Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/7/13
On Friday night at 7 p.m., the McNeese State Cowboys travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State in the Spartans’ first home opener since 2010. Last season McNeese State (14-17 overall in 2012-2013), a mid major, did not make much of a splash at all. While it should be a relatively easy opening game— MSU should extend their home opener winning streak to 44 straight wins— there are still some things the team needs to do to ensure victory. MSU five keys to the game Hold on to the ball In their exhibition matchups, Michigan State had a little bit of trouble winning the turnover battle. In exhibitions, I’m usually not worried about turnovers too much, but this is a regular season game. Turnovers are huge, and if the Spartans can force more than they give up, they’re in great shape. Get to the line and be efficient Last season and so far this season, MSU has been great as a team getting to the line and embarrassingly bad as a team converting free throws. Last year, they shot 71.4% from the line, a number that’s less than desirable. In Friday’s game, if the Spartans can hit even 75% of all the free throws they take— which should be a lot— they’ll win and it probably won’t even be close. Improve defensive rotations Specifically in their opening exhibition game against Grand Valley State, the Spartans’ defensive rotations were not very good. Thankfully, their athleticism made up for their errors and they could recover easily. While McNeese State still isn’t a formidable opponent to the Spartans, they are a much better squad and bad defensive decisions won’t bode well for the team. Stay out of foul trouble In basketball, especially with the new hand checking rules, it’s very easy to get in foul trouble very quickly. It’s important for the Spartans— especially their big men— to stay out of foul trouble, because MSU’s second and third units aren’t nearly as good as their first. If the big men get in foul trouble, it’s a huge problem, because the depth at that position is not very good. Once a team starts dominating down low on both sides of the floor, it is a very hard task to recover. If Payne and Costello can play foul-free basketball, it will be a long game for the Cowboys. Play smart basketball When it comes down to it, the Spartans are flat-out better at basketball than McNeese State. The talent level and coaching level between these two teams are immense. The MSU squad will have to have a really, really bad day if they want McNeese State to win. In all honesty, Michigan State just needs to play smart basketball and get a sound win for their first victory of the season.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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