Some of y’all may have thought I wasn’t coming with this preview. Maybe you heard I started shooting it out both ends on Sunday and the only solid food I’ve had in 4 days is saltines and a desperation hot dog that didn’t stick around. You’d be wrong. Let’s talk about Michigan State.
Normally I give y’all in-depth breakdown on the strengths and weakness of the opponent. I’ve (well, one of my minions at the Purdue site, I’m management now) done that twice this year. If you’re looking for more information, feel free to click here or here my buddy Garrett does a good job on these. The stats are from January, but honestly, not much has changed in terms of the way Michigan State plays....Tom Izzo is a lot of things, and consistent is one of them.
If you’re looking for something more to the point, hold on, here it comes.
The Essence of Michigan State
It feels like I’ve written a few hundred articles about Michigan State basketball over the decade plus I’ve worked at Hammer and Rails. The characters change, but the theme remains the same.
* Above all, they want to out tough you.
If you’re not tough, you’re not going to beat Michigan State. They’re going to grab, slap, poke, prod, and jab you at every opportunity. They’re going to set 1,000 moving screens on offense. Some years, their forwards on the basketball are better run blockers than the guards on the football team. They’re going to try and push you underneath the basket on rebounds. Nothing is easy against the Spartans. If you can’t handle that, they’re going to mentally wear you down, and then they’re going to beat you.
* Tom Izzo will be attached to a ref all game.
While his team turns basketball into hardcore rules WWE match circa 1999, Tom Izzo protest every foul call. He’ll turn 5 different shades of purple if the ref calls one of his players for a moving screen (the basis of their offense). In the Big10, he runs roughshod over the officials. I think they’re afraid of him. I’ve never seen a coach try and earn a tech and fail like Izzo. The thing is, it works, and it makes things even more frustrating. While your team is getting smashed with a folding chair in the post, his team is drawing touch fouls on the perimeter. This really goes back to point one though. You can’t let it get to you. As soon as your team gets frustrated, it’s Michigan State’s game. You must remain calm, because they thrive on your frustration.
* Tyson Walker is that dude
K-State has dudes, but the Spartans have their own New York City guard. Walker is the 6’1”, 180 pound beating heart of Michigan State. Show me how he plays, and I can’t tell you if Michigan State won, but I can tell you if they lost. The Spartans don’t have enough on offense without Walker. He’s the guy that can beat you. He put up 23 on Marquette and controlled the game. He’s tough as nails and finds ways to get open, even when your entire defense is geared up to stop him. You know how confident you feel when Markquis has the ball at the end of the shot clock, Michigan State fans feel the same way about Walker. The Walker vs Nowell show down is going to be epic.
* Don’t Lose Joey Hauser
It’s no coincidence that Hauser and Michigan State’s late season surge dovetail perfectly. He’s a streaky shooter and can beat you with a 3 point barrage. He hit 4 of 6 from deep against USC in Michigan State’s first round win. Remember how I said the Spartans like to set moving screens...they set those screens for Hauser. Over the last 5 games he’s shooting 15/26 from 3. That’s red, red hot. He’s 6’9” and always assumes he can get his shot off from deep. I want Tomlin on him as much as possible, if for no other reason than I want to see someone swat a 3, and he will try and get his shot off over Na’Quan.
I could have stopped at my first point, because that’s what this game boils down to. If Kansas State can match Michigan State’s toughness, they win this game. Throw out everything else. This isn’t chess, this is a street fight, and if you don’t fight back, Michigan State will steam roll you.
If Kansas State can keep their composure while matching Michigan State’s physical style, I don’t think this will be that close, but that’s a tough ask. Tom Izzo has made his Hall of Fame career of toughness.
Kansas State - 81
Michigan State - 74
You’re not going to find much tougher than Markquis, Keyontae, and Desi. They’v been through the college basketball wars. They won’t let Michigan State get to them, in fact, they might go ahead and out tough the Spartans. Michigan State loves to wear you down and then put you away in the last 5 minutes. I think the Wildcats turn the tables and pull away late. I’ve got K-State by 7, but this thing is going to be a brawl.