Nicholls State (1-2) at #13 Michigan State (5-2), 12:00, Big Ten Network
On Saturday afternoon, MSU will try to rebound from a 67-59 loss to the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at home against the Nicholls State Colonels of the Southland Conference.
What you should know about the opponent:
Nicholls State is 1-2 this year, with losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt and a win against New Orleans. The Colonels are led by senior guard Fred Hunter, who has averaged 21.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game throughout the year so far. MSU has struggled against high powered guards this year, such as Miami’s Shane Larkin (15 points), Kansas’ Elijah Johnson (16 points), Boise State guard Derrick Marx (24 points), Oakland guard Duke Mondy (16 points) and Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton (20 points). Yeah, that’s a lot.
Now, Fred Hunter does play for a really poor team, but he’s dropped 20 and 22 points against Vanderbilt and Missouri, respectively. MSU’s replenished guards (Trice and Harris are back) will need to help out on the defensive side of the ball, preventing Hunter from a monster game.
Other than Hunter, the Colonels play a fairly evened-out game, with no other player averaging more than 12 points per game.
Jameson and I are collaborating on this post since we are both a little pressed for time. I will do the MSU portion.
What you should look for from MSU:
Nicholls State is another vertically challenge opponent. Given that, they will aid Izzo in his desire to get away from playing Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together as they will be best served by playing a smaller lineup anyway. The Spartans should have an easier time of it offensively as their athletic ability should be able to win out here and they should be able to penetrate off the dribble and make things happen close to the basket. That said, I would still like to see some improvement in the perimeter shooting and the only way to do that is to suffer through some misses until they can turn them into makes. Travis Trice needs some playing time to get back into some sort of rhythm, and Russell Byrd needs to hoist some up in the hopes of sinking a few.
Improved ball security, superior rebounding, and tighter defense should be the order of the day for MSU. If nothing else their loss to Miami likely served to illustrate to the team that they cannot continue to play sloppy basketball and expect victories in spite of it. This largely young group has a few things to learn still, but if all goes according to plan they should come away with a relatively easy victory.
Prediction: MSU 74, NICH 59