in the same season? Or will the Spartans exact revenge for the first two matchups and steal the tournament trophy? Here are my three keys to the game:

Branden Dawson is eager to face Michigan for the first time this season and try to shut down Stauskas (Michael Conroy, AP)

Branden Dawson is eager to face Michigan for the first time this season and try to shut down Stauskas (Michael Conroy, AP)

Get off to a hot start

Michigan State is sure acting confident in the lead up to this winner-take-all battle. Izzo likened it to ‘Fourth of July on Christmas,’ whatever that means, and Gary Harris reportedly texted Zak Irvin earlier in the week, saying ‘see you on Sunday.’ The reality is they’ve lost six of the last eight meetings, so the pressure is on them.

Michigan was able to survive a big Spartan lead at the beginning of the game in Ann Arbor and come back to win, but a big Michigan State lead on Sunday will only give them more confidence. Conversely, if Michigan is able to jump out to a big lead early on it will cause the Spartans to force their play and doubts will start creeping in.

The game won’t be won or lost in the first ten minutes, but — aside from Saturday’s hot start — Michigan has had a propensity for slow starts over the last month. They can’t afford to do so on Sunday and give Michigan State the confidence it needs to take control of the game.

Make sure Stauskas gets his shots

In the first two meetings Stauskas scored a combined 44 points on 16-of-25 shooting and 8-of-11 three-point shooting. With Dawson out, Stauskas was able to get off good looks over the smaller Keith Appling. But now the 6’6″ Dawson is back and has the ability to guard Stauskas on the perimeter or make it tough for him to get open looks.

This adds a new dynamic for Michigan than the first two meetings, so expect John Beilein to have something ready to free up Stauskas or use the Canadian sharpshooter as a decoy to get open looks for others. No, Beilein doesn’t have a week to prepare for this one, but he’s shown time and again that he’s able to design effective offensive schemes.

In the first meeting Michigan State was guarding the perimeter hard and coming over the top of ball screens. In the second meeting, Beilein had the offense look for back cuts and was able to get some easy buckets. Expect something similar on Sunday.

Make free throws

It sounds like a lame key to the game, but this one is going to come down to the wire and every point will be crucial. Michigan was the Big Ten’s best free throw shooting team all season, making 76.3 percent. In the first two meetings, Michigan went a combined 42-of-55 — an identical 76.3 percent.

In Saturday’s win over Ohio State, however, Michigan wasn’t able to capitalize on its trips to the charity stripe, making just 10-of-19. Fortunately, it didn’t cost them the game, but rest assured if there’s a repeat performance on Sunday Michigan won’t win.

Prediction: Michigan 73 – Michigan State 71