It doesn't have a total blockbuster feel because of Michigan State's recent struggles, but the Maryland men's basketball team visits East Lansing on Saturday for what should nonetheless be a fun game against the Spartans.
Tom Izzo's team has lost three games in a row, making Maryland a reasonable favorite despite the road draw at the Breslin Center. The No. 11 Spartans were unusually shellacked at home against Iowa on Jan. 14, then dropped back-to-back 1-point decisions at Wisconsin and back home against Nebraska. They're 3-4 in the Big Ten and, remarkably, nearly out of the running already for the league's regular season championship. No. 7 Maryland is 17-2 and 6-1 in the league.
ESPN's "College Gameday" will be on site for a 6:30 p.m. EST tipoff.
Michigan State Spartans (16-4, 3-4 Big Ten)
Tom Izzo is 511-203 as the Spartans' head coach. He's one of the best ever, and he had nice things to say about Maryland before the season started. He bungled his team out of a win the last time Maryland visited East Lansing.
Players to know
Denzel Valentine, senior, guard/forward, 6'5, No. 45. Michigan State's Mr. Everything and one of the best players in the country, Valentine is back and strong after missing four games with a knee injury. He scored 10 points in his first game back but has followed up with 23 and 24 in consecutive losses. He averages 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists, making him as well-rounded a player as you'll find. He can easily guard shooting guards and small forwards.
Bryn Forbes, senior, guard, 6'3, No. 5. Forbes is ripe to be taken to the hole defensively, but he's a dangerous shooter. He's clicking at 46 percent on threes and 83 percent from the foul line. He doesn't bring a whole lot in the way of rebounds or assists, which is problematic when he has to play the point. With speedster point guard Tum Tum Nairn injured, that's sometimes an issue. (Izzo has also used Valentine at the point, which is fine but prevents Valentine from playing off the ball.)
Matt Costello, senior, forward, 6'9, No. 10. The biggest thing to know about Costello is that he's a voracious rebounder. He averages 8 rebounds (and 9.6 points) per game and figures to be a real challenge for Maryland's Robert Carter Jr.
Deyonta Davis, freshman, forward, 6'10, No. 23. In a veteran lineup, Davis is the primary injection of youth. He averages 8 points and 5 assists, and he shoots 65 percent from the field – all 2-pointers, as he doesn't play beyond the arc. Davis was a high four-star power forward in high school and the No. 1 player in Michigan in this past year's class.
Eron Harris, junior, guard, 6'3, No. 14. Harris is the third and final double-digit scorer on the roster behind Valentine and Forbes, averaging 10 points. The West Virginia transfer sat out last season and has joined the Spartans shooting 43 percent on threes and 80 percent at the foul line.
Shooting. Michigan State is dangerous from the field, with a 54.9 percent effective shooting average. They shoot 39.7 percent on 3-pointers.
Sharing. Michigan State records an assist on 71 percent of its baskets. That's the second-best mark in the power conferences this year, only behind Baylor at 71.5 percent. The Spartans move the ball crisply to set up scoring looks.
Perimeter defense. Opponents are shooting just 28.3 percent on triples against Michigan State, which is better than all but one power conference team (Kansas State). Valentine and Harris do a nice job getting out to contest jumpers.
Forcing turnovers. Opponents give the ball away on just 12 percent of their possessions against the Spartans. That's the worst rate of any team in any power conference, and it should help the occasionally turnover-happy Terrapins avoid a letdown.
KenPom: Michigan State wins, 72-69. Terps have a 38 percent chance to win.
Alex: Maryland, 63-59.