Michigan is second in the Big Ten in points scored by way of the three-pointer as 36.1% of their points come by way of that shot. Five different players have the ability (and the green light) to fire away from deep in John Beilein's system with Evan Smotrycz (9.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Zak Novak (9.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg) being the most accurate. Smotrycz, who normally is a tough matchup for opposing power forwards due to his ability to step out, will see a lot of either Draymond Green (15.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.4 apg) or Branden Dawson (8.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg) when on offense.
But Green offers a unique matchup when the Spartans are on offense as well, as his versatility allows Tom Izzo to run a lot of their stuff through the senior in a role that could be described as a "point forward". This, combined with playing games, has helped young guards Keith Appling (12.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Travis Trice (5.8 ppg, 2.1 apg) grow into their roles in the backcourt. Add in Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood (10.1 ppg, 2.4 apg) and the Spartans have a core trio of guards that have improved a great deal since those losses to North Carolina and Duke to start the season.
They're in for a serious test in Ann Arbor as freshman Trey Burke (14.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.6 rpg) and junior Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg) rank among the best backcourts in the Big Ten. Burke's been one of the best freshmen in the country, especially when considering his role as the point guard, and Hardaway Jr. has continued to develop as a primary scoring option. That's been a big reason as to why the Wolverines have been able to account for the early departure of Darius Morris, who was a second-round draft pick last June.
If there's one stat to keep an eye on Tuesday night it's the rebounding margin because while Michigan State isn't dominant in this area they're far better than Michigan. The Spartans out-rebound their opponents by an average of 6.1 rebounds per game while the Wolverines are just below breaking even (minus-0.6). And that's due in large part to the number of perimeter shots they take as opposed to getting whipped on the offensive glass, as opponents have grabbed just 9.3 offensive rebounds per game.
Michigan State has rebounded 39.7% of their misses this season, and if the likes of Adriean Payne and Derrick Nix can help out Green and Dawson in this area it could be tough sledding for a Michigan team whose leading rebounders (Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan) average a combined 11.0 rebounds per game. Look for Michigan's rebounding and Michigan State's defense of the three (opponents shoot 30.2%) to ultimately decide the victor.
Also of note on Tuesday is an ACC tilt between Maryland and Florida State, as the Seminoles look to build on their win over North Carolina while the Terrapins need quality wins to work their way into the NCAA Tournament conversation. It's anyone's guess as to how the middle of the conference will shake out and these are two of the teams that can make a run for that final first-round bye slot come ACC Tournament time.
Terrell Stoglin ranks among the best guards in the ACC, but a concern for Mark Turgeon's young guards has been shot selection. They'll need to keep that under control in dealing with one of the league's best defenses, and the same goes for Florida State in the turnover department. It's no coincidence that Leonard Hamilton's team pulled away when they took better care of the basketball and Deividas Dulkys (32 points) got hot.
#2 Kentucky hosts Arkansas in a game that may not impress from a scoring margin standpoint as the Wildcats (on paper) are far superior to the Razorbacks. But it does offer viewers the opportunity to watch some of the SEC's best freshmen. Kentucky's crop is well-known at this point in the season, but in guard B.J. Young the Hogs have one of the conference's most prolific scorers. If Mike Anderson's team can harass Marquis Teague with their pressure this could be a more strenuous exercise for Kentucky than many anticipate.
There's also a big game in the Big South as defending conference tournament champ UNC Asheville hosts the reigning regular season champ in Coastal Carolina. J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey are arguably the best backcourt in the conference and Eddie Biedenbach's club currently leads the conference with a 7-0 record, but Cliff Ellis' Chnaticleers are just a game back at 6-1. With the regular season champion hosting the conference tournament semis and title game the outcome will go a long way in determining who gets that honor come March.
Top 25 Games
9:00 PM Arkansas at (2) Kentucky (ESPN)
7:00 PM (9) Michigan State at (19) Michigan (ESPN)
7:00 PM (12) Georgetown at DePaul (ESPN2)
NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM UMBC at Hartford
7:00 PM Auburn at LSU (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Coastal Carolina at UNC-Asheville (ESPN3)
7:00 PM High Point at Radford
7:00 PM Toccoa Falls at Western Carolina
7:00 PM Campbell at Winthrop
8:00 PM North Dakota State at North Dakota
8:00 PM Texas Tech at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Iowa at Purdue (BTN)
9:00 PM Maryland at Florida State (ESPNU)
10:00 PM Boise State at Colorado State (The Mtn)
10:00 PM Nebraska Omaha at Nevada
10:30 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Pacific