BYU vs. Michigan State: The Breakdown

No. 23 BYU has its hands full this weekend as it travels to the Energy Solutions Center in Salt Lake City to face No. 9 Michigan State and preseason All-American guard Drew Neitzel. The game will virtually be a home game for BYU, but is recognized as a neutral site game, just like the game was last year when Michigan State beat BYU 76-61 at the Palace in Michigan.

Expect a high-energized, exciting game out of two teams that will be anxious to get up and down the floor, as both teams average more than 75 points per game on the season (BYU 81.5, MSU 77.5). This will be the third top-10 team BYU has played this season.

Michigan State at Point Guard

The point guard position is split between returning starter Travis Walton and freshman phenom Kalin Lucas. Travis Walton is a 6-foot-2-inch, 195-pound point guard that is one of the Spartans' co-captains. This true point guard receives the comparison to NBA point guard Eric Snow. He looks to pass first and distributes the ball well. He is a returning started and started 35 games for the Spartans last season. While Walton won't kill teams offensively, he is a terrific defender and is a good point guard. Walton is averaging three points per contest and 4.1 assists a game. Freshman Kalin Lucas is averaging seven points per game and four assists a game. He is lightning quick and could cause problems for the Cougars if they're not careful with his quickness. Lucas loves to push the ball in transition and is great at finding the open man. These are two very quick point guards that Ben Murdock is going to have to match up with on Saturday. Hopefully Michael Loyd or Nick Martineau can give some quality minutes so that Murdock can get an occasional breather, but don't expect Murdock to sit very long.

Michigan State at Shooting Guard

The Spartans start four-year starter and preseason All-American Drew Neitzel at shooting guard. Neitzel will be the toughest guard BYU will defend all season long. He is a 6-foot, 180-pound guard currently averaging 14.1 points and five assists per contest. He is the leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, and is first among all Big Ten returning players in assists and second in scoring. Neitzel can do damage off the dribble or as a set shooter. He is one of the premier point guards in the nation, and if allowed, will really hurt an opposing team. He has the capability to hurt the Cougars the way Syracuse's Gerry McNamara did in the 2004 NCAA Tournament when he had nine three-pointers. Neitzel is one of the best shooters in the country, but also distributes the ball exceptionally well. His current assist-to-turnover ratio is 5.0. After a poor shooting performance against Bradley in which he was 4-16 from the field, expect Neitzel to be prepared to shoot the ball against the Cougars. He is the type of player that, if he scores 15 points and shoots the ball continuously, his team is satisfied even if he doesn't get his entire team involved. Neitzel started his first two seasons at point guard for the Spartans, but was moved to the off guard to get more opportunities to shoot last season.

Michigan State at Small Foward

The Spartans' leading scorer resides at the small forward position in Raymar Morgan. The 6-foot-7-inch, 220-pound sophomore will stack up with Lee Cummard in what will be a very interesting matchup. Morgan is averaging 17.6 points per game and is a great slasher. He moves very well without the ball, has a good midrange jumper, and gets himself to the basket. He does not have a threatening three-point game, as he has only taken 16 three-pointers this season and only made five of them. He is a good rebounder however, and averages nearly eight boards per game. He is a good defender and has the ability to guard four positions. His season-high in points came against Chicago State when he had 25 points and 15 rebounds. Morgan typically gets himself to the free-throw line 8-to-10 times a game, and is a 76 percent free-throw shooter.

Michigan State at Power Forward

At the four, 6-foot-8-inch, 235-pound junior Marquiese Gray starts for the Spartans. He is averaging nearly eight points and 5.3 boards per game. Gray is a poor free-throw shooter, as he only shoots 58 percent from the line. He is very active on the glass offensively and defensively and is dangerous in the open court. He had a season-high 11 points in a contest versus Jacksonville. Coach Tom Izzo has three different big men that rotate frequently in the power forward and center positions. Expect 6-foot-10-inch redshirt senior center Drew Naymick to get some quality minutes. Naymick ranks sixth all-time in blocks for Michigan State with 74. He is a good offensive player with a good mid-range jump shot. He is also MSU's best defending post player, so expect him to see time guarding Trent Plaisted.

Michigan State at Center

Michigan State starts 6-foot-10-inch redshirt junior Goran Suton at the center position. Suton is averaging nine points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. He handles the ball well for a big man and is a good passer. He is proficient from 18-to-20 feet with his jumper. Suton was voted the Most Improved Player for the Spartans in the 2006-07 season by his teammates. He was the leading rebounder (6.7 rebounds per game) on the best rebounding team in the Big Ten last season. Against BYU last year, he had 10 points and 11 rebounds. He is a solid big man. Expect Naymick to also get minutes at the center position.

Michigan State's Coach

Tom Izzo is one of the most recognized coaches in NCAA basketball. In his 13th year directing the Spartan program, Coach Izzo has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments, including one NCAA National Championship, four regular-season Big Ten Championships, two Big Ten Tournament titles, four Final Four appearances, four National Coach of the Year awards and a Big Ten-best 10-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He is an exceptional coach and will be ready for everything the Cougars shoot at him on Saturday.


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