Notre Dame and Michigan State basketball will square off on Wednesday night for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and while it might not be the most intriguing matchup, it’ll be a serious test for the No. 20 Spartans.
First off, don’t even get me started on the eight-spot drop Michigan State took in the latest AP Poll after losing to No. 18 Alabama without two starters.
Now that we got that out of the way, we can move on to more important issues.
Issues such as the perimeter defense against a 3-point-heavy Notre Dame team which, in my opinion, will be the deciding factor in Wednesday night’s game.
Perimeter defense will be key for Michigan State basketball
The Spartans seem to go as the perimeter defense goes. Against Northern Arizona, the Spartans locked down and held the Lumberjacks to 8-for-30 shooting from deep and ran away with an 18-point win. Against Kentucky, Michigan State held the Wildcats to 7-for-25 shooting from deep and ended up winning in double-overtime. For most of the Villanova game, MSU locked down the perimeter, holding the Wildcats to 7-of-29 shooting.
And then against Oregon, the Spartans held the Ducks to 10-for-32 shooting from deep as Will Richardson got hot late to make it close. Portland was 13-for-29 from deep and, as we saw, that game was much closer than expected. The Pilots did have nine first-half threes and were basically shut down in the second half when Michigan State locked down the perimeter.
So the Portland game is a perfect example of why the perimeter defense is so important. In one half, the Spartans couldn’t seem to defend the three and were trailing by eight to an inferior team and in the second half, MSU locked down and built a 12-point lead.
Alabama shot about 35 percent from deep and picked apart MSU’s defense and I’m not counting the Gonzaga game because it was outside and no one shot well.
Notre Dame shoots about 35 percent from deep on an average of 22 shots per game so if Michigan State can lock down the perimeter, the Irish will struggle to score.
The 3-point shot is a big part of their game.
If the perimeter game is won by the Spartans, they win this game. It’s as simple as that.