Tom Izzo

© Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball: 3 keys to upsetting No. 2 Gonzaga

Michigan State basketball plays No. 2 Gonzaga on Friday night in San Diego and here’s what the Spartans must do.

What better way to spend your Friday night than by watching an unranked Michigan State basketball team battle for respect against No. 2 Gonzaga on an aircraft carrier?

This is going to be the premier game of the day and the Spartans are looking to shock the Zags.

Wind might play a factor in the outdoor game on the USS Abraham Lincoln in San Diego, but Tom Izzo‘s team will have to adjust accordingly.

What must the Spartans do in order to pull off the upset?

1. Get to the free throw line

Against Northern Arizona, Michigan State shot just eight free throws. That’s just not going to cut it. If Michigan State wants to have a shot against Gonzaga, it needs to get to the line and get the Bulldogs into foul trouble early on.

Heck, if that means going at Drew Timme with some drives by AJ Hoggard, Tyson Walker, or Jaden Akins, so be it. The Spartans have to make the Zags uncomfortable and play a more relaxed defense with foul trouble.

2. Force outside shots

Gonzaga showed against North Florida that it didn’t need to make outside shots in order to light up the scoreboard. That alone should be enough to make Michigan State force them into shooting.

Plus, this game is outside in 6-8 mph winds. Three-point makes are going to be at a premium.

If Michigan State can lock down the paint and force Gonzaga into some deep shots, the Spartans are going to be in good shape. But that’s a huge if with Timme on the other side.

3. AJ Hoggard staying out of foul trouble

If Michigan State wants to have a shot against the nation’s No. 2 team, Hoggard must stay out of foul trouble. The junior point guard gives Michigan State the best chance to win and dating back to last season, when he plays big minutes, the Spartans usually win.

Does him just being on the court change things? Not exactly, he needs to be productive, but he always is. When he was in foul trouble against Northern Arizona, the offense stalled out. He has to stay on the floor against the Zags. It’s imperative.

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