Michigan State Basketball: Preview, prediction for FGCU rematch

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 06: Tom Izzo the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans gives instructions to his team against the Kansas Jayhwaks during the State Farm Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 6, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 06: Tom Izzo the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans gives instructions to his team against the Kansas Jayhwaks during the State Farm Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 6, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Michigan State basketball looks to rebound from a tough opening loss to Kansas with a home game against Atlantic Sun favorite FGCU.

Just two years ago, Florida Gulf Coast made the trek north to East Lansing to take on No. 13 Michigan State. The Spartans, led by a quad of talented freshmen, struggled in the post and the Eagles nearly pulled off the unthinkable upset.

Michigan State did escape with a 78-77 victory, controversially, and now the Eagles are headed back to East Lansing for a rematch.

Michael Fly was an assistant coach at the time of the near-upset and has since taken over as head coach. He returns just one starter to a team that finished 23-12 last season and is 1-1 thus far in 2018-19. Senior guard Dinero Mercuris is a preseason All-Atlantic Sun candidate, averaging 7.9 points per game a season ago. Newcomer, and Iona transfer, Schadrac Casimir should help at point guard as he already leads the team in points per game with 17.0.

Michigan State, on the other hand, is 0-1 after a tough loss to No. 1 Kansas and will need to show more aggression on the glass after being out-rebounded.

Josh Langford led the team in scoring against the Jayhawks, but keep an eye on Cassius Winston, Nick Ward and even Kenny Goins on Sunday afternoon.

Here’s how to watch Sunday’s Michigan State vs. FGCU rematch:

Date: Sunday, Nov. 11
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Venue: Breslin Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN2Go

Keys to Victory

On the offensive end, Michigan State must be better in the half-court. Relying on fast-breaks, like the Spartans did in the first half against Kansas, can get the offense into ruts, and that must change. While running is fine and scoring in the fast-break is welcomed, so is running the half-court offense through Ward and Langford. Getting Ward involved early on should be a priority. He must be the go-to player all game long after a rough opener.

Defensively, defending the perimeter is going to be key. Far too often against Kansas, the Spartans fell asleep on the perimeter, which led to a plethora of uncontested threes. Florida Gulf Coast has multiple lights-out shooters and the Eagles make 39 percent of their shots from distance, so locking down the arc will be imperative.

Players to Watch

Florida Gulf Coast has three players who average in double figures thus far, but there are plenty of offensive threats. Transfers may be taking over the roster, but arguably the team’s most important player is the lone returning starter.

  • Schadrac Casimir: 17.0 points, 2.5 assists, 58% FG, 67% 3-point
  • Dinero Mercuris: 10.0 points, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 50% FG, 55% 3-point
  • Haanif Cheatham: 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals
  • Troy Baxter Jr.: 9.5 points, 3.0 rebounds 50% FG

dark. Next. MSU basketball: 10 bold predictions for 2018-19

Prediction

Michigan State is going to handle business and rebound from an opening night loss to Kansas. The Spartans will show off in front of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Vernon Carey Jr., who will be in attendance as they put together a strong second half to pull away from the pesky Eagles. Cassius Winston leads the team with 15 points and 10 assists while Nick Ward snatches 12 rebounds with a team-high 19 points. Also, we will see Aaron Henry emerge as a slasher with some highlight dunks.

Final Score: FGCU 61, Michigan State 81