2. Xavier Tillman out-duels Vernon Carey Jr.
Everyone is talking about the matchup between Cassius Winston and Tre Jones, but this is the one that has my attention. Xavier Tillman needs to out-duel Vernon Carey Jr.
This is a daunting task given the fact that Carey Jr. is a behemoth in the post and is one of the stronger and more aggressive bigs the Spartans will see this season, leading the Blue Devils in both scoring and rebounding, but Tillman holds the upper-hand in experience.
Xavier has received a lot of criticism lately for being too soft in the post when he gets the ball, and you can bet Tom Izzo has been toughening him up this week at practice to get him ready for this elite battle in the post. He may not see a better big man this season than Carey Jr. — maybe Jon Teske or Kaleb Wesson — and if the Spartans are going to win, he needs to win this battle.
Tillman is going to out-work and out-duel Carey Jr. in the post to the tune of 17 points and 12 rebounds while Carey Jr. finishes with 14 points and eight boards.
The former top Spartan target will receive plenty of boos at the Breslin Center and it might play with his mental state, but Tillman’s motor will be too much for him on Tuesday night.