Michigan vs. Michigan State: Dissecting the matchups
Feb 12, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Every basketball game is full of switching, scrambling and substituting, but here's how MSU and Michigan should match up for tonight's top-10 clash at the Breslin Center according to Free Press sports writer Joe Rexrode:
Trey Burke vs. Keith Appling
Just think of the defenders Burke will have seen in a span of 11 days -- Victor Oladipo, Aaron Craft and now Appling. Appling might be No. 3 on that list, but he's a terrific defensive player. And he'll test Burke's defense. Appling's foul situation will be a major story line. Burke is best when he's in the lane or in transition, getting shots for others.
Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Branden Dawson
This is too big of an assignment for a banged-up freshman, so MSU figures to use Dawson instead of Gary Harris on Hardaway. This matchup works better for U-M, too. Dawson is coming off a career-high 20 points and is attacking. Hardaway is red-hot and carrying U-M. He doesn't need to catch and shoot in rhythm. He hits runners, shots off the dribble, bombs fading left with a defender in his face, etc.
Nik Stauskas vs. Gary Harris
One of the surprise stories of college basketball early, Stauskas has found wide-open shots less plentiful during Big Ten play. He is 18-for-47 overall (38.3%) and 7-for-29 from three-point range (24.1%) in league road games. Still, MSU fears his potential to erupt. Harris is still dealing with back spasms but continues one of the best freshman seasons in MSU history. He has 58 points in his past four games.
Glenn Robinson III vs. Adreian Payne
Payne has demonstrated the ability to chase perimeter guys around, making Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas work for shots and doing a good job on Indiana's Christian Watford. But Robinson is quicker than those two. He's also 3-for-12 for six points in U-M's past two road games, at Indiana and Wisconsin. But he will test Payne's mobility. On the other end, Robinson will need help to cope with Payne in the post.
Mitch McGary vs. Derrick Nix
McGary may not start, but make no mistake, he's Michigan's main man in the middle. He's big, physical, hustles, has a good sense for the game and almost always finishes around the basket. Nix is coming off a huge night at Purdue, scoring 17 with no double-teams in sight. U-M figures to double often, testing his ability to find the open man. He says he'll be ready.
U-M's bench vs. MSU's bench
Though technically a starter, Jon Horford played 7 minutes at Wisconsin while McGary played 32. Horford could get more if John Beilein decides he has to go big. If Jordan Morgan (ankle) can go at all, that's big for U-M. MSU doesn't expect to have guard Travis Trice (concussion-like symptoms), so Denzel Valentine will back up Appling and need to come up huge on defense.
John Beilein vs. Tom Izzo
Much has been made of Beilein's system, but his tenure at U-M proves he can adjust to his personnel. This is the best personnel of his career, and he has used it to build an efficient, lethal offense. It's starting to look like this could end up as one of Izzo's best teams as well. And he is among the game's best at a one-game prep.
Green mystique vs. Blue wave
All season long, it looked like this would be a case of MSU trying to knock off the celebrated Wolverines. But it's the Spartans in first place in the Big Ten entering this game, with both teams in the top 10 in the AP poll. The bottom line is, this game will feature championship intensity. The home crowd, as important in college basketball as in any sport, should aid the Spartans.
Contact Joe Rexrode: 313-222-2625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @joerexrode. Check out his MSU blog at freep.com/heyjoe.
Join special writer Nick Meyer for a live blog of the Michigan-MSU game Tuesday night at freep.com/sports. Then come back at 10 a.m. Thursday for a live chat with MSU beat writer Joe Rexrode. Submit early questions here.
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