Nebraska heads up north to East Lansing this Wednesday to take on the #11 Michigan State Spartans. Joe Tuohey of SB Nation Site The Only Colors gave us his thoughts on the upcoming game.
#1 - Michigan State is one of the Big Ten’s top programs year in and year out. Tom Izzo has developed quite the quality program. What was the general feel of this team coming into the year?
I wrote about this before the season started, but the general feeling was that this team was playing with house money. The 2014-15 team went from on the bubble to the Final Four, and Tom Izzo brings in one of his best classes ever for 2016-17. That makes 2015-16 a bit of a "transition" year for MSU basketball; no pressure to contend for championships this season. When viewed that way, MSU is off to a great start.
#2 - The Spartans started the year out pretty well going 13-0 and beating the likes of Kansas, Providence, and Louisville but have recently lost to a surging Iowa team twice and a heartbreaker to an underperforming Wisconsin. What do you think has attributed to the recent losses?
The first loss to Iowa came during Denzel Valentine’s absence with a knee injury. That one is pretty straightforward to explain.
The second loss to Iowa was much less explainable. Iowa got hot from three in the first half, aided by some lackluster MSU defense, and MSU could never get back in the game. Valentine was back, but he wasn’t quite the same as he’d been before injury.
The loss to Wisconsin was primarily due to foul issues. Put the blame on the coaches, players, and refs (to some degree) but also give credit to Wisconsin for being aggressive.
#3 - What does the team do well and what needs to be improved upon?
This team does an unbelievable job sharing the ball on offense, at second in the nation in assists per field goals made. There are a number of solid-to-excellent long range shooters in Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Eron Harris and Matt McQuaid, and MSU does a nice job of getting them open looks. MSU is also it’s typical self on both the offensive and defensive glass.
MSU needs to get its fouling under control from the defensive side of the ball; outside of the Wisconsin game there have been many times where major contributors have had to sit out because of foul trouble. Also, Izzo tends to play too many guys. The bench is legitimately 14 deep, but just because all those guys could play doesn’t mean they should play.
#4 - Who are the top performers on the team that Nebraska fans should be looking for on Wednesday night?
The aforementioned Valentine is a do-it-all swiss army knife of a player. You probably know who he is. The senior big man Matt Costello has really grown his post game and is also a terrific defender. I would say Costello is likely the most underrated MSU player at this stage. Frosh big man Deyonta Davis is getting some NBA love and is a tremendous shot-blocker. Eron Harris is a transfer from West Virginia who does a nice job getting his own shot. Bryn Forbes is deadly from behind the arc.
Oh, and you should gird your loins for freshman walk-on Kenny Goins. We have a Twitter campaign going for him: #GYLFKG
#5 - Are there any concerns with a somewhat surging Nebraska coming into town on Wednesday?
This may seem #DISRESPEKT-ful, but not really. MSU obviously needs to make up some ground to get back into the conference title race, and so the game is obviously important. But from a fear level, I’m not particularly concerned about a team whose three conference wins are Rutgers, Illinois, and Minnesota.
/Checks MSU’s schedule again
/Realizes B1G wins are against Minnesota, Illinois, and Penn State
Nevermind, always fear Tim Miles.
#6 - Prediction time! What will happen Wednesday night and final score? Will Izzo get his 512th career win?
I’m interested to see how Izzo responds to the foul issues that plagued MSU against Wisconsin. I’m hoping that it results in fewer hand-check calls on the perimeter but doesn’t result in less enthusiasm on defense.
I’m guessing that MSU comes out a little bit sluggish after a couple rough B1G games, but eventually pulls away late.
MSU 73 - Nebraska 63
Thanks again to Joe for educating us on this seasons Spartan team. You can follow The Only Colors on twitter @TheOnlyColors for their takes on the upcoming game.