March 30, 2014

Six Pack & Talkback: MSU vs UConn

NEW YORK - A selection of insightful quotes pertaining to the Michigan State-Connecticut game from various coaches and players, with "Talkback"from publisher Jim Comparoni:

1. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, On Iowa State shooting 9 of 29 in the first half against the Huskies:

"We did get to the rim a lot in those first few minutes, we just characteristically missed quite a few of those. I don't know if it was intimidation, I don't know what it was. We still outscored them 42‑28 in the paint. And we outrebounded them 17 offensive rebounds. That's usually a pretty good sign when have you that stat."

Comp's Take: Great shot-blocking ability is practically impossible to simulate in practice, and it's difficult for teams to adjust to the first time they see it. Michigan State hasn't faced many teams with good shot-blocking threats this year, and none like the tag team of aircraft carriers that UConn has on its roster.

Freshman 7-footer Amida Brimah has averaged 2.0 blocked shots per game over the last 11 games, and that's while averaging just 20 minutes per game. He's not on the floor all the time, but when he is, he affects shots.

He isn't quite the monster Hasheem Thabeet was as a 7-foot-3 tree for UConn in the 2009 Final Four against the Spartans. Michigan State prepared for that game against UConn by changing the way its players approached the rim on offense. The Spartans will have to do some of that in this game, with the drive and extra pass. But the extent to which a team needs to adjust to Brimah and UConn's other center, Phillip Nolan, isn't quite known until said teams take the court against the Huskies. They have to learn on the fly. So will the Spartans. And that can create an uncomfortable cause for pause.

In watching UConn vs. Iowa State live, Thursday, I felt like ISU was having trouble finishing due to shot blockers being in the vicinity. Hoiberg wasn't quite ready to concede that, following the game.

One way or another, UConn holds opponents to 39 percent shooting on the year, ranking No. 11 in the nation in field goal percentage defense. Will the Huskies' usual defensive spell be cast on the Spartans? Well, Michigan State has improved its ability to drive, draw and dish in recent games (in addition to improving just about every other aspect of team play). Interior sharing of the ball won't necessarily need to be at a Jedi level for the Spartans, but an increased level of sharpness in all areas is generally needed to advance in this dance.

Let the record show that Virginia ranked just ahead of UConn in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to 38.8 percent on the year. Yet the Spartans managed to shoot 44.7 percent against the Cavaliers.

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