Know Thy Opponent: Michigan State Spartans

  • 01/29/2011 10:03 am in

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 02: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans holds up one finger during practice prior to the 2010 Final Four of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 2, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If you’d been asked, prior to the season, to circle the two or three toughest games on Indiana’s schedule, Sunday’s meeting with Michigan State at the Breslin Center definitely would have made your list, right?

But here we sit, eight games into the Big Ten schedule, and the preseason No. 2 Spartans are absolutely reeling after three straight losses. The latest black eye for the program was Tuesday’s dismissal of junior point guard Korie Lucious for conduct detrimental for the program. Tom Izzo’s club, once considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament, now sits at just 12-8 and is, dare I say it, moving rapidly towards the bubble.

Their most recent loss, 61-57 at home to Michigan on Thursday, prompted this reaction from Tom Izzo: “It’s not a very good situation we’re in. We’re not kidding anybody.”

Indiana comes into East Lansing riding an emotional high following their big win over Illinois at Assembly Hall on Thursday. Jeremiah Rivers said afterward that it’ll be important for the Hoosiers to ride that high right into the Breslin Center. He’s right.

On the other side of the spectrum is Michigan State, a team searching for answers, confidence and most importantly, leadership from Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers. Both guys returned for their senior seasons for another crack at the Final Four. Lucas was asked following the Michigan loss if his team had hit rock bottom. His reaction: “A little bit.” A surprising admission from one of the Big Ten’s best players.

So, can Indiana win in East Lansing for the first time since February 28, 1991? Let’s dive into the numbers.

A quick glance reveals just how average Michigan State has been in Big Ten play to date. That’s not to say they won’t turn it around or make a run, but consider these numbers on offense: an effective field goal percentage of just 48 (last in the conference), 1.04 points per possession (tied for ninth), 68.1 percent from the foul line (last), 33.5 percent from three (ninth).

Defensively, they’ve been slightly better, but are still a far cry from Izzo’s teams from the past. Big Ten opponents are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 50.9 percent (fifth), scoring 1.05 points per possession (fifth) and hitting 39.6 percent from three (fifth).

The key for IU comes down to defense, where the Hoosiers excelled on Thursday against Illinois, but still rank in the lower half of the league in most categories. Big Ten opponents are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 53.6 (eighth), scoring 1.15 points per possession (ninth) and hitting 40.7 percent from three (eighth).

All in all, this is a game that would be absolutely huge for the Hoosiers to steal on the road, especially with home games against Minnesota and Iowa coming up next week.

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  • HoosierSmitty

    Would love to get this win, but it would be a massive upset regardless of how poorly Michigan State is playing. The road hasn’t been our friend so far under Crean. But it won’t keep me from watching, cheering, and hoping for a W. Go Hoosiers!

  • Everything for Michigan State comes down to Draymond Green. Slow him down, get him on the bench with foul trouble, anything. You have to force the rest of the MSU roster to beat you.

  • Luke72

    Now the adjustment has been made to play without Jones and Creek I like their chances much better. They should get a bounce from playing an all out effort game like they did on Thursday. Look for the MSU seniors to come out with alot of energy. TP will have to play as least as well as he did against Illinois. Rivers on Summers? They have alot of ups on the front line. VO and Sheehey must match a whole lot of athletic talent if the Hoosiers where to steal one here! Jordy holds the key as I think he will the remainder of the season. Watford needs to score but going forward I think this is Jordy’s team to lead!! Give them a 80% chance to pull off another upset!

  • Anonymous

    An 80% chance of winning? A bit much, don’t you think?

    I wish I was as optimistic, but IU doesn’t match up with MSU very well. I think two guys in particular will hurt us.

    In contrast to McCamey, Kalin Lucas is a speed point guard. Rivers is not as effective defensively against this type of player. In fact, it seems possible that he won’t guard Lucas.

    In contrast to Tisdale, Draymond Green is a physical, scrappy inside player. I smell lots of foul trouble on Sunday for IU’s post players.

    Despite their recent struggles, MSU is a tough, well coached, resilient team that is more than the sum of their parts (read: the opposite of Illinois). Can you tell I hate Bruth Weber and the Illwhini?

  • GFDave

    This Spartan squad just doesn’t seem to play with that fervent intensity (especially on the glass) that is the signature of an Izzo team. I don’t know why they don’t. Maybe its leadership or complacency or who knows what.

    Still, they have plenty of big, long athletes who are going to be a tough match-up for IU. If MSU rebounds from the other day, I think they win. If they stay in their funk, we’ve got a chance (if we play our “A” game.)

  • MillaNun

    We have to make them shoot. If they pound it inside with success we’re toast. Lucas and Summers have laid eggs. Play off them and live or die with the threes.

    Someone other than CWat and Jordy need to score in double figures. It will be tough but I can’t remember a better chance for us to go in there and cause problems. Verdell would have helped.

  • I don’t know if we’ll win tomorrow or not, but if IU lays an egg I’ll consider the Illinois win basically a wasted opportunity. Some have called the Illinois win a turning point, but IMO it’s only that if we follow it up with a good showing tomorrow and then taking care of home court in our next two home games vs. Minny and Iowa.

    Not trying to be too harsh, but this team has a huge opportunity in front of them to really build some momentum for next season and make a statement.

  • Anonymous

    The reason I feel it was a turning point is because the squad finally played Big Ten defense. They now realize the intensity needed for 40 minutes. They know they can win if they play as a team. MSU is going to be ready. I just want us to get up every time they punch us and throw a counter punch. I want us to play in your face D, play as a team, and with basketball intelligence.

  • Luke72

    Not really! Have the same feeling about Weber. Coach Crean should have a better understanding of MSU than anyone! Confidence is a big part of what happens on the floor! The Hoosiers should be confident!

  • IMO it’s just one good win instead of a turning point, if we don’t show up tomorrow and then lose the next two winnable home games.

  • Wasted was probably not the right word. You’re right, no matter what happens, winning a close/tough Big Ten game is definitely a good experience for this team, but my point is that they have a huge opportunity to really back it up and build some momentum by playing well @ MSU (win or lose) and then taking care of home court in two winnable home games.

    That coupled with the Illinois win, to me, would be a turning point, not just the Illinois game itself. This team has lacked consistency for two years, so IMO being consistent would be the turning point.

  • Anonymous

    I hope coach considers starting Oladipo on Lucas. He may have the athleticism to stay with him.

  • defendtherock

    Draymond Green can be unguardable. Holding him and keeping Lucas out of the lane should give us a chance against the Greenie Weenies!

  • Anonymous

    I think we will play zone much of the game to try to stay out of foul trouble down low. I might try a man on Lucas to shadow everywhere he goes and a zone with everyone else.

  • HoosierSmitty

    Sometimes I feel like we go to the zone purely because Crean doesn’t think certain guys can handle man to man. That’s probably true sometimes, but I just want us to keep it simple and play tough man to man defense. With guys like Oladipo, Rivers, and even Pritchard on defense, we can hold our own.

    However, it seems like we get exposed in the zone even more. Teams shoot lights out against us and grab a lot of offensive rebounds. We often move poorly in the zone, don’t close out on the outside shooters, and other coaches seem to have a pretty simple time beating our zone.

    I don’t mind it as a change up now and then, especially if we get in foul trouble or the potential for foul trouble creeps up early. But I don’t want zone to be a band-aid to a larger problem.

  • Kelin Blab

    Why I think IU will do very well tomorrow.
    The Hump factor….

    They got over the hump with a win against a ranked team and a good team.
    They got over the hump with at least competing for 40 minutes.
    Now they are not out of the dark yet but at least they saw results…..

    Now the second ‘Hump” winning on the road! It has been awhile can they do it. This is not your mom’s MSU team…although it is still Izzo’s team.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t been this excited for an Indiana game in a loooooong time. Truth is it’s impossible to tell how we will play. We still have a young team and have been up and down all season. I feel good because, like you said, the “hump factor.” I think we now know what it takes to compete and win in the Big 10 against a quality Big 10 team. I feel hesitant because we are a young team, we are on the road, and the let down factor after a big game can’t be ignored. Won’t say what I think the result will be. Gooooooo Hoooooooooosiers!

  • Anonymous

    All good points and ones that I agree with. We have trouble blocking out at times and playing a zone can make it hard to do that successfully even for an experienced team that is used to playing a lot of zone. Makes for more 3pt attempts which in turn makes for a lot of long rebounds that the team on offense usually has just as good chance of getting as the team on defense.

  • Anonymous

    Agree. Playing well, win or lose, and then taking care of business at home the next two games will determine if the Illannoy game was truly a turning point or not, especially with one of the home games being against a team that is in our part of the conference, record wise, but that has for whatever reason seemed to have our number this year and last. Very important and informing three game stretch coming up.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Verdell comes back, plays under control because of his limitations, only scored 7 points, but his emotional boost leads the Hoosiers to an upset 66-61 victory over Sparty in East Lansing. The Hoosiers come back home to Assembly Hall and pull out victories against Minnesota and Iowa to pull back to 5-6 in conference play. Upset wins against PUke at home and Michigan on the road brings the Hoosiers to a surprising 7-6. A win at home against NW and two straight losses at PUke and OSU evens their record at 8-8 and an upset win at home against Wisconsin followed by another tough, nail-biter loss at Illinois wraps up an impressive second half of the Big Ten season at 9-9. The Hoosiers finish the season at 18-13 with a chance to get two wins and a potential NCAA birth in the Big Ten tournament.

    Hey, it’s fun to dream every now and again, huh? Of course it’s probably more likely that the Hoosiers finish 5 games or more under .500, but that doesn’t change the fact that the chance still exists if this team finally starts to play to their potential and with the toughness they showed against Illinois Thursday. Can they play that tough in East Lansing? If they can continue to play extremely physical then they have a shot at Sparty because games in EL are always called like a football game!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    My concern lies in Jordy’s ability to stay with Kalin Lucas. I know he isn’t quite the same player he was this time last year but the dude is still quick! Rivers will have to draw multiple assignments on Summers and maybe even Green, so can Jordy stay in front of Lucas? CWat can’t get pushed under the basket by Roe because TP/DE/BC will have their hands full with Nix. That guy is a load down low and I have a feeling Izzo will go with the beat us up down low game plan!

    Big Key!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I see what Gleas is saying. He’s saying it would just be a win sprinkled in the middle of a bunch of bad losses if we don’t capitalize on it and win at least 2 of the next 3.

    I kind of feel the same way. I think if this team has truly turned the corner then they would smell blood and come out strong against MSU and maybe even get a win. If they are the same young and inconsistent team then they’ll slip back into the same mode of playing to their competition but choking at the end of the game. I don’t think they choked at Wisconsin. I think after watching the game a couple times that the officials took that one from IU by changing the way they were called the game at the 10:00 mark.

    If IU comes out and plays like that again and finishes then I will be completely convinced that they’ve hit their stride and turned the corner. If not, I’ll just assume the Illinois win was one emotional upset by a bad team at home over a good team. Gotta win some more and keep the ball rolling to convince me they’re reaching their potential anytime soon

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Good points but I think this game might be the one to go zone or at least use a couple zone defenses a lot because MSU hasn’t proved they’re a good shooting team at all this year. In fact, earlier this season Tom Izzo said they weren’t winning games because they weren’t hitting shots. You could play a zone but a matchup type zone and tell whoever is on the side of the ball with Summers and Lucas not to drop down and leave them open because they are their only shooting threats.

    Appling can get hot but I actually think the reason MSU has struggled so much this year is they’re too “big” dominated and don’t possess the same guard play they have in the past.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I hear you DD. Which team is going to show up . . . Jekyll or Hyde???

  • JerryCT

    On Scoop CTC is quoted as saying that we have 6 players shooting over 50% which shows how well our offense is working.

    What ?? Is that the truth ?

    Too bad in conference games the number is actually 5 players and 2 of them are Capo and Pritchard with one player ( Jones ) hurt leaving Hulls and Sheehey.

    Worse than this is that Sheehey has only 28 attempts and our leading player with 33% more attempts than anybody else is shooting 39%. Plus our 3pt specialist Roth is at 32%.

    My Point: Our offense is not as good as CTC is selling thus I expect a low scoring game from us tonight which means of course our defense must win it for us.

    So Defense: …. I would be tempted to assign Pritchard to Green. Why ? Because he is like a Hummel or Leurs playing all over the floor and setting tons of ball screens for Lucas. Pritchard has proven he can handle this ……….. I doubt this will happen.

    I am not afraid to see Sheehey on Green but he is probably going to draw Summers. JR will probably draw Lucas.

    No matter what the strategy I think CW’s defense is going to be key for us to win.

    I really hope we can see some Jones tonight but only if he is safely ready.

    I think we can win this or at least scare them good.

  • Anonymous

    God, I thought you were about to say “this is not your mom’s hump” and I started to get a bit queasy.

  • Anonymous

    I want to see Victor HIT all of his dunks.

  • Anonymous

    I’m cautiously optimistic. On one hand you want to think you have a good shot given your last performance coupled with their last performance. On the other hand you don’t want to be the tonic they need to get over whatever is ailing them.

  • JerryCT

    I agree on CW’s skills but I feel he is much better on D now especially defending a low post guy where he can ‘front” them a bit and not have to cover in space. This is why I think he should defend the low post and Pritchard chase Green.

    My non-coach logic:

    + Pritchard defends the ball screen better than anybody in the B10.
    + Green is a dangerous ball screener
    + MSU beat Wisky by Green setting the ball screen for Lucas and if Lucas does not drive then Green slides over ( vs roll ) and gets a return pass for a 3pt jumper
    + I do not see CW defending this
    + Therefore by elimination and skill set TP is my choice

    I understand your theory but I do not have a clue of my own to explain our performance but you would think the bad teams are “must” wins for us too

  • Anonymous

    Jerry, I like Pritchard on Green as well. However, I agree with you in thinking he won’t match up with him much.

    When I saw MSU earlier this year it looked like Green was lining up at the 3 spot a lot. If we play Pritch on him, that will mean either Rivers or Sheehey/Oladipo guard Roe or Nix. I think they can do it in spurts, but it’s hard for a guard to bang on a big guy for long stretches and not get worn down early.

    I’m not sure of their lineup now that Lucious is gone, but if Summers comes to play they’ll be tough.

  • Anonymous

    Who knew Raymar Morgan was the key for MSU? (kidding)