EAST LANSING - Memphis is one of the highest scoring teams in the nation, but tonight (9:57 EST Reliant Stadium, Houston TX) against Michigan State, points will be at a premium.
Look for a game in the 70s, not the 100s when the #1 ranked Tigers (avg 79.7 ppg) face off against Michigan State (avg 71.3). Why? Because when the pressure ramps up, jump shots fall short, rebounds are plentiful and the teams that win the battle of the boards usually win the game.
Memphis would love to have guard Antonio Anderson penetrate inside, collapse MSU's defense and kick it out for wide open jumpers to Derrick Rose, but he faces several obstacles to that kind of approach.
First, he's likely to meet up with Travis Walton, one of the Big Ten's best perimeter defenders who's showing more agression than he did in the entire Big Ten season. Walton doesn't mind bodying up against the opposition's point guard and is a threat to strip if you come into the lane.
MSU's defense is looking more like the State defenses of old thanks to the unheralded play of centers Drew Naymick and Idong Ibok. Ibok's 7-foot-6 wingspan is a factor against players who struggle to finish and Naymick led the Big Ten in blocked shots.
The Spartans are also crashing the glass with abandon, going back to the "four to the boards" philosophy. Izzo hasn't hesitated to use players like Marquise Gray to get physical inside.
Still, Memphis has talented Chris Douglas-Roberts from Detroit Northwestern who reminds a lot of observers of former Spartan Steve Smith. Douglas-Roberts is a versatile player who can score points in a variety of ways; slashing to the basket, hitting a midrange jumper, floating a finger roll or hitting the outside shot. His one weakness appears to be his free throw shooting, (68% more on that later) and he's likely to cause some trouble for streaky MSU forward Raymar Morgan.
Morgan's best approach is to keep Douglas-Roberts busy on the defensive end. It might not be a bad idea to give up a foul when he gets into scoring position.
As has been widely publicized, Memphis is one of the nation's worst foul shooting (ranked 326th, 59.2% avg) teams. If the Tigers have the lead late in the ballgame, don't be surprised if Izzo's goes to the "Hack-a-Tiger" strategy. As any wise coach he's said he doesn't believe in it, but as the old saying goes "pressure will bust a pipe".
In the case of the Tigers, put them on the free throw line and it seems to break their composure.
GSN expects the inside players of Memphis and Michigan State to battle to a stalemate and for the game to be decided on perimeter shooting and rebounding.
Can the Tigers freshman Derrick Rose live up to his billing and propel Memphis into the Elite Eight or will it be MSU's senior Drew Neitzel or perhaps unheralded freshman Chris Allen who gets hot from the perimeter?
Will Michigan State, behind junior Goran Suton (avg 9.0 rebounds per game) dominate the glass like the State teams of old or will Joey Dorsey (avg 10.5 rebounds per game) and the Tigers take control of the caroms?
PICK: Michigan State 72, Memphis 67
MSU's Matchup Zone vs Tigers Swing Offense
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