Garrett talks about MSU vs. Jacksonville

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The Michigan State Spartans beat up on the Dolphins of Jacksonville by the tune of an 80-51 final.

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The Dolphins fought hard and stayed in the game longer than they probably should have, but the Spartans’ depth, size, and talent was too overbearing for Jacksonville. The Spartans didn’t play their best game today, but after the first seven games I have seen several signs from the Spartans that let me know that this team could be on the way to San Antonio for the Final Four.

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MSU lost a heartbreaker to UCLA, in a game they should have won, but that loss came in November, and there is no way that this team will not improve from now until March. My optimism is based on the fact that the Spartans possess many assets that most college teams cannot match.

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The first advantage that MSU will have over most teams is depth. This team can go ten deep with quality players. The intriguing aspect of those ten players is that they are versatile, and that enables Coach Tom Izzo to use several different combinations. Coach Izzo can go with the customary lineup, with two big men in the game, or he can opt to go with a smaller, more athletic group with a player like Raymar Morgan playing at the four spot. The rebounding ability of players like Morgan and Durrell Summers makes this possible.   

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Even though the Spartan big men are not always consistent, each of them possesses skills that compliment each other well. Goran Suton is a gifted scorer. He has great touch and footwork on the block, and can hit the mid-range jumper. Marquise Gray is the most athletic out of the stable of big men. His athleticism alone enables him to make game-changing plays on both ends of the floor. Idong Ibok and Drew Naymick are both very good shot blockers. The length of that they have has a profound effect on the opposition’s offense. Their length allows them to alter shots and narrow the passing lanes.Â

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In college basketball, the most important aspect of your team has to be guard play, and the Spartans have a boatload of them, but more importantly, the Michigan State have three legitimate point guards. It is extremely rare that a team can say that they have three players that can all start at the point. Travis Walton brings steady play as well as aggressive and physical defense to the floor at all times. Freshman Kalin Lucas is the fastest player on the team, and can get to the rim and finish. Drew Neitzel is one of the best shooters in the country, and that overshadows the fact that he has nasty ball-handling skills and great passing abilities.

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The most important reason why I believe that this could be a special season for the Spartans is that they can play fast, and they can play slow. Coach Izzo loves to run, and this team has the athletes to most teams out of the gym. The versatility of the players makes the running game more effective as well, because there are usually at least two players on the court that can push and distribute the ball on the break. The athleticism of the team ensures that there will always be a capable finisher running on the wings.Â

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If a team slows down the running attack of the Spartans, Coach Izzo has a million sets that this team can run. When this team executes there plays, someone seemingly always gets an open look at the basket. The constant screening and movement makes it difficult for any team to defend. Even when the first option doesn’t work, they continue to go through their progression until something opens up. It is rare that you will see players on this team standing and watching as one player does all the work. There is evidence in Drew Neitzel scoring average. Neitzel has not, and probably will not put up the same numbers that he did last year. That is not a bad thing either. It takes the scoring load off of Drew, and I think that it will make him and this team more effective at the end of the season.

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