The May Factor

What can Paul Davis and his Michigan State teammates do to slow down North Carolina's Sean May Saturday night? <P> SpartansInsider basketball beat writer Doug Warren offers a few possibilities. <I>Get Inside</I> to read this and the rest of our Michigan State coverage leading up to, and through, the "March to the Arch."

Sean May is has been college basketball's best big man out side of Utah's now NBA-bound Andrew Bogut this season. The junior's bloodlines are more than solid; with his father Scott a major contributor on Bob Knight's legendary Indiana teams of the mid-1970's. Sean has really come alive over the last half of the season, since collecting only 9 points and 9 boards in a loss to Wake Forest back on January 5 – May has averaged 18.6 points and 12.4 rebounds while the Tar Heels have won 17-of-19 games.

What can Michigan State do to slow down May? Here are a few possibilities:

1. Run the Break: Some are of the opinion that the Spartans will need to slow the pace of the game to keep up with the Tar Heels. I believe that is the last thing they would want to do. At 6'9" 260 pounds, May is an absolute load in the halfcourt, he has averaged 6.2 offensive boards in his last seven games and is all but unstoppable once he gets the ball down low.

Paul Davis is at his best offensively when Michigan State runs. He is a tremendous finisher and is a very good rebounder (7.8 rpg) in his own right. Davis' risk of foul trouble is lessened if they get into a track meet with the Tar Heels as opposed to a grind-it-out halfcourt battle.

Fortunately, Michigan State is at their best on the break and is maybe the only team in the country with enough athletes and depth to be able to defeat Carolina in a forty minute "Showtime" demonstration.

2. Rebound Relentlessly: The Tar Heels are a very good rebounding squad (40.4 boards-per-game). They have a +7.8 rebounding margin over their opponents this season, making them even more productive than Michigan State (36.1 rpg and +7.3 margin) in those categories. If the Spartans can at least get a stalemate on the glass, and they are fully capable of doing so, they will minimize the chances for the Tar Heels' offense and create more opportunities for themselves.

3. Defend, Defend, Defend: A big man can't score if he can't get the ball right? Of course, with Raymond Felton manned the point for the Heels, this is easier said than done. I have a feeling however that this will be the biggest key to not only stopping May, but in winning the game.

North Carolina has averaged an incredible 88.4 points-per-game this season. However, they have also allowed a less than impressive 70.3 ppg on the other end. Whenever a college team gives up more than 70 points defensively on average, you can believe that it is not a top priority for them.

In an interview earlier this week with Andy Katz of, Iowa Head Coach Steve Alford, the only coach to face all four Final Four teams this season, had this to say about the Tar Heels and their lack of defensive intensity, and how defense is a way of life in the Big Ten:

"North Carolina has to score in volumes. Wisconsin scored 82 points against North Carolina (in the regional final). The Badgers didn't score 82 in any game in the Big Ten. If you play Wisconsin in our league it's the first one to 60 (points) wins. They scored 82 on North Carolina! I think Michigan State will guard them and Michigan State will score easier than Wisconsin will."

Paul Davis has never gotten enough credit for his defense. He is very good at reading and anticipating where the ball is going to go inside and then meeting the ball at that spot to disrupt its flow. While he has never been dominant as a shot blocker, he is very good help defender on screens and on drives to the hoop. If he must go toe-to-toe on every possession with May in the post, it will heighten his chances for foul trouble, which is why it will be important that the Spartans' running game be effective, as well as Matt Trannon and Drew Naymick being able to contribute solid minutes on the defensive end Saturday night.

You are not going to completely stop May, he is just too good. However, if the Spartans can play Big Ten level team defense for 40 minutes, they can minimize May's impact and hang with the Tar Heels.

If Michigan State wins Saturday night, team defense will be the biggest factor in their victory, bank on it.

Spartan Nation Top Stories