5 Improvements Michigan Needs to Make to Avoid a Michigan State Sweep

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IIFebruary 28, 2013

5 Improvements Michigan Needs to Make to Avoid a Michigan State Sweep

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    Anytime a team is beaten by 23 points there is plenty of room for improvement, and in the case of the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines, there are five areas they will need to shore up in order to win their rematch against the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans.

    The Wolverines were dominated from start to finish in the first clash with the Spartans in East Lansing. Michigan State forced 16 turnovers and never allowed Michigan to get into rhythm, which led to the Maize and Blue shooting 39.6 percent from the field. 

    Michigan will enter its second meeting with the Spartans much more rested than the first time around and will not be coming off of facing four ranked opponents in the span of two weeks.

    The Maize and Blue will need to put a shocking upset loss at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions behind them if it hopes to knock off Michigan State. Another loss will eliminate any remaining Big Ten title hopes the Wolverines have.

    What does Michigan need to do to avoid being swept by Michigan State for the first time since 2010? Click ahead to find out!

Interior Defense

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    In the first meeting between these two in-state rivals, the Michigan State Spartans dominated the paint. The Michigan Wolverines were outscored 36-22 in the paint, and the margin could have been much wider if the Spartans had not been leading by over 20 points with less than 13 minutes left in regulation.

    Thankfully for the Maize and Blue, redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan will be healthy, which is going to give the Wolverines' interior defense a significant boost.

    Morgan may be undersized and will still have a tough time guarding either Derrick Nix or Adreian Payne, but the 6'8", 250-pounder rarely gets out of position defensively and communicates better than anyone else on Michigan's roster.

    The Detroit native should be able to limit Michigan State's offensive rebound opportunities as well. The Spartans grabbed 14 of their own misses in the first clash. Morgan will not allow the Green and White to reach that same number in the rematch.

    Sophomore point guard Trey Burke and junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. will need to keep Keith Appling and Branden Dawson out of the lane as much as possible too. If those two are knifing through Michigan's defense, it will create more scoring opportunities for the Spartan big men.

Transition Offense

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    All season long, the Michigan Wolverines have been at their best when they are getting out in transition and racking up points on the run. The Maize and Blue will need a lot more than the nine fast-break points they accumulated in round one with the Michigan State Spartans.

    The Green and White only turned the ball over eight times in the first meeting, but even if the Spartans take care of the rock again, there are other ways to create transition baskets.

    Everything starts with the interior defense. If the Wolverines are able to keep Michigan State from getting too many easy baskets inside, the Spartans will be relegated to taking contested jump shots.

    The more jump shots Michigan State takes, the percentage of longer rebounds will go up. Long rebounds from missed jumpers will result in opportunities to create odd-man rushes.

    As long as Jordan Morgan and Co. can grab a fair amount of those misses, the Wolverines should be able to ignite plenty of fast breaks.

Mix in Some Full-Court Press Defense

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    Although the Michigan Wolverines have struggled defensively during long stretches of the 2012-13 season, John Beilein may be able to mask some of these issues by mixing in some full-court press this weekend against the Michigan State Spartans.

    The Ohio State Buckeyes were able to force at least one turnover and flustered Michigan State's guards as a result of their press last Sunday. This led to a victory for the Buckeyes.

    There is no reason why Michigan could not mix this defense into its arsenal this weekend.

    Even if the Wolverines do not force a high amount of turnovers using the press, the extended pressure will give the Spartans less time to run their half-court offense. Giving an opponent less time to operate is never a bad thing.

Trey Burke Needs to Drive the Lane

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    Although Keith Appling led the Michigan State Spartans to victory against the Michigan Wolverines last month, Trey Burke still managed to outplay his counterpart. 

    Burke scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, dished out four assists and grabbed two rebounds. Conversely, Appling only knocked down 4-of-14 attempts, scored 11 points and notched just one assist.

    In order for Michigan to get the last laugh against its in-state rival, Burke has to be aggressive and attack the lane much like he did the first time around.

    Aaron Craft of the Ohio State Buckeyes lit up Appling in the Spartans' 68-60 loss on Sunday. Appling was beaten several times on the drive, which helped a struggling Craft score 21 points and shoot better than 50 percent.

    If Burke is able to penetrate the line by driving past Appling repeatedly, shots will open up on the perimeter. In turn, this would help the Wolverines knock down some much-needed three-pointers.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III Cannot Be Non-Factors Again

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    Two of the Michigan Wolverines top players were missing in action during the Feb. 12 battle at the Breslin Center. Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshman small forward Glenn Robinson III combined to go 2-of-15 from the field and only scored four points. 

    Hardaway and Robinson are focal points of Michigan's offense and have to bring their best efforts on Sunday in order for the Wolverines to avoid being swept.

    Robinson has a tough matchup with the much longer Adreian Payne guarding him, however, the 6'6", 210-pounder will not be battling fatigue this time around. Head coach John Beilein could only play Robinson for 21 minutes in the first tilt with the Michigan State Spartans.

    Look for a well-rested Robinson to be on the floor for 35-38 minutes in the rematch.

    Meanwhile, Hardaway will need to find his shooting stroke once again in order to play a role in the second meeting with the Spartans.

    Over the last five games, Hardaway has shot better than 36 percent just once. Prior to this recent rough patch, Hardaway knocked down more than 47 percent of his attempts in six of seven contests.

    The Palmetto (Fla.) Senior High School product did regain some of his swagger with a 8-of-16 performance against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Wednesday night. 

    Michigan has to get Hardaway some open looks early in the game to help keep his confidence rolling if it hopes to topple Michigan State this weekend.