Michigan State at Florida - Thoughts and Game Prediction

Michigan State at Florida - Thoughts and Game Prediction

Basketball

Michigan State at Florida - Thoughts and Game Prediction

#10 Michigan State (7-2) travels to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators (5-3) on Saturday in a road test that will complete a very challenging early period of this 2018-19 season for the Spartans. 

Contact @crowleysullivan

Tom Izzo has learned a lot about his team over the last couple of weeks.

The Spartans have gotten off to a strong start, earning a 7-2 record and, perhaps more importantly, a 2-0 start to the Big Ten slate.

After a hard-fought 92-87 season opening loss to then-#1 Kansas, Michigan State has gone 7-1 with the lone loss coming on the road, in overtime, to a pretty good Louisville squad that is now 6-2, respectively.

Victories over then-#17 UCLA and Texas to claim the Las Vegas Invitational Championship stand as meaningful moments as do the first two wins in Big Ten play, a 78-67 win at Rutgers and a 90-68 rout of then-#18 Iowa.

Michigan State has gotten major contributions from everyone in the playing rotation over this early period of the season and Izzo has seen that he has quite a few guys who are scorers up and down the roster.

Cassius Winston is going to score points.

Joshua Langford is going to score points.

Nick Ward is going to score points.

Izzo, however, is seeing that Xavier Tillman is going to score points, too.

So is Kenny Goins.

Kyle Aherns is capable of scoring.

And, of course, when Matt McQuaid returns to the lineup after recuperating from the deep thigh bruise he suffered against Texas, he’ll not only score, he’ll be able to make sure that Winston gets the spells he needs since McQuaid is the best season-long option for Izzo when it comes to someone other than Winston leading the team at the point in key situations while Foster Loyer continues to develop.

All in all, Izzo can’t be too upset with the way this season has gone so far.

In fact, it’s been a close-to-perfect start for a team with its customary highest of aspirations.

That loss to Louisville stung at the time and Izzo isn’t ever going to pretend that a loss can be any kind of “moral victory.”

But, that game has given Izzo some ammo to continue to motivate the team as necessary while the meat of the Big Ten season inches closer and closer.

And so the Spartans have gone through a pretty brutal stretch where they’ve played five games in twelve days with only one of those games coming in East Lansing.

Before the team gets a bit of a break in the early season grind, a trip to Gainesville to face off against Mike White’s Florida Gators comes on Saturday.

Like the Iowa game earlier this week, if Michigan State sees itself as a Big Ten Championship contender – and more than that – this is a game that the Spartans should win.

Florida is 5-3 and is coming off a 66-56 win over West Virginia.

The Gators have been, as my father-in-law and Florida graduate says, “icy.”

While the Gators’ most-recent win over West Virginia stands as the season’s most impressive moment, West Virginia isn’t the standard version that Bob Huggins has just about every year.

The Gators are led, from a scoring perspective, by KeVaughn Allen.

Allen is a 6’2″ senior guard who is averaging 10 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.3 steals a game.

Deaundrae Ballard is a 6’5″ sophomore guard who is putting up 10 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal a game.

Noah Locke is a 6’3″ freshman guard who is averaging 8.3 points and1.6 rebounds a game.

Kevarrius Hayes is a 6’9″ senior forward who is averaging 7.4 points and 6 rebounds a game.

Keith Stone is a 6’8″ junior who is putting up 7 points and 5 rebounds a game.

The team doesn’t really have any “stars” – but, there is balance and some size that will present the Spartans with potential challenges.

While the Gators will have the home crowd and some size and beef for Michigan State to deal with, this game, like so many others that will be like it over the course of the remainder of the season, will come down to a few basics for the Spartans:

  • Can the Spartans continue to take care of the ball and limit turnovers in the way they have over the last few games?

Cassius Winston has a mere one turnover over the previous two ball games.

  • Can Michigan State get balanced scoring from the four or five guys who have been contributing to the 7-2 start?
  • Can Michigan State’s Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins play tough low post defense, particularly against Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone?

There isn’t a whole lot to suggest that the Spartans will, all of a sudden, deviate from what’s been working so far this season.

The overtime loss to Louisville came in the middle of this rough stretch in the schedule and the Spartans might have been a little exhausted towards the end of that hard-fought game.

Michigan State has had a few days of rest following the confidence-boosting rout of the Hawkeyes.

These Spartans can see a period of calm water for a week after this game concludes and there will focus, fresh legs, and intensity from the opening tip.

Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins will overpower the Gators down low on both ends of the floor and Cassius Winston will lead another efficient effort on offense.

Michigan State will head back to East Lansing 8-2 and happy to get some more rest following a very strong start to a season with great promise.

MICHIGAN STATE – 77

FLORIDA – 67

Latest

More SpartansWire
Home