Wednesday, October 1, 2008
2008-09 Opponent Breakdown: Michigan St.
When I look back at the greatest college basketball games that I have ever seen, one of the first that pops into mind was the classic game between Michigan St. and GU at the 2005 Maui Invitational. The 3 0vertime battle saw Adam Morrison burst on to the national scene with a 43 point performance, as the Zags emerged with a 109-106 win. This year, the teams could be headed for a potential rematch in the Old Spice Classic. I expect that the Spartans, who are talented enough to compete for a National Championship, to defeat Maryland in their opening round game. If GU can take care of business against Oklahoma St., then we may have one of the best games of the early season.
Last Season's Results: It's hard to call a 27-9 season disappointing, but last year's Michigan St. squad may fit the bill. The Spartans had another roller coaster regular season, which began with a terrific 14-1 start, but saw the team put together a very poor Big 10 season. The preseason favorites to win the conference, MSU ended up 12-6 in conference, which saw them fall to 4th in the weak Big 10. Perhaps the issue was the reliance on Drew Neitzel, who was never able to recapture his great junior year form, and struggled for much of his senior season. With Neitzel graduating, the Spartans will not be as reliant on one player, and this could potentially see them reach their significant potential.
New Faces: It seems that Tom Izzo brings in some of the top high school talent in the country on a yearly basis. This year is no different, as MSU brings in three high level freshmas. Leading the way will be Delvon Roe, who is a special talent at the PF position. Roe displays great passion on the court, and has the work ethic and desire to match his tremendous athleticism. The concern with Roe is that he had microfracture surgery this past December. Roe will not be 100% during the Old Spice Classic, but he should be a force to deal with by Big 10 play(TKR note: Check out this story from Andy Katz about Roe and his recovery). Draymond Green is another highly touted big man, who may see some minutes this season. Green has reportedly lost 30 pounds since his senior year of high school, and has looked quite impressive in pre-season workouts. The final member of the class if Korie Lucious, a quick PG from Milwaukee. While Lucious will likely not see the minutes that Roe and Green might, he is another weapon that Izzo has at his disposal.
Players to Watch: In Raymar Morgan, Michigan State has one of the most electrifying players in college basketball. The 6'7 forward is extremely athletic, and is capable of jawdropping dunks. While he is known for his dunks, Morgan has really improved other facets of his game since he came to East Lansing two years ago. Last season, Morgan averaged 14 pts and 6.1 rebounds per game, while shooting over 55% from the field. If he can continue to make strides in his game, he is a potential lottery pick whenever he declares for the NBA. The player who my eyes will be on is Kalin Lucas. The sophomore PG is a blur up and down the court, and should emerge as a leader with the graduation of Drew Neitzel. As a freshman, Lucas averaged 10.3 pts and 3.8 assists, and it would be a huge surprise not to see both of those numbers improve significantly. For Lucas to reach his potential, he must improve on his questionable shooting percentage. Last season, Lucas shot only 43.1% from the field, and if he is to keep defenders honest, this number must improve.
TKR's Concern-O-Meter: While MSU is certainly talented this season, what makes them such a threat for the Final 4 is Tom Izzo. Izzo is one of the finest coaches in the country, and it would be a treat to see him and Mark Few butting heads again. This is one of the most athletic and talented teams that Izzo has had, and they are one of the few teams on the schedule with the depth and talent to match the Zags. This would be an outstanding early season win for GU, and it would go a long way in securing a coveted #2 seed come tournament time. Hopefully, we are given an opportunity to watch these two great programs matchup in Orlando.
What We are Watching for: The matchup that jumps out to me is Kalin Lucas vs. the duo of Jeremy Pargo and Demetri Goodson. I think that the duo of Pargo and Goodson could give Lucas trouble throughout the game. Pargo has the size and strength to make life difficult for Lucas, while Goodson is one of the rare PG's who can match the quickness of Lucas. If they can frustrate and contain Lucas throughout the game, it would give the Bulldogs a huge advantage. A big question for me is who will Coach Few put on Raymar Morgan? If Josh if healthy, I would love to see him use his length and strength to make life difficult for Morgan. However, Morgan may be to quick for Josh to keep up with throughout the game. I think that this could be a terrific time to utilize Ira Brown. Ira has the strength and athleticism to disrupt Morgan, and I think he could be a huge weapon in this game.