11/28/2012 at 7:30 PM on ESPN
Michigan State hits the road again as they head to Miami to take part in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Spartans have been getting the job done at home of late but it often times has been less than pretty. Turnovers have been the largest problem for MSU and that has only been exacerbated by injuries to Travis Trice and Gary Harris. Trice has vowed to play in this game, and there have been Gary Harris sightings in practice and some hopes that he will be available as well this evening but how much either will play is a mystery.
Miami comes in only having played 4 games on the season so they are fresher and have all of their key cogs at their disposal. This is a senior laden squad, with four of them logging heavy minutes. The Hurricanes have two senior bigs to patrol the paint in seniors Reggie Johnson(11.7 PPG, 10 RPG)and Kenny Kadji(11.5 PPG, 8 RPG). Senior guard Durand Scott has only played one game but showed scant signs of rust as he collected 15 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists against the Detroit Titans. Trey McKinney Jones rounds out the senior class as he chips in over 11 points per game from the guard position. This bunch alone looks pretty good, but toss in the contributions of sophomore Shane Larkin(17.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.5 APG)and it becomes apparent that this Miami squad is talent laden as well as experienced.
The Spartans have looked a little fatigued of late, and rightfully so. The customary early season gauntlet has been made all the more difficult due to the injuries having forced a few of the veterans to shoulder more of the minutes as well as some of the youngsters being exposed to more lengthy stints on the floor to cover for the fallen. Any contributions MSU can get from Trice or (less likely) Harris will be a huge lift for the team. Additionally, Derrick Nix and Andreian Payne will face what may be the strongest front court duo they have faced so far this season, and some continued solid play out of the likes of Matt Costello will also likely factor in tonight. This will be another big test away from home against a solid, experienced team. If MSU can take care of the ball there is no reason to believe they can’t return victorious, as I think the frontcourt matchups are even and Keith Appling is emerging as a player to be reckoned with. Much pressure will continue to be placed on Denzel Valentine and Russell Byrd to be smart with the ball and execute, especially if neither Trice nor Harris are available for more than spot duty. This should be a fun game, and a good test.
Prediction: MSU 71, Miami 68