Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Michigan State: now with 80% more fierce

But seriously though, Michigan is going to lose by a million points tonight.

So Michigan takes on in-state rival Michigan State in Crisler Arena. Want any chance of the NCAA looking your way this year? You're going to need to sweep the season series against the #5 team in the country. This is not going to happen. To wit, MSU is the only unbeaten in conference play, gritting out some late wins against seriously inferior opponents and blowing out everyone else they've played; they're very good. (Well, MSU is Big Ten good, which is to say they're the Ohio State of college basketball: Able to clean house in the Big Ten but haven't been competitive with the national big dogs in quite a few years.)

Michigan gets back Manny Harris and at least one or two people think he's going to be awesome. Per DeShawn Sims: "Manny will come out and probably play one of his best games. He’ll come out and play exceptional tomorrow, I think.” Well, that would be nice, and Michigan definitely needs it. To have any shot in this game, Harris is going to have to play like he did last year and Sims is going to have to continue his unquestioned brilliance on both ends of the floor. Also needed will be big games from Zach Novak, who's coming off arguably his best shooting performance of the season, and Stu Douglass, who's coming off his worst.

The thing that concerns me most about this game, however, is MSU's fast break. Michigan's defense has been almost non-existent in transition this year, and MSU likes to push the ball as much as they can. If Michigan can't slow down the MSU fast break (and they can't), this is going to get ugly quickly. Worse still, when MSU sets up in the half court, they rebound better than just about everyone on the planet, are methodical, and can score from the inside and outside. You'll probably see Beilein go to a zone early in the game to try and pull even in rebounds. I shudder with terrified anticipation.

Michigan wins in the same way that they'll always win. By playing well: shooting well from outside, holding onto the ball, not giving up too many offensive rebounds, playing tight defense, and most importantly of late, finishing games. Michigan's been able to put it all together for a grand total of one game this season (UConn) and seeing them do it again against an in-state and conference rival is unlikely. But if MSU is off their game or Michigan can weather the various inevitable runs MSU will have, they might have a chance to win it at the end. Probably not, though: Michigan State 76, Michigan 62.


Anonymous said...

Not been competitive with the big dogs? Didn't they just make it to the National Championship game?

Chris Gaerig said...

Sure, and were thoroughly embarrassed by 17 points in what was essentially a home game.

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