MSU vs Colorado: Keys to the Game

What must MSU do to prevail? SI analyst Ryan Wallace delivers his keys to the game as the Michigan State Spartans prepare for the Colorado Buffaloes on Friday.

Keys for the Spartans

The Spartans are going to have their hands full in the post. The Buffaloes possess two physical specimens who like to attack the basket and get after the loose ball. Seven-foot David Harrison and 6-foot-8 Stephane Pelle are averaging 13.9 and 12.2 points per game, respectively. Pelle and Harrison also average better than 8 rebounds per game. Overall the Buffaloes pull down 42 rebounds per game and could pose a problem for the Spartans. MSU led the Big Ten in rebounding margin for the sixth straight year and are not going to back down. Senior Al Anagonye has to be able to stay out of foul trouble and become a presence to counter Colorado’s inside game. Freshman Paul Davis, must also stay out of foul trouble and be physical. He’s got the height, but he doesn’t have the bulk. If he can get some confidence early, it’s only going to be positive for the Spartans.

MSU has got to keep sharp-shooting Blair Wilson in check. The 6-foot-6 forward has free range to let it fly from just about anywhere – and he’s almost guaranteed to do so. Wilson has jacked up 232 3-point attempts this season and its connecting on 34.5 percent of them. Whether it’s Chris Hill, Alan Anderson or Kelvin Torbert, the Spartans do not want Wilson to get on a role. Earlier in the season perimeter shooting defense was an Achilles’ heel for the Spartans, but as of late, they have started to clamp down.

The Spartans have a deeper bench than the Buffaloes and they’ll have to produce if MSU wants to advance. In the Big Ten tournament the Spartans got big boosts from a pair of freshman. Maurice Ager stepped up and led the Spartans in scoring at 12 points in the two games. Erazem Lorbek, who Izzo said appeared to hit the wall at the end of the Big Ten season, is starting to score a little bit more and getting physical in the post. In addition to the two freshman, senior Adam Ballinger will need to contribute. Ballinger is a senior leader and has gone to the Big Dance every year as a Spartan. His experience will be needed.

The Buffaloes will leave the outside shot open. Already this season opponents have shot over 600 3-point shots this season, and have connected on 34 percent of them. Chris Hill is the only Spartan who can consistently knock down the 3-point shot. Ager, Ballinger and Lorbek can all stroke it from the outside and they will get good looks. If the Spartans can knock down eight or nine 3’s, they’ll be in a good position to earn the victory.

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