2013-14 Season

Game 26: Michigan State at Michigan Preview

Who: No. 12 Michigan State (22-5, 11-3 B1G) at No. 20 Michigan (18-7, 10-3 B1G) MSU[1]
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
When: 12:00 p.m., Sunday, February 23rd, 2014
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 1050 AM, 91 Sirius/XM
More: Shot Chart Scouting | Pick to Click | Opposition Q&A | Podcast

The Michigan State, Michigan rivalry has always been important to both schools, but the rivalry has moved into the national spotlight over the last three years.

Michigan has won five of the last seven meetings, including two at the Breslin Center, and both teams have been among the most consistent in the Big Ten over the past three seasons. The Spartans and Wolverines shared their last Big Ten Championship and Michigan has been to a Final Four more recently. The two in-state programs are standing on level footing for one of the first times ever.

This year, the Wolverines and Spartans will play for sole possession of first place with two weeks to play.

Michigan enters Sunday’s tilt with a week of rest to regroup from a disappointing loss to Wisconsin. Michigan State will be on short rest after blowing out Purdue on Thursday night in a game where the Spartans set the school record for made threes on impressive 17-of-32 perimeter shooting.

The Spartans

Michigan State has the fourth best offense, 1.12 points per possession, in the Big Ten and the second best defense, 1.00 points allowed per possession. After Thursday’s beat down of Purdue, Michigan State has outscored its opponents on a per-possession basis by more than any conference team other than Iowa.

This isn’t quite your traditional Michigan State offense either. The 2013-14 Spartans shoot more threes than any of Tom Izzo’s Michigan State teams, attempting 36% of their field goals from long distance.


They also knock them down effectively. Michigan State is shooting 39.9% from long range in Big Ten games, second in the Big Ten only to Michigan. The Spartans have five consistent long range shooting threats in their rotation and that makes them harder to guard when they attack.

The Spartans still do a good job on the offensive glass, rebounding 32% of their conference misses (4th) and they’ve managed to clean up the turnover issues that plagued them the last several years, giving the ball away on just 16% of their Big Ten possessions (3rd).

One of Michigan State’s problems in Big Ten play has been free throws. The Spartans are ranked 10th in the conference in offensive free throw rate and 10th in the conference in free throw late allowed. Only Penn State and Illinois have been ‘out-attempted’ at the free throw line by a higher rate than Michigan State.

Michigan State defends the rim better than any team in the conference, despite playing without two of their better defenders (Payne, Dawson) for much of the conference season. Spartan opponents are shooting just 43.2% on two-point attempts, the lowest percentage in the conference, and the Spartans lead the Big Ten in block percentage. The Spartans are dominant on the defensive glass, rebounding a Big Ten-best 74% of their opponents’ misses and force turnovers on a respectable 18% (4th) of their opponents’ possessions.

Gary Harris Northwestern v Michigan State s1BuKo6ALopl[1]Personnel

Gary Harris is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.9 points per league game. He’s been in a bit of a slump, but snapped out of it against Purdue with 25 points on 7-of-11 (6-9 3pt) shooting. Harris is a lethal three-point shooter, can attack the rim and loves to get out in transition. He’s also Michigan State’s best perimeter defender and did a terrific job on Nik Stauskas in the first meeting.

I wrote a lot about Adreian Payne before the first meeting thinking that he might play, but it’s still relevant now. Payne is the second most efficient post player in the Big Ten, trailing only Frank Kaminsky – who Michigan fans know plenty about. Payne is a great pick-and-pop player and has scored 20+ points in three of five games since returning from injury

While Payne’s offensive abilities pose a problem, the bigger concern for Michigan might be Payne’s effect on the offensive glass.

Denzel Valentine does a bit of everything, but his greatest strengths are rebounding and passing, an unusual combination in a 6-foot-5 forward. Valentine is shooting 43% on twos and 32% on threes and, as we covered, his best shooting spot is the right corner.

Keith Appling missed time with a wrist injury, but has played in Michigan State’s last two games. He was ineffective against Nebraska (2 pts in 19 minutes) and had nine assists against Purdue, but only attempted one field goal.

Travis Trice has taken on a larger role with Appling’s injury. He’s a knockdown shooter when open on the perimeter and it’s important to run him off the line because he’s not a great finisher in the midrange or at the rim.

Branden Dawson is supposed to have the pins removed from his hand this week and there’s been discussion that he could try to play limited minutes in Ann Arbor, even with some sort of protection on his hand. Dawson doesn’t bring a lot offensively, but he’s a monster on the offensive glass and could probably make an impact even with a wrapped hand. Matt Costello replaces most of Dawson’s physical play, hustle and rebounding around the basket when Dawson is sidelined.

Kenny Kaminski is a prototypical stretch four man that attempts 75% of his field goals from long range and connects at a 48% clip.


  • Defensive Rebounding: Michigan actually outrebounded Michigan State in the first meeting and it will be tough to do that with Payne in the lineup. Since that game, Michigan has had disappointing defensive rebounding performances in four of the last six games. Defensive rebounding not only helps the defense finish possessions, clean rebounds can also jumpstart the Wolverine offense.
  • Transition Defense: Michigan State runs as well as any team in the Big Ten. Michigan… doesn’t generally do a good job of stopping transition offense. Iowa really exploited the Wolverines in transition in Iowa City, but Michigan has been better of limiting transition opportunities on its home floor. On the other hand, Michigan needs to find some easy baskets in transition against an otherwise stout Spartan half court defense. Whichever team can win the transition game will have a major advantage.
  • Payne or Harris?: Payne or Harris? Michigan will worry about what Adreian Payne can accomplish after a disappointing defensive performance against Frank Kaminsky, but doubling Payne can leave the Wolverines exposed at other spots. It’s important to take away the easy (pick and pop) looks for Payne and make sure that he is challenged on every attempt. I suspect Michigan will try to avoid doubling Payne early on, but may be forced to if he’s on his game.

Bottom Line

Ken Pomeroy likes Michigan, predicting a 72-68 final score and giving the Wolverines a 65% chance at the win. Michigan would be in the Big Ten driver’s seat with a victory, but will need to shore up some defensive concerns from recent losses.

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