Michigan State Basketball

Michigan State Basketball: Mismatches Spartans Are Dreading in 2014-15

Brad AlmquistFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

Michigan State Basketball: Mismatches Spartans Are Dreading in 2014-15

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With key players departing from East Lansing, Michigan State has a couple of important voids to fill. Those spots are prone to dreadful mismatches that MSU’s opponents could exploit in 2014-15.

    The most glaring weakness to Sparty’s rotation is the absence of a solid center. Adreian Payne wasn’t a true center, but he and Branden Dawson formed an athletic and talented frontcourt.

    Now, Tom Izzo doesn’t have that luxury.

    Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling are the two candidates to fill in. They won’t have the same onus to score and rebound as Payne, but they must at least be serviceable in order for MSU to blossom.

    The 2-guard spot that Gary Harris formerly occupied is also open to competition. Denzel Valentine will likely play the 3, making Alvin Ellis the immediate candidate to replace Harris. He, like Schilling and Costello, doesn’t have ample experience as an important contributor, so it remains to be seen whether Ellis can excel in a new role.

    Let’s look on to some of the players on MSU’s schedule who will provide the most daunting mismatches.

Tracy Abrams-Rayvonte Rice Duo

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice combined to score 26.5 points per game for the Fighting Illini as the team’s primary scorers. With a summer of improvement, they could quietly form one of the best backcourt punches in the country.

    Abrams is a fantastic floor general. He can shoot from three or utilize his quickness to enter the paint, where he creates very well. He is quicker than Travis Trice, the projected starting point guard for Michigan State, although freshman Lourawls Nairn has the speed to contain Abrams.

    Last year, Abrams averaged 13.5 points against the Spartans, nearly three points above his average. He actually outplayed Keith Appling in a marquee victory in East Lansing for Illinois.

    Rice, on the other hand, is a much tougher cover for Sparty. At 6’4", he plays the shooting guard slot, but his physicality and strength constantly pose mismatch problems for the average opponent.

    If Alvin Ellis is assigned to Rice, he may erupt. Denzel Valentine is probably the better candidate to guard the crafty Rice, but that forces the Spartans to play big.

    Tom Izzo is as talented as any coach at adjusting and game-planning for any given matchup. However, this combination will cause some problems for a MSU team that just lost its starters in those backcourt slots.

Dez Wells

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Dez Wells is one of the most athletic 2-guards in the country and a mismatch for just about any team.

    The Maryland guard has the quickness to blow by defenders and the athleticism to play above the rim. A sporadic outside shooter, Wells can get hot from the perimeter as well.

    The uncertainty of the 2-guard spot for Michigan State will hopefully pass before the Spartans run into the senior shooting guard. Even if it does, Wells is too overpowering for Alvin Ellis and quicker than Denzel Valentine.

    At 15 points per game as a junior, he asserted himself as a premier wing player in the ACC.

    MSU must approach Wells cohesively and not rely on just one guy to contain the volume scorer. He is a tremendous slasher, driver and finisher around the rim.

    As Gary Harris’ scoring prowess will be missed by the Spartans, so will his defensive stinginess when MSU encounters players like Wells.

Terran Petteway

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Terran Petteway will likely lead the Big Ten in the scoring department for the 2014-15 campaign. He averaged 18 points last year, and with a talented returning team, he could lead Nebraska to unforeseen heights this season.

    Denzel Valentine actually matches up well with Petteway when he plays on the wing. However, when Petteway has the ball in his hands at the top of the key for large portions of the game, something he prefers at the end of close contests, he holds the advantage. Nebraska’s star guard is quicker and more explosive than Valentine.

    Last year, the Cornhuskers secured a program-defining win in East Lansing. Petteway cemented that victory with 23 points, 16 of them coming in the second half.

    He is their closer, engine and leader.

    In order to avoid another loss from Tim Miles’ squad, Tom Izzo must find a way to contain the versatile Petteway.

Frank Kaminsky

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Frank Kaminsky is a mismatch nightmare for any college team he will face.

    A 7-footer, he draws defenders away from the paint and can knock down perimeter jumpers. He isn’t robust, but Kaminsky utilizes his long frame by scoring over defenders near the hoop with his assortment of post moves.

    He is as crafty and potentially dominant as any big man in the nation. Last season, Kaminsky burst onto the scene with a 41-point performance early on. By the season’s end, he was collectively feared as a mismatch nightmare.

    7-footers just don’t have that type of skill set in college hoops very often. And if Kaminsky is a mismatch for any Big Ten team, it is the Michigan State Spartans.

    Their one gaping spot that needs to be adequately filled is the center position. The 6’10”, high-flying Adreian Payne isn’t present to protect the rim or hound any loose ball in sight any longer.

    The next most experienced forward, Branden Dawson, is about six inches shorter than the Wisconsin center. That means Matt Costello, a guy who started a few games last year, and Gavin Schilling, an inexperienced sophomore, will carry the lofty task of containing Kaminsky.

    Good luck with that.

    Costello and Schilling will play because of their size and ability to occupy space in the paint. But even they are still three inches shorter than Kaminsky, who is also considerably more skilled than the Spartan big men.

    Again, as is the case with all of these potential mismatches, Tom Izzo finds ways to strategically limit a superior opponent’s abilities. Whether that is done by placing different guys on Kaminsky sporadically throughout the game, doubling him whenever he touches the ball in the post or adopting a unique defensive scheme for the matchup, Izzo will find a way.

    But on paper, the Kaminsky vs. Schilling/Costello matchup heavily favors the Wisconsin star.

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