Michigan Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Michigan State in B1G Showdown

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIFebruary 11, 2013

Michigan Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Michigan State in B1G Showdown

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    The tide in the rivalry between the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines and No. 8 Michigan State Spartans appears to be turning, but in order for the Maize and Blue to keep this positive movement going, they will need to beat the Green and White at the Breslin Center.

    The Wolverines have won three of their last four meetings with the Spartans, though the loss was a 64-54 drubbing in East Lansing during the 2011-12 campaign.

    This contest will mark the end of Michigan's most difficult stretch of the season, which has resulted in road losses to the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers and No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers.

    Michigan needs a win over Michigan State to keep pace in the Big Ten Conference title chase, which only adds to the importance of this mid-season tilt between in-state rivals.

    Tuesday night will also be the first time the Spartans and Wolverines have met each other on the hardwood as top 10 teams. 

    What will Michigan need to do in order to topple Michigan State on the road? Click ahead to find out! 

Keep Keith Appling Out of the Lane

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    There is no denying that the Michigan Wolverines will have the best point guard on the floor Tuesday night, but Keith Appling could do some major damage for the Michigan State Spartans if he is able to drive through the lane without much resistance.

    Appling is playing as good as any guard in the Big Ten Conference right now and has piled up 12 or more points in seven of Michigan State's last nine games. The Detroit, Mich., product has also knocked down seven-of-11 three-pointers during the Spartans three-game winning streak.

    There are two ways to stop Appling. The first is to get him into foul trouble, which is something nobody can bank on heading into this game. It should be noted, though, Appling did foul out and only played 19 minutes in Michigan State's loss to the Indiana Hoosiers, so it can be done.

    The other way to limit Appling's impact is to keep him out of the lane as much as possible. Sophomore point guard Trey Burke will need to keep Appling in front of him at all times on Tuesday night in order to accomplish this.

    If Burke and the rest of the Wolverines can force Appling to take jump shots for much of the evening, Michigan could very well steal one from the Spartans at the Breslin Center.

Take Advantage of Michigan State Turnovers by Getting out in Transition

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    Although the Michigan State Spartans have done a significantly better job of taking care of the rock in their last two games, the Green and White should provide the Michigan Wolverines with a lot of opportunities to get out in transition via turnovers.

    The Spartans average 14 giveaways per game, and Michigan's defense will be looking to feast on this.

    Freshman power forward Mitch McGary, small forward Glenn Robinson III and Trey Burke have all shown outstanding ability to step into passing lanes and create turnovers for the Wolverines this season. Michigan will need those three to come up with some steals if it hopes to top the Spartans.

    The Maize and Blue's last two opponents, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Wisconsin Badgers, completely took away the Wolverines transition offense, which is the thing Burke and Co. do better than any team in the country.

    Forcing turnovers will help create fast-break opportunities for Michigan and give Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas chances to knock down some three-pointers in transition.

    Wolverine fans should be grinning on Tuesday night if Michigan State starts turning the ball over and giving Michigan easy run-outs. 

Don't Let the Spartans' Bigs Dominate the Paint

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    The most important matchup to watch on Tuesday night will not be Trey Burke vs. Keith Appling. The key to this game for both teams is going to be the battle in the paint.

    The Michigan Wolverines are struggling with their interior defense, and the Michigan State Spartans have an outstanding trio of forwards just waiting to expose this weakness at the Breslin Center.

    Centers Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, along with sophomore small forward Branden Dawson, will be Michigan's toughest test defensively, since having to face preseason All-American Cody Zeller in Bloomington. In case you forgot, Zeller owned the paint in the Wolverines' 81-73 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers.

    Payne has scored in double figures for the Spartans in seven of their last nine contests. Nix has not been nearly as dynamic since Payne's emergence in early January, but he still does good work in the post for the Spartans. 

    Although Mitch McGary's offense has come along over the past couple of weeks, the Chesterton, Ind., product is still figuring out how to play defense in the Big Ten Conference. Same goes for Jon Horford, who only played seven minutes in Sunday's tilt with the Wisconsin Badgers.

    It also appears Michigan will be without its best interior defender, redshirt junior Jordan Morgan, for a fifth straight game.  

    Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway Jr. will all wind up guarding Dawson at some point in the game depending on Michigan State's lineup, but those three will have a tough time keeping the Gary, Ind., product in check.

    The Wolverines do not necessarily need to win the battle in the paint to beat the Spartans, but Michigan has to at least hold its own on the glass and make it difficult for Michigan State's bigs to score.

Finish off the Easy Baskets

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    Winning on the road in the Big Ten Conference is already a difficult task, but it becomes even more of a struggle if the visiting team fails to finish off their easy baskets. The Michigan Wolverines need to make sure they finish everything at the rim, and do it with some authority.

    The Wolverines squandered away 14 points in their loss to the Wisconsin Badgers by missing layups. Michigan cannot repeat those mistakes if it hopes to take down the Michigan State Spartans.

    Mitch McGary and the rest of the Maize and Blue need to get some high percentage shots early in the game and throw down a few thunderous dunks to take the crowd out of the game. The Wolverines cannot afford to show any hesitation near the rim either. 

    This key is very simple in theory, but Michigan's chances of topping its in-state rival for the fourth time in the last five meetings hinge on executing it. 

Avoid Falling Behind Early

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    Falling behind early on the road against a ranked opponent has already cost the Michigan Wolverines three games this season, and they cannot afford to repeat this mistake against the Michigan State Spartans at the Breslin Center.

    Michigan trailed the Ohio State Buckeyes by as many as 21 points in a three-point loss at Value City Arena. Less than a month later, the Wolverines found themselves in a 28-13 hole against the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.

    The Wisconsin Badgers also got the early jump on Michigan and got the crowd into the game with a 15-9 run in the opening nine minutes. 

    The Spartans raced out to a 25-11 lead in the first half and never looked back in its rout of the Wolverines in East Lansing last season, which makes the need for a strong start that even more vital.

    Yes, the Wolverines can come from behind and have yet to be blown out of a game this season, despite their aforementioned woes, but digging another early hole against the Spartans will surely result in a loss.