Georgia to Wing It Against Michigan State: A Preview

No game plan.  Just wing it and see what happens in Grand Rapids.

One of the best criticisms of Mark Fox is that he does not have a specific game plan for each opponent as the approach in each game appears to be the same unless there is an injury.  Well, Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs will come into their charity exhibition game without a scouting report to take on the Spartans.  This is in Mark Fox’s own words.  In fact, Georgia will not have a shootaround the day prior, just typical warm-ups before the exhibition as the basketball court and baskets will not be installed at that time.

Michigan State is the Preseason #2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, Mark Fox considers Michigan State to be the #1 team in the country going into the season and he voted that way.  Tom Izzo is one of the best Head Coaches in College Basketball with a track record that is very hard to match and he has an experienced team that is the favorite in the Big Ten.  The most notable matchup in this game will be Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year (this is a distinction that is just nonsensical) Miles Bridges against Co-Preseason SEC Player of the Year (also nonsensical) Yante Maten.

This game will not be televised or streamable, which means you are completely out-of-luck if you are not going to be in Grand Rapids, but according to Mark Fox, the game will have a radio broadcast.

Follow along the radio broadcast when the link is provided (likely on Sunday) at

Michigan State struggled in their exhibition against Division II opponent Ferris State, but still knocked off the Bulldogs 80-72.

Michigan State’s first half could best be described as ‘bad’.  Ferris State led by 3 at the half, but they had a 10 point lead early in the contest.  Michigan State went 2 for 16 from three point range in the first half and needed a 5 for 11 performance in the second half to make things less embarrassing on that part of the stat sheet.  Michigan State gave Ferris State fast break opportunities and a sure sign of a bad night, Michigan State’s bench was outscored by a Division II opponent.  Michigan State’s depth did not show itself at the Breslin Center.

Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. had strong games.  Josh Langford and sharpshooter Matt McQuaid (who slumped last season) had very poor nights.  In fact, Josh Langford really had such a bad night that it would be insulting to lump McQuaid into the same sentence.

How did Michigan State win this game?  

They played Tom Izzo-style Basketball.  They rebounded, won the turnover battle and hit their Free Throws.  They were the more aggressive team on the offensive glass.

The 2nd chance points stat in the boxscore is inaccurate.  Michigan State dominated the offensive glass, it was the only way they were able to keep themselves in the game in the first half and it allowed them to get out in front and stay there in the second half.

It is not like Ferris State was shooting threes at a scorching rate against Michigan State.

Michigan State was just able to grab offensive boards at a 38.77% clip.  Michigan State 29 Ferris State 10 in terms of second chance points.  Merely being able to shoot at a somewhat better rate and control the glass gave Izzo’s squad the edge.

This game was still tied at 60 at the 6:20 of this game!

Does this mean that Michigan State stinks?  No, it’s just one game.  However, it is emblematic that Michigan State could have a clunker of a shooting night and let their far less talented opponent get transition baskets, but yet pull out the victory on sheer effort on the glass.  Michigan State is always a force on the glass and it is important part of Michigan State Basketball.  Izzo’s teams are physical, disciplined and they wear down their opponents even on nights when the Spartans shoot poorly.

The two main losses from last season are Eron Harris and Alvin Ellis, but this roster can easily withstand it and be better than last season’s team that finished 20-15 and made it to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.  The well-traveled Ben Carter is eligible to play this season and he adds a bit of experienced depth to the frontcourt.

Michigan State had a rather average shot distribution on offense and were toward the middle of the pack when it came to shots inside the money zone (146th in the country).

Miles Bridges takes one out of every four shots in the mid-range, but he generally optimizes his shot profile.  Bridges can work inside-and-out, he’s a 6’7″ 230 pound Combo Forward with a 7′ wingspan.  He’s projected to be drafted in the middle of the First Round of the 2018 NBA Draft, but could certainly rise up.  Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., a 6’11” 240 pound Power Forward is projected to be a lottery pick.

Throw former UGA recruit Nick Ward into the mix in the frontcourt and this is a tough group from East Lansing.  Ward is a 6’8″ 250 pound left-handed post known for his ability to rebound, sound familiar?

There are some interesting mirror images between Michigan State and Georgia when examining Yante Maten/Miles Bridges and Derek Ogbeide/Nick Ward.

Georgia’s biggest test will not come from Miles Bridges, Nick Ward or Jaren Jackson Jr., but rather it will come from the Michigan State backcourt.  Each member of the Georgia Backcourt is going to play and try to win playing time.  It is a game where E’Torrion Wilridge, Nic Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds will try to show that they deserve to take Juwan Parker’s playing time at the 3 spot.  It’s an opportunity for Tyree Crump to show that he can defend Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid.  It’s an exhibition game where Teshaun Hightower can go from mystery to known quantity among the skeptical.  Jordan Harris can prove he is among the best three point shooters in the SEC and make it known to everyone that he has regained his defensive form.  Harris was not the same after the Texas A&M debacle last season.

Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Matt McQuaid and Tum-Tum Nairn should provide a good idea of whether this Georgia Backcourt is up to the challenge of what this season will provide.

Mark Fox will be looking to see how this Georgia team competes against Michigan State in the middle of Fall Practice without any specific preparation.  This is his acid test for the team so that he knows what they need to work on for the rest of Fall Practice to be ready for a somewhat soft start and a Late November collision with San Diego State in Fullerton, California.  A win would certainly turn heads and may make some people forget a certain Football Game happened the day before.  However, this game needs to be taken with a grain of salt considering the time and circumstances and it certainly is not going to be indicative of how the team will play during the season.  It’s an opportunity to learn and adjust.

One comment

  1. How can they be expected to play coach fox defense if they aren’t preparing for the Michigan offense

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