Spartans are in Columbus, Ohio this weekend taking on the Long Island University Blackbirds Friday and the winner of the Memphis / Saint Louis game on Sunday.Â Michigan Stateâ€™s unquestioned leader and 1st team All American, Draymond Green is making darn sure the Spartans donâ€™t overlook the Blackbirds.Â The Spartans certainly arenâ€™t taking them lightly.
The Blackbirds were 25-8 having won the North Eastern Conference.Â The Blackbirds are back-to-back conference champions.Â They are an experienced group that knows how to win.Â The Blackbirds are the nationâ€™s #3 scoring team.Â They average 82 points per game.Â LIU played 10 of their first 11 games on the road and started the season 0-3.Â One of those losses was to Penn State.Â The untold story from the PSU game was that LIU was up 5 points with about five minutes to play.Â Penn State isnâ€™t exactly a powerhouse, but they are well coached and regularly upset the teams in the upper tier of the conference.
Jim Ferry (head coach, LIU) was on the Jim Rome Show and was asked about the prospect of a 16 seed upsetting a number 1.Â He had this to say.Â â€œIt hasnâ€™t happened yet; itâ€™s gonna happen.Â I hate to say thisâ€¦ but nobody thought the Boston Red Sox were going to win down 0-3 in the World Series, but they came back and beat the Yankees; it happened.Â Things like that are going to happen.Â The parity in college basketball is getting closer and closer.Â I keep telling my teamâ€¦ why not us?Â We have great respect for Michigan State and Coach Izzo and the way he does things, but at the same time weâ€™ve got a bunch of tough minded kids, weâ€™re not afraid of anybody.â€
The LIU coach isnâ€™t hiding his game strategy.Â He believes that if he can force an up-tempo game with the score in the 80â€™s, his team has a shot.Â He does acknowledge MSUâ€™s ability to run, but believes that his team can run with the Spartans.Â Coach Ferry was quick to point out MSUâ€™s rebounding.Â â€œIt all depends on defensive rebounding.Â They are going to miss some shots.Â We have to be able to clean the boards.Â If we can rebound with them, they will have a hard time running with us and converting.â€
LIU features some notable players and the Blackbirds feature three in particular that garnered post-season conference honors.Â Julian Boyd was the NEC player of the year.Â The 6â€™7â€, 230# forward can play both inside and out.Â He has quick feet, an explosive first step and likes to get on the glass.Â Jamal Olasewere is also a 6â€™7â€ forward.Â He too was first team all NEC and likes to eat up the glass.Â Both forwards average 17 points per game and play well together.Â Jason Brickman (point guard) runs the show for the Blackbirds.Â The 5â€™10â€ point guard loves to push the ball in transition and is able to find the open man averaging over 7 assists per game.
How LIU Wins:
The Blackbirds have to get MSUâ€™s big men along with Keith Appling in foul trouble while the game is still close.Â They have to rebound with the Spartans and convert baskets in the open floor.Â LIU cannot beat MSU in a half court game.Â The defense will be too much for them.Â They will also need to force a lot of turnovers and catch MSU on a poor shooting night as well.Â LIU will need to bury the three point shot and keep Payne and Nix from mauling them on the interior.
How MSU Wins:
The Spartans need to play â€˜Izzoball.â€™Â They need to go out and impose their will on the Blackbirds with rebounding and defense.Â MSU needs to run after made baskets and take good care of the basketball.Â Green has to look for his teammates when the double team arrives.Â Keith Appling has got to stay out of foul trouble and use his size and speed advantage at the point of attack.
LIU thinks they can beat MSU in a track meet type of game.Â LIU is ill prepared for MSUâ€™s athleticism and speed at the wing positions.Â MSU will not settle for jumpers and ultimately overpower the Blackbirds on the interior at some point late in the first half.Â â€˜Day-Dayâ€™ will be too much for LIU collecting his next career triple-double.Â I do not think LIU can handle the MSU defense and will struggle to recover from a long offensive drought.Â MSU 82, LIU 62