|Who:||Michigan State Spartans vs. Maryland Terrapins|
|When:||Saturday Jan 17, 4:00 p.m. ET|
|Where:||Comcast Center, College Park, MD|
|KenPom Rank:||Michigan State - 19; Maryland - 21|
|KenPom Line:||Maryland -3|
College basketball teams are like little kids - some grow at different rates than others. I put both of these teams right around freshman year of high school in terms of their development on this season. This Maryland team is the kid that comes onto the scene as the superstar from the junior high days. The thing is, though, we all know the kid who seemed to have everything figured out, but eventually the rest of the pack catches up. Michigan State, on the other hand, is the kid that watches success pass by at a younger age, but after a couple pumps of iron and some growth, this is a kid that peaks at the right time when college scouts come along.
Still with me?
These are two very talented teams and time will tell to see who comes out on top this week and the rest of this season.
One of the reasons I'm starting to believe Michigan State is turning the corner is because of their dominant second half performance en route to a 75-61 win at Iowa. After being outscored 39-28 in the first half, the Spartans outscored Iowa 47-22 to pick up their third straight Big Ten win. 57 of Sparty's 75 points came off the hands of Branden Dawson, Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine. Tom Izzo's technical certainly turned things around and gave me another loss on the season.
Tale Of The Tape
Michigan State (12-5, 3-1 Big Ten)
The Spartans keep popping up on the game of the week (third time this season). Early on in the season, I'm not sure anyone would have forecasted the Spartans to be on this big stage so many times. Many things are starting to turn in favor of Sparty and it starts first and foremost with their senior leader Branden Dawson. Dawson is tied for 25th in the country in rebounds per game and seeing him grab 24 total boards in the last two games proves to me that his wrist injury is a thing of the past. Whether or not the rest of the pack catch up to the big three on the offensive end will be a key for Sparty the rest of the year.
Player to watch: Junior F Denzel Valentine (14.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.2 apg)
In the first matchup, Valentine shot 1-9 from the field and 0-5 from beyond the arc. He struggled to stay on the floor with foul trouble and nobody was able to replace his production off the bench. Dawson, Trice and Valentine have to total 40-50 points on Saturday if Michigan State stands a chance. Valentine's defense will be needed as well to control forwards Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz for Maryland.
Maryland (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten)
This is a team that doesn't do a lot to hurt their own chances. Led by freshman Melo Trimble and senior Dez Wells in the backcourt, this is one of the most productive teams and is extremely efficient. In the two losses on the season (one of which being without Wells), Maryland lost the rebound battle and made fewer shots than their opponents. It seems rudimentary to bring those figures up, but games aren't won on the road or at home. Games are won on the glass, in the paint and on the free throw line. Maryland certainly holds an advantage on the free throw line, but a thin front line causes the Terps a lot of problems against driving guards.
Player to watch: Sophomore F Damonte Dodd (4.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Dodd contributed a total of six points and seven rebounds in Maryland's two losses this year. He's come along a tremendous amount on the glass since Big Ten play started and he needs to be at least a presence down low on defense to keep Dawson off the offensive glass. Offensively, anything he can contribute to take the pressure off Layman, Trimble and Wells can only help the spacing for Maryland.
PREDICTION: Maryland 68, Michigan State 67
I know Maryland got their first Big Ten loss out of their system a couple days ago against Illinois, but I'm ready to say Michigan State is back. We knew Tom Izzo was going to have his troops ready come March and they seem to fit the part now. But remember all the great upsets Maryland was able to pull off at home in the ACC against Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse last year? This won't feel like an upset, but it's a marquee win at home to let everyone know Maryland is here for the long haul.
Other Big Ten games to watch this week:
Thursday, Jan 15
- Nebraska at 7) Wisconsin
Saturday, Jan 17
- Purdue at Penn State
- Ohio State at Iowa
Sunday, Jan 18
- Indiana at Illinois