The No. 12 Spartans (8-3) have three losses early on in the season, falling to Connecticut and DUke before nearly dropping a 77-76 close game against Oakland. That's not to say that Michigan State isn't dangerous. The Spartans also beat a very good Washington team — ranked No. 5 by KenPom — on a neutral site, and only lost to the then-full-strength Blue Devils because they struggled with key turnovers.
But those turnovers have become somewhat of a trend. The Spartans' turnover percentage of 23.0 is 255th in the country, and nearly 2 percent higher than the Division 1 average of 21.9.
Those turnovers dent what has otherwise been a pretty salty team. The Spartans rank 30th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and 14th in defensive efficiency.
And their personnel also matches up well to the eye test. Kalin Lucas has been one of the country's top point guards the last few seasons. Draymond Green is a tough wing scorer and rebounder. Durrell Summers, Korie Lucious and Delvon Roe are all key veterans, while Adreian Payne and Keith Appling make up an excellent freshman group and a strong young core for the future.
But Michigan State lacks efficient go-to scorers. Out of players who have used at least 24 percent of their teams' possessions, the Spartans have just one player ranking in the top 100: Green at 77. To put that in perspective, the Longhorns, who have struggled at times offensively, also have a player in the top 100 in Jordan Hamilton, ranked No. 54 in the category.
But again, this is Michigan State, a tough physical team that has yet to lose at home this year. This game also represents the last shot for the Spartans to land a key non-conference win before heading into Big 10 season. According to KenPom, Michigan State is a 71 percent favorite to win.
If the Longhorns are going to pull it out, they'll need to take advantage of any turnover opportunities and keep Green away from the glass. If they can do those two things, and frustrate Green a bit defensively, Texas has a great chance to beat the Spartans for the second year in a row.