MSU moves into the semis of the Wooden Classic to face the Boise State Broncos. Boise moved to 3-2 on the season with a competitive 71-64 win over UC Irvine, a battle between two teams with legitimate conference championship and NCAA Tournament bid hopes this season. The Broncos have lost to Montana by 2 and by 12 to Arizona.

Due to the holiday, an abbreviated preview follows…

Boise has 4 guys averaging double digits and a 5th near that number at 9.4 ppg.Anthony Drimic leads the way at better than 18 ppg. The 6’6″ redshirt senior is a versatile offensive player but is at his best outside the arc, where he’s shooting over 45% from three so far. James Webb and Nick Duncan are a pair of big juniors who are also a big part of what Boise does. Webb is their more conventional big man, rebounding, blocking shots and scoring more at the rim. Duncan doesn’t come close to passing eye test as an overweight 6’8″ post but the Aussie is supremely skilled. He’s second on the team in assists and is hitting 41% of his threes with a quick release. Mikey Thompson is the 4th Bronc scoring in double digits from his wing position.

THE 5 KEYS

1. Check – MSU let a lot of attention to detail slip against BC but their offense was so vastly superior that it didn’t matter. I don’t think they can afford a similar effort against a veteran Boise group shooting 49/39% on the year. The Broncos use their experience to move the ball well and get good shots, something they managed against a pretty good defensive team in Irvine today.

2.BOards – Boise is winning the board battle on the season but MSU has been wiping out even good rebounding opponents. It would be nice to see that continue.

3. Pace – MSU is deeper and much more athletic than is Boise. Pushing pace and forcing things into a transition game at times will play to the Spartans’ benefit.

4. Post – I don’t think Irvine did a very good job of exploiting its size advantage inside. MSU could use strong games from Costello and Davis inside to exploit what should be an advantage in its favor.

5. Poise – MSU had only 7 TOs, its best performance of the season in that area. Against a quality opponent, keeping those down while still playing fast would be huge.

Overall, I think Boise is good enough and experienced enough to test MSU. Even with the defensive lapses I thought MSU’s energy and effort were strong again today, so they’ve done a decent job playing “the Game” as opposed to opponents. This one probably requires more playing the opponent than any game so far except KU. I think we’ll see the Spartans focused, locked in a little better on D, and coming out on the winning end.