There's a basketball game tonight. M-MSU at the Breslin Center. I sat down to discuss the game and some X's and O's with Pete from The Only Colors, the premier SB nation site for Spartan trolls. I'd encourage you to check out my preview over at The Only Colors as well. Kudos to Pete for taking the time to answer my questions after the jump.
RB: How has Kalin Lucas' injury affected his performance this year? How vital is he to the team's chances for navigating the B10 schedule?
Pete: Lucas's ACL injury has most affected his ability to drive into the lane for lay-ups and fouls. Since he can't penetrate as well as he could last year he often settles for many 18-foot jumpers, and when he does that he often makes 25% of his field goals for the game - not good. His importance to the team just increased many fold for reasons I'll get into with the next question.
As of real late Tuesday night, word out of East Lansing is that Korie Lucious has been dismissed from the team. What's the deal there, and how will it affect the Spartans moving forward? Is Keith Appling ready to fill in in a big-time role?
We probably will never know what happened. Chris Allen was dismissed the team last summer; the reason he gave for leaving was that he was "a bad teammate". All sorts of rumors were flying as to the real reason for his transfer, none of them verified. At any rate, I have a feeling no one will ever know exactly why Korie was suspended.
Anyway, Lucious's departure will effect MSU in two ways. First the Spartans no longer have anyone besides Lucas that I feel can handle the ball especially well. While this may not be a problem against Michigan, it could be a huge detriment against trapping teams. Second, the team's shooting percentages may actually improve slightly. One of Lucious's biggest faults was that he never met a shot he didn't like, and assuming the players can still make the passes they need to without Lucious (a pretty big if), MSU's offensive efficiency may actually increase slightly.
Anyone watching the tournament last year knows that Lucas and Summers can score. I'll would've thrown Lucious in to this mix too, because he had the potential to ignite MSU for stretches. Who do you see, beyond those guys, having the biggest impact on the game versus Michigan?
I'll take Draymond Green and Delvon Roe. Besides Jordan Morgan Michigan doesn't really have anyone who can body up on Green and Roe in the paint, and if those two can consistently score inside (which they did against Purdue on Saturday - one of the few bright spots in that loss) it's going to be hard for Michigan to keep up. I'd think that MSU would be focused on getting Morgan in foul trouble in this game - he's Michigan's best rebounder and if the Spartans can stick him on the bench that should create the chance for a few tip-ins and putbacks.
What has been the biggest contributing factor to the Spartans' streaky play this season? This has been a rather tumultuous year for Sparty - starting with Izzo's is-he-or-izzn't-he going to the Cavs (I never thought he'd leave MSU, FWIW) and then continuing with the hemmorhaging of the guards.
Honestly, it's hasn't been one consistent fault. In the UConn game it was a lack of rebounding and failing to convert one-and-ones in the final minute. Texas completely shut MSU out of anything they wanted to do offensively. Syracuse's interior scoring could not be stopped. Penn State collected far too many rebounds on the offensive end. In the last two games it's been one part hot shooting teams in Illinois and Purdue, and one part MSU failing to get through screens and cover outside shots. That's been one of the most frustrating things about this season -- there isn't an Achilles' heel you can point to, but when one problem seems fixed, another crops up.
Beyond Darius Morris playing out of his mind, Michigan's really only got one threat to change the game - three point shooting. In wins this year, they've shot decently well, but in losses (even close ones) they've stunk it up from behind the arc (something like 3-22 against Kansas). What's the key for MSU to stopping the 3-point shooting? What kind of D should we expect?
The base man-to-man that's become a hallmark of MSU. Tom Izzo said he was going to play more zone at the beginning of the season and so far it's been seen once or twice, so man-to-man it will be. The key for stopping Michigan's three point shooting will be to cover all five Wolverines tightly - while Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway get a lot of the press, they're actually shooting below 30% behind the arc currently. If they take a good amount of contested threes I'll be happy. The other thing MSU can't do is allow penetration. Against Clemson I felt Michigan did a great job of getting inside and scoring which opened up the outside shot. That can't happen tomorrow night.
What's it like to come into the Breslin Center as a visiting team?
Finally, how does this game play out? Any chance Michigan keeps it close?
Now that Lucious is out there's definitely a chance Michigan can keep it close. If the Wolverines can work the ball inside and get a few shots at point blank range that should open up the three. The one thing they can't do is panic and allow MSU to score at will in the paint. The Spartans have had a lot of faults in the last few games but turnovers have rarely been one of them, and I don't think Michigan can count on Michigan State to beat itself. I think MSU takes a while to figure out how to function offensively without Lucious, but Lucas and Green facilitate enough offense to pull out a 7-9 point victory.