As we get ready for Georgia's 12:40 Friday tip off in Charlotte against a 7 seed Michigan St Spartans in the NCAA Tournament, we got with Joe Tuohey ( @Jobin2E ) of The Only Colors to get a better idea of what the Dawgs are going up against. It's pretty much as any college basketball fan would expect, a tough, physical, defensively sound and offensively capable team capable of making deep tournament runs. You can catch my answers to their questions here. So let's see what the man had to say...
Why does Tom Izzo always have his teams playing in the Sweet 16 and beyond? Is he the best coach in college basketball?
JT: The biggest thing in my mind is that Izzo's players are always improving. Guys like Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have improved dramatically over the course of their careers, and even role players like Marvin Clark and Alvin Ellis have made meaningful contributions in the last few weeks when that wasn't a given.
Objectively, I don't know if Izzo is the best in the country, though. There are some schematic things, like not going 2 for 1 at the end of halves. But mostly, MSU was a good program before Izzo, and has a lot of resources other programs don't have.
What I will say is that I wouldn't trade Izzo for anyone. He and MSU are an absolutely perfect match.
Your leading rebounders are a pair of wings at 6'6 and 6'5, yet Michigan St averages almost 7 more rebounds per game than their opponent. Is this something Georgia can take advantage of with their senior bigs, and if not, why not?
JT: Well, no. First, I wouldn't call Branden Dawson a "wing" as he plays power forward almost exclusively. Second, Dawson's athleticism allows him to play as though he's a much larger player; you'll understand when you see him leap for a rebound. Third, MSU's bigs are no slouches on the boards themselves, and both check in at 6'9.
Denzel Valentine's rebounding numbers reflect both his nose for the ball and also the schematic emphasis on rebounding. You'll probably read/hear about the apocryphal "War Drill" where Izzo makes the guys put on football pads for rebounding drills. That's probably a tall tale, but the point remains the same: MSU is going to rebound the ball well.
What has changed since the home loss to Texas Southern, and why can this Spartan team make a run deep into the tournament like they usually do?
JT: The biggest thing is that guys have settled into their roles. After that Texas Southern loss, Izzo rejiggered the starting lineup to include Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn and it seems like that has provided some additional spark.
That move appears to have freed Travis Trice from some ball distribution responsibilities which allows him to just catch & shoot or create off of the dribble.
In turn, this has removed the focus on post offense, which was a relatively inefficient strategy.
The Spartans get over 30% of their points from deep balls, with senior Travis Trice and juniors Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes making the bulk of those shots. What should the Dawgs look for offensively from Michigan St, and if they can only stop one player, who should it be?
JT: The biggest thing this MSU team does is share the ball. There's a lot of unselfish play, and everyone makes the extra pass. It's fun to watch when it's clicking. MSU ranks in the top ten in the country in terms of assists per field goal made.
The guy you'll want to watch out for is Trice. He has the ability to hit step-back threes, drive the lane, and run an effective pick and roll. If the MSU offense gets bogged down in the half court, MSU will rely on Trice to get a good look.
A close second is Denzel Valentine, who is an exceptional creator for his size and is lethal in transition. He also has a little bit of a post game, but I'm guessing that won't be on display as Georgia has some length on the perimeter.
Izzo's teams are known for tough, man to man defense. What should Georgia try to do offensively to get much needed points on the board, and is there any concern that Georgia's slashing Gs could cause foul trouble against a team got to the FT line much less, and shot FTs much worse, than their opposition all year?
JT: Ball screens will probably be Georgia's best bet for several reasons. First, MSU gets called for a lot of fouls, though the main culprits are bigs Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling. But there's a sharp drop off on the wing after Trice and Valentine, and if those guys rack up fouls then MSU's offense could suffer. Second, MSU's defensive rotations have been a little late recently, and a big with the ability to shoot from deep could have a big day.
So, yes, slashing guards are an issue. The way this game is officiated will have a major impact.
Bonus: Score prediction. Also, you have considerable minutes off the bench from a freshman PG named Lourawls, who goes by "Tum Tum". No question there, I just wanted to point that out because it's awesome.
Tum Tum not only has a great name, but he's the absolutely easiest player to root for. He's small, fast, and extremely energetic. An MSU fan favorite for years to come.
I think MSU is well-oiled at this point and has a strategy to handle Georgia's ability to draw contact. If this turns into a foul fest, then I could be wrong pretty easily.
MSU 68 - Georgia 62