Some of the things I think may matter in determining a winner tomorrow…
– The power forward position. This is the single biggest area of “tilt” in one direction or another in this game, IMO. One edge MSU has is that at least theoretically, it has a better chance of finding answers to what Michigan does well at the position than vice versa. Any of Goins, Bess and Clark at least give MSU a chance of slowing down Irvin if he gets rolling. On the other side, if DD is able to hang in there defensively enough to stay on the floor, I’m not sure Beilein has an answer for him in the post. He just absolutely refuses to play two big men alongside each other, so to expect him to go that route in this game is probably not a good bet…and if he did, it would impact what his team does offensively in a negative fashion, it would seem.
The bottom line is, if Irvin proves to be a tough cover for MSU, Michigan gets a boost. If Davis is able to play a lot of minutes, that probably means he’s held it together defensively and if he’s on the court a lot, that also likely means he’s abused Michigan on the blocks.
– Michigan has been a bad defensive team in pretty much every conceivable way this year, but one thing we haven’t talked about much in specific is transition defense. IU got a lot done in pure transition opportunities or delayed/early offense chances. If MSU controls their defensive glass, they should have some easy baskets coming their way as a result.
– Pick and roll defense is going to be crucial for MSU. It’s where Michigan generates so much of their offense and now that Donnal has found his game, they’re running it more efficiently than they were previously. MSU has been much better lately in this area of the game but that improvement needs to continue. The Maryland gameplan is a sound one here as well, IMO. You can live with Walton hitting some jumpers. What you can’t live with is Walton in the lane finding people or Donnal getting a bunch of points on rolls and slips.
– MSU has been on an amazing run shooting the jumper and that’s always a big part of this particular team’s offensive attack. However, I’m going to be watching to see if MSU is settling or if they’re focused on getting some inside/out element going. I don’t believe Michigan can guard Costello or Davis very well in the post. It would be a mistake to not look to the blocks for offense on a fairly regular basis.
– FWIW, I think we’re likely to see a high end performance out of Michigan in terms of effort and energy. This is a big, big game for them, beyond even the normal rivalry implications. I would be surprised if we didn’t see a much more desperate, energetic game out of them than they gave IU.