To start the preseason, Michigan State and Texas were No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in the polls. Everyone saw Michigan State fall short in the national championship game and many predicted they would return to cut down the nets in 2010. Texas’ combination of youth (Avery Bradley and J’Covan Brown) and experience (Dexter Pittman and Damion James) makes them a national championship contender.
MSU’s season hasn’t gone exactly as planned, having lost to both of their opponents from major conferences (UNC and Florida). The somewhat shaky start to Sparty’s season has created a little more room on the bandwagon. Meanwhile, Bevo’s wagon is completely full. After Texas defeated North Carolina 103-90 and proved they were an elite team, more and more basketball fans have yelled “hook ‘em horns.” Later tonight, we see a team on the rise (Texas) face off against a team on a slight decline (MSU) and it will be the best game of the season thus far.
Yes, Texas is riding their high after running past the defending champions in the new Cowboys Stadium. Yes, Michigan State has dropped two of their last three games against worth while opponents (and snuck by Gonzaga). Yes, Texas will be playing at home and on national television so their fans will be rabid.
Despite all the signs that Texas will run Michigan State out of the Erwin Center, the Spartans will make this a game. Why you ask? Because they have to. It is early in the season and a lot will happen during conference play, but Michigan State desperately needs a statement win. The Big Ten is one of the roughest leagues in the country which means Michigan State will take their lumps during conference play. It is not out of the question that MSU could lose 5-6 conference games and ultimately put the selection committee in a dubious position. Michigan State knows that conference play won’t be a walk in the park and knows that this game against Texas will be brought up again in March. If their goal is to win a national championship (and it is), then they need this win to give a jump start to their confidence and swagger entering the Big Ten season.
Texas isn’t going to sleep on the Spartans and let them steal an upset win, especially in Austin. The Horns showed how athletic, deep and good they actually are against the Tar Heels last weekend and want to prove their skill again tonight. Rick Barnes has opened up his offense and his team has blossomed. Not only did Texas pull down a staggering 56 rebounds against the longest team in college basketball but they also had four players score more than 20 points. Both of those stats are almost unbelievable. The Longhorns want to do everything they can to get out of Kansas’ shadow this season and back-to-back wins against the national champions and the national runner-ups, would cement their position as an elite team. The Big 12 is no cake walk either and a win here would put them in an excellent position entering Big 12 play.
How it will Play Out: Texas will not be scoring 100 points this game. Anyone who has watched a UNC basketball game knows they love to run and their tendency to do so leads to mistakes. Texas capitalized on those mistakes and out gunned the Heels. Michigan State will not try to run against the Horns. Instead, Tom Izzo and the Spartans will rely on set offensive plays and the play of their unquestioned leader Kailin Lucas. Both teams play an extremely physical game and rely on rebounding (both teams outrebound their opponents by 11 or more boards). The matchup between Lucas and Avery Bradley could be the deciding factor in this game. Each guard will look to slash towards the basket to get their buckets. If you are a fan of college basketball, tonight’s game will give you a taste of the great basketball we’ve come to expect in March.
Post you comments and thoughts on tonight’s matchup below. Throughout the game, come back and share your thoughts.