Head Coach Tom Izzo and his #13 Michigan State Spartans have gotten off to a fast start to this season at 3-0. With a win over a top 25 rated opponent in the Kansas Jayhawks attached to their resume, the Spartans take on all comers. Next on their list as an Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-1) squad who are heavy underdogs and appear to be in for a beating. Will 20.5 points hold up? See what we think in this inter-state matchup.
Tip-off for the Wooden Legacy Tournament is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST tonight at the Breslin Students Events Center in East Lansing, Michigan. According to 5 Dimes Sportsbook, the Spartans are a 20.5 point betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 144.5.
I have no doubt that Michigan State will dismantle this Eastern Michigan squad. My only concern is garbage time as that can affect the final score without having any real bearing on the game. Let's take a look.
It has been noted that Izzo doesn't just want to win, he's looking for mistake-free games and is basically looking to make an impression on the pollsters as he's not satisfied with an ugly win or a win with few mistakes. He puts a lot of pressure on his players and thus far they have lived up to his expectations as they're a massive +22.7 in the plus/minus rebound differentials and the Spartans like to spread the basketball around with 23.7 assists per game .These are very impressive numbers and should improve tonight against a weaker squad.
Mr. Triple- Double
Senior point guard, Denzel Valentine, is the leader on this elite squad as he's averaging an amazing 16.3 points, 10.7 assists, and 9 rebounds per game. Now, where do you ever see numbers like that?
A measure of a player is how they play against the best teams in the nation and in the win over Kansas, Valentine had 29 points, 12 assists, and 12 rebounds. We bring Coach Izzo back into the fold as he's stated that Valentine should have a triple double in every game, but he has passed up his shot unselfishly.
Obviously, the Eagles will need to key in to Valentine or this game will be a wrap before the first half is even over. He's got the perfect size to play at the next level at 6 foot 5 and 220 pounds and more importantly, Valentine is a "team first" player and that's what wins championships. Keep an eye on Valentine as we could see him in the NCAA Championship Game. As for Eastern Michigan, they're not in his league and have no prayer of stopping him.
Players To Watch
Look for senior guard Bryn Forbes (13 ppg.) to be the recipient on some of Valentine's passes as his offense is needed and senior forward ,Matt Costello (11.7 ppg., 8.7 rpg.), will flex his muscle on the boards as a near double-double is expected from him every night. The Spartans experience level is also a a major plus as the season progresses.
Willie Mangum and the Eastern Michigan Defense
Willie Mangum is definitely a player that the Eagles will rely upon as he's off to a fast start this season. The junior transfer is averaging 21 points and 3 steals per game. In fact, the Eastern Michigan Eagles are a team that does know how to play defense as they rank 2nd in the nation in steals, Is this a concern to Michigan State? I don't think so, but it's something to keep an eye on. Regardless, Michigan State is my pick for this game as they have too much talent and experience to get flustered by a "second rate " squad in the Eagles.
Pick- Michigan State Spartans -20.5 at 5 Dimes