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Playin’ Nice: The Only Colors

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Before LSU takes on Sparty in the Sweet 16, we talk all things Spartans with The Only Colors’ Kyle Thele

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional Practice Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Hello friends. As you know, LSU is set to take on Michigan State in the Sweet 16 Friday evening in Washington D.C. PodKATT was able to work his magic and now I’m typing this in the Reagan National Airport snacking on overpriced Chick-Fil-A. A chicken sandwich nearly costs nine dollars and they don’t even have the good ice to chew on. I hate this place.

Anyway, I reached out to Michigan State’s SB Nation page The Only Colors and got in touch with their site editor Kyle Thele who was kind enough to provide some insight on LSU’s looming opponent. You can follow Kyle on Twitter @Thele10.

1) LSU has beaten Kentucky and Tennessee, and had Houston and Florida State beat before giving those games away. So why, on the eve of this Michigan State game, do I feel so afraid that LSU is going to be completely outclassed by Michigan State Friday evening?

This sounds silly, but Michigan State is extremely “college-y.” They have maybe two guys who as of now look like they could even get a shot in the NBA, but as a college basketball team, they do everything needed to win. In just the last few weeks they have beaten teams with a number of different ways. One day it could be the inside presence, the next it’s lights-out shooting. Every once in a while they beat a team just by staying around and forcing that team to play perfect down the stretch. It’s not always ugly, and they are comfortable playing from behind, but this MSU team just is *that college team*.

2) State’s really beat up. LSU rotates eight players while State’s playing with a short bench. Is there a fear that the lack of depth could catch up with Michigan State?

So, they aren’t actually that beat up. Nick Ward is healthy and appears to have his legs back under him. They have gotten used to playing without Joshua Langford and Kyle Ahrens has been, at best, a role player off the bench all season. The scary thing, however, is there is one other guy who really is beat up, and he’s the guy that MSU can’t afford to be without. Cassius Winston has put on a herculean effort this season, getting an outrageous amount of minutes. He’s dealing with a couple minor injuries and the overall weight of the long season. The depth isn’t really a concern, they have won like this all season. But if something happens to Winston, game over.

3) LSU is atrocious offensively when teams throw a zone defense at them. I’ve seen that State’s only played zone on about five possessions all season long. Does Izzo go to that to throw LSU off or does he stick to what’s worked for them all season long?

It surprises me that they even ran a zone five times. I actually think that may have been a mistake and someone was just out of place, or it was a soft-man with switches that was just recorded wrong. Tom Izzo hates zones. He hates playing against them, he hates running them. Izzo made his name on tough defense, and in his mind that means man-to-man. I fully expect the defense to switch as much as possible and give some zone-like features, but this is a man defense and I’d be floored if Izzo changed things up at this point in the season.

4) LSU’s one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers. Michigan State turned the ball over 22 times in the Round of 32 against Minnesota. Is there a fear that Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays can give Michigan State those same fits Friday evening?

This is undoubtedly the scariest aspect of the LSU matchup for Michigan State. When MSU gets in trouble it is almost always because of turnovers. They have had games this year where they seemingly couldn’t miss, but they were losing because they just weren’t getting shots up. The key here is the first half. If the Spartans are sloppy early, LSU is too good of a team to recover from a big deficit. But, they tend to play to the level of their opponent. Those sloppy games came against Illinois, Indiana, and Bradley. They didn’t come against Michigan, who has a dominant defense in their own right.

5) If Michigan State falls Friday night what’s their undoing?

There are two factors that can sink Michigan State against LSU, both center around their All-American. First, as I mentioned before, a Winston injury. They just don’t have another point guard for this game. Matt McQuaid runs point the next most after Winston, but he’s far from a point guard. After that is freshman Foster Loyer, who is just not ready for the Sweet Sixteen, especially against a long team like LSU.

Secondly, Michigan State needs to get points from other people than just Winston. Cassius is going to get his, even on an off night he should put up 15. But MSU struggled through the first-round game because Kenny Goins couldn’t hit anything and McQuaid started nearly as slowly. Those two hitting from deep is huge, MSU is extremely tough to beat if they are making shots. Part of that comes from the post-play of Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward. If those two start forcing up shots or are sloppy in the post, things could turn ugly.