Top-10 Showdown: No.9 MSU vs No.4 Texas

In a marquee matchup of top teams, Michigan State looks to knock off the unbeaten Longhorns

As No.9 Michigan State (10-1) prepares for a top-10 showdown with No.4 Texas (11-0), they hold several advantages over the Longhorns that will help them on Saturday.


MSU coach Tom Izzo has been playing nine players regularly every night, with big-men Idong Ibok and 7-footer Tom Herzog both seeing time in occasional matchup situations as well.

The Spartans can throw a lot of different defensive lineup out on the court, from a small three-guard lineup to a tough and physical defense inside with Goran Suton, Marquise Gray, and Drew Naymick all swatting away shots.

Texas coach Rick Barnes

Rick Barnes team features only six players averaging more than 10 minutes per game, with only 8 players seeing action in all 11 games this season.

In their game last week, Texas State used a rotation of 13 players to keep fresh bodies on the court and constant pressure on Texas guard D.J. Augustin. The depth provided a challenge for the Longhorns, who saw a 20-point lead get shaved to under 10.

With a deep bench, Izzo will surely be very active in substitutions and rotating players in for defensive purposes.

With a slew of big-men that have had success this season against UCLA's Kevin Love and BYU's Trent Plaisted, Augustin, A.J. Abrams, and Connor Atchley will all see their shots contested and will have to earn their points if they choose to drive inside.

Connor Atchley


The fatigue factor might make a huge difference on Saturday.

All five Texas starters stay on the court nearly the entire game, all averaging at least 30 minutes per game out of a possible 40 minutes total.

The big-two for the Longhorns, Augustin and Abrams play 35.5 and 34.5 minutes per game while the 6-foot-10 Atchley plays 30.6 minutes.

On the other side, MSU should be fresh throughout the game, having five players averaging over 20 minutes per game with four others averaging between 12 and 19 minutes as well.

If nothing else, Michigan State will look to wear down the Longhorns with their constant rotation of bodies, much like Texas State did to the Horns last week.


Despite a blowout win against San Jose State, MSU was outrebounded by the west-coast Spartans in the first half, which disgusted Tom Izzo.

The Spartans have been one of the top rebounding teams in the Big Ten the last 10 years and this year is no different.

MSU is outrebounding their opponents by a margin of 11.1 rebounds per game while Texas has a rebounding edge of only 4.5 rebounds per game.

Goran Suton leads MSU in rebounding with 8.7 boards per game and Raymar Morgan is not far behind with 7.6 boards per game.

Challenge D.J. Augustin


MSU contained Kevin Durant to an extent last season and they must do the same this season to another Longhorn star.

In 38 minutes last season against MSU, Augustin scored only eight points with six assists on 4-of-8 shooting and he was overshadowed by Kevin Durant and A.J. Abrams, who scored 22 points against MSU last season.

This year is another story, as the sophomore guard has emerged as a player of the year candidate and clearly one of the best players in the country.

He is quick, versatile, shoots the three, and just when you think he'll pull up and shoot, he will drive it inside.

Enter Michigan State, one of the top defenses and biggest teams in the Big Ten.

It will be key to not let Augustin get any open shots but to get a body on him and get hands in his face when he pulls up to shoot.

Augustin is a pure scorer and loves to have the ball, but if you can get the ball out of his hands, then you force Texas to find some way to pick up Augustin's scoring.

Watch The Fouls

Fouls can really change the complexion of any game and the Spartans have been known for getting into foul-trouble in big games in the past, with Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton being the key guys picking up cheap fouls. MSU cannot afford to have either of those two guys off the court in a big game like this.

D.J. Augustin gets to the free-throw line at least 10 times per game and he will be the main guy to draw fouls on MSU. Augustin shoots 83 percent from the line while Abrams is an outstanding 93 percent from the line, granted he has only had 14 attempts.

As a team, Texas is shooting 74 percent from the line while the Spartans shoot 76 percent and have shot 50 more free-throws on the season.

Both teams can hit their free-throws should the game become a free-throw shooting game.


Depending on which way you look at it, Texas' youth can be a good or bad thing, but either way, the fact remains they are young.

Three sophomores and two juniors make up their starting five, with two freshmen and another sophomore coming off the bench.

The Spartans are led by All-American Drew Neitzel, a senior who was the starting point guard for MSU in their 2005 Final Four team.

Junior guard Travis Walton is one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten and has become a vocal leader in the locker room for the younger players on the team.

Senior Drew Naymick along with juniors Marquise Gray and Goran Suton lead the group of MSU veterans on the court.

Even sophomore Raymar Morgan doesn't play like a typical sophomore, much like Augustin.

Although the Spartans feature three freshmen who see regular minutes, none of them stay on the court and are relied upon as much as Texas relies on their young players.

Keep in mind, Neitzel has beaten the Longhorns once before at the last minute and he definitely has the hot shooting so far this season to do it again.

The Line

This will be an intense game on both sides in front of a sellout crowd in Auburn Hills, most of which will be cheering for the green-and-white.

Michigan State will give the Longhorns a run at their undefeated record and they will look to wear the Horns down with their depth and size.

A.J. Abrams

Overall, Michigan State will have trouble containing Augustin but watch out for Abrams, who led the Horns with 22 points in last year's game, picking up the slack for Durant's off night.

Drew Neitzel

Drew Neitzel should have a big game shooting the ball but the difference in the game will be the battle inside.

The rebounding will be the most important issue in the game, as both teams do not want to give the other second and third-chance baskets inside coming on offensive rebounds.

Raymar Morgan is a warrior inside for second-chance shots and as a result, the fight for those rebounds and loose balls could wear down the Longhorns even more.

That is where Michigan State's deep bench and fresh bodies will take its toll on the Longhorns and with several big shots from Neitzel and company, MSU could knock off the Longhorns and move up in the rankings.

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