Oakland University makes the short trek to the Breslin Center tonight to face off against #15 Michigan State in what has become a somewhat regular matchup for these schools. Generally the Spartans have dispatched the Grizzlies with relative ease, although the last meeting was a nail biter as back in 2010 MSU barely edged Oakland by the score of 77-76. I don’t expect it to be as close this time around but given the Spartans recent schedule and injuries I don’t see a blowout either.
Drew Valentine Drives To The Hoop(AP Photo)
Oakland comes into this game averaging 77 points per game, and have had two foes in common with the Spartans this year. They lost to Boise State by a score of 88-80, and beat Texas Southern 71-69, so it’s evident that Oakland can do some damage on any given night. OU has a well balanced team, led in scoring by a pair of guards, Travis Bader(19 PPG) and Duke Mondy(16 PPG). Anytime you have a guy named Duke you know he’s going to be a scrapper. In addition to those two, Oakland features 6′ 10″ big man Corey Petros(16 PPG, 7 RPG) and Drew Valentine(12 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG), a 6′ 5″ G/F with much ability and a brother who plays for MSU(Denzel). As with most small conference schools, what Oakland may lack in height they make up for in athleticism. The Spartans have to be a little tired after playing Boise, and the bench has gotten a bit shorter with the loss of Gary Harris(all the sads)and the lingering injury to Travis Trice. I’m sure Oakland is going to want to play as fast as they can to wear down the somewhat depleted Spartans.
With The Loss Of Harris, The Spartans Will Be Depending On Valentine(Dale G. Young/Detroit News)
Michigan State can claim some depth as yet even with the aforementioned injuries. Russell Byrd and Brandan Kearney will be required to play some extra minutes to spell Denzel Valentine and Keith Appling but Kearney did show some life against Boise so hopefully that continues. I don’t know what to say about Byrd right now except that I hope he stops mixing the mortar. Keith Appling doesn’t need much time off, averaging over 35 minutes a game, and that is a wonderful thing as Apples has been golden in the clutch for MSU on top of canning threes with regularity. The Spartans couldn’t have asked any more out of Appling than he has provided them the last few games. The largest area of concern has been defense in the paint and at times even the unthinkable: poor rebounding! MSU was beaten far too often by backdoor cuts and a little give-and-go, which allowed Boise to hang around via easy layups. While I am sure Tom Izzo addressed these matters I will feel better when I see these normally solid areas shored up. Derrick Nix played 27 grueling minutes against Boise and Andreian Payne was productive in his 16 minutes so I look for them to assert themselves in the post and help control the game. So long as none of the Spartans overdosed on turkey this should be a solid win for MSU.
Keith Appling Has Been Money(AP Photo)
Prediction: MSU 67, OU 55