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Texas Versus Michigan State Preview/Open Thread

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Game 12: Texas Longhorns (9-2) at Michigan State Spartans (8-3)Tuesday December 22, 2010 · 6:00 p.m. CT

Breslin Center (15,085) · East Lansing, MI

TV: ESPN2 · Radio: 1300 AM / 98.1 FM

TexasSports.com Game Preview / BC Preview / Statesman Preview / LonghornRoadTrip

MSU Offense MSU Defense STATS Texas Offense Texas Defense
111.8 (30) 87.1 (14) Efficiency 109.0 (55) 86.7 (11)
53.8 (37) 44.5 (49) eFG% 49.2 (153) 40.0 (3)
23.0 (255) 21.9 (130) TO% 18.1 (49) 20.1 (219)
36.7 (61) 31.4 (130) OR% 37.1 (57) 30.3 (89)
40.5 (131) 37.8 (131) FTRate 44.8 (57) 33.8 (103)

For the Texas basketball fans who bemoan the weak non-conference opponents demolished at the Hum Drum early in the season, take a look at the stretch of games Texas will play before opening the conference season. And then try to avoid such ignorant comments in the future.

The Michigan State game this evening is the second game of the difficult stretch and carries with it a hint of sadness. It's the fourth and final game of the series and one that has been tremendously entertaining every season. It was Dogus Balbay's defense on a hobbled Kailin Lucas that helped turn a close contest in favor of the home 'Horns on that December evening and Texas will need a similiar performance from Balbay again to have a chance to win in one of the most hostile environments in college basketball.

The Spartans don't always value the basketball and the Longhorns, despite their impressive overall numbers, don't force a ton of turnovers defensively -- if it swings in favor of Texas tonight, the Longhorns have a much better chance of winning. Forcing turnovers will also allow more transition opportunities and easy baskets against a strong Spartan defense. With Balbay expected to play heavy minutes tonight, the halfcourt offense is going to suffer, so creating transition opportunities may be the single most important factor in the entire contest.

A second key for Texas is their off-ball defense. Against North Carolina, Jordan Hamilton had some problems getting caught ball-watching and gave up some easy baskets to Harrison Barnes. Michigan State likes to run the motion offense that is seemingly ubiquitous in the Big 10, but it's an offense that can often run the gamut from creating scores of easy baskets to stagnation if the Spartans aren't moving well off the ball. Hamilton is likely going to be matched against a smaller guard, which will almost certainly test his ability to defend screens, not exactly a strength of his.

The Spartans have a pair of deadly three-point shooters in freshman specialist Keith Appling, who knocks down half of his attempts from beyond the arc, and Durrell Summers, who hits at a 45% clip. Texas defenders will have to be especially aware of those two.

On the Texas side, the mercurial J'Covan Brown needs to avoid the careless mistakes and stupid turnovers that often characterize his play. If he plays well, the 'Horns have a chance of pulling the upset. If not, it's going to be extremely difficult and a lot of pressure will be on players like Hamilton, who should have a mismatch against a smaller Spartan, and Tristan Thompson, who must avoid the foul trouble that rendered him mostly ineffective against North Carolina.

Expect a close, hard-fought contest and a victory for the Longhorns would further pad a tournament resume that already includes some nice wins against Illinois and North Carolina.