Preview: Michigan State

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Michigan takes on the Spartans at 7PM tonight on ESPN. The game takes place in a sold-out Crisler Arena.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Michigan State: National Ranks
Category Michigan State Advantage
Mich eFG% v. MSU eFG% D 153 131 S
Mich eFG% D v. MSU eFG% 177 79 S
Mich TO% v. MSU Def TO% 15 201 MM
Mich Def TO% v. MSU TO% 137 154 M
Mich OReb% v. MSU DReb% 258 7 SSS
Mich DReb% v. MSU OReb% 182 4 SS
Mich FTR v. MSU Opp FTR 319 124 SS
Mich Opp FTR v. MSU FTR 23 58 M
Mich AdjO v. MSU AdjD 54 27 S
Mich AdjD v. MSU AdjO 91 9 S

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third.

As has been the case for much of the past decade, Michigan State is simply a better team than Michigan. They have many of the characteristics of classic Tom Izzo-coached teams: they rebound well, they get to the line decently well, and they do everything else just well enough to win the vast majority of their games. Since Michigan’s slide began against Wisconsin, the Wolverines have fallen off in nearly every category. However, they look to have turned it around (at least a bit) over the past two games. The keys for each team will be hitting their shots and not turning the ball over. Michigan has disadvantages in the first category and advantages in the second on each end of the floor. KenPom predicts a 71-67 Spartans win in a 65-possession game.

The Spartans are led by sophomore Kalin Lucas, who has been very efficient in both dishing it to his teammates and not turning the ball over. Another important piece for the Spartans, however, is Raymar Morgan. The junior power forward has missed the last two games, andisn’t expected to play tonight. If he’s missing, that could help decrease Michigan State’s size/rebounding advantage, if only slightly. Chris Alen is the team’s designated sniper, but he’s been struggling from 3 a bit of late. Will he be able to turn it back on against the hated rival?

For as much better a record as Michigan State owns, I’m surprised the Spartans’ tempo-free profile is this close to Michigan’s. MSU is one of the few teams that hasn’t had AT LEAST 3-letter differentials in rebounding on both ends of the floor, and they are certainly one of the closest teams to Michigan in terms of getting to the line. However, I still think the Spartans are too good for Michigan, and the lone game in this rivalry goes MSU’s way in 2009.

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