GameNight: Michigan vs Michigan St

February 10th, 2009
Feb 10 2009 - 7:00pm

Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad



This in state rivalry has been decidedly one sided over the past several years, with #9 Michigan State (9-2, 19-4) taking seven of the last nine. Visiting Michigan (5-6, 15-9) is looking to take one in East Lansing. The Wolverines are one of numerous bubble teams in the Big Ten, and right now their resume is not standing out much apart from the two big early season wins over UCLA and Duke. A win over UConn on Saturday would have sealed the deal, but now they are left with work to do. A win over the Spartans at the Breslin Center would go a long way.

The Wolverines are led by extremely talented but sporadic guard Manny Harris. Harris is among the conference's leaders in points, rebounds and assists, but he is notorious for throwing up bad shots. However, State's defense is the nation's 130th best in field goal percentage. If Harris can exploit that, he could have a huge game. Forward DeShawn Sims won't be on the floor for the opening tip, but don't let that fool you; this guy has starting talent. Coach John Beilein feels that Sims is more effective coming off the bench. This is hardly arguable, as Sims is putting up numbers close to 15 and 8 a game. He is not a sharpshooter, but has good range on his jumpshot, making him a nightmare for traditional post players as well as tall shooters. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak are almost exclusive three point threats. Rarely do they take shots inside the arc. While Novak played very well towards the beginning of the year, Douglass has shown flashes of big time potential, especially in the last two games, where he has averaged 16.5 points per contest. Both shoot terrible percentages from the field, however, as their games consist of little more than the three point shot. The Arizona transfer, Laval Lucas-Perry, was supposed to provide this team with a reliable third scorer when he joined the team after nine games (his stint at Arizona lasted that long, so he had to sit those games out). And in the first six games, he did, posting double digit scoring every game. However, since that point, Lucas-Perry has yet to break eight points, and his shooting percentages have plummeted to the low 30's. He seems hesitant as to whether his role on the team is scorer or playmaker. The sooner Lucas-Perry chooses, the better off Michigan will be. Kelvin Grady has no hesitation as to what his role is; he drives and dishes routinely. His penetration sets up a lot of easy buckets, and he boasts a 2.7/1 assist/turnover ratio. Zack Gibson sees less time than the principle subs, but his numbers are very good. He makes a lot of his shots, doesn't rely on the three ball and posts nearly a block a game.

Michigan State has charged ahead in the Big Ten standings, having two less losses than their next closest challenger. Oddly, those two losses have been to two bubble teams at the Breslin Center, Penn State and Northwestern. Michigan, like the aforementioned teams, has also come out of nowhere to put themselves in the postseason conversation. It looks like Raymar Morgan will miss the game with Michigan. That means Delvon Roe and Marquise Gray have to pick up their level of play in the low post. Roe has played well in Morgan's absense; Gray has not. But the key to State's success still lies with point guard Kalin Lucas. He is the MVP of the team and perhaps the conference. He has a great assist/turnover ratio, pours in 15 points a game and also nets one steal per contest. Lucas doesn't shoot tremendously well from the floor, but he gets in the lane at will. He can score and make plays. Without Morgan, a triumvirate of Spartans form the rest of Michigan State's primary attack, and all offer something different. Veteran big man Goran Suton leads the team in rebounding, has a very soft touch for a big man, and is knocking down 61% of his threes (on only 18 shots). Durrell Summers is a wingman who scores every way he can. He gets down low against smaller defenders, knocks down threes and has a nice mid-range game. Chris Allen is often viewed as a three point specialist, and while this is true, he is more versatile than your average shooter. Most teams have a designated shooter. This shooter's shot composition is usually around 70% 3 point. Allen's is in the 50's, still over half of his shots, but it shows he isn't a spot up shooter. Perhaps one of the most unheralded players in the Big Ten, Travis Walton gets more minutes than any other Spartan aside from the man he backs up, Lucas. His value to the team is enormous, he scores just 6 points a game, but gets his fair share of rebounds and dishes out 3.2 assists, and leads the team in steals. Backing him up still is Korie Lucious, the freshman point guard who has an 11 assist outing this year.

Some of the Big Ten's best talent will be on display in East Lansing. Sims, Harris and Lucas are all strong candidates for conference Player of the Year. It will be Lucas' Spartans that prevail. Winning in the Breslin Center is not something opponents should become accustomed to.

Winner: Michigan State        Margin: 6-10 points




Editor's Early Preview

*Made on 02/06. Full preview by the GameNight staff coming soon!


Since knocking off Michigan early in the year, the Wolverines have failed to generate much success and have fallen off the national map. A big win over the Spartans would go along way towards securing a Tourney bid.

Early Prediction: Michigan St