Michigan State basketball

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Michigan State basketball: 3 keys to victory vs. Villanova

Michigan State basketball hosts Villanova for a big non-conference battle on Friday night and here’s what the Spartans must do.

Michigan State basketball is back and, from the looks of it early on, it might be legit this year. The Spartans play host to the Villanova Wildcats on Friday night, at home, with tip-off at 8 p.m. ET.

Tom Izzo and his 2-1 squad look to grab a win over a Wildcats team that has struggled out of the gates in their first season without Jay Wright. However, we all know Villanova will be excited to play against their first major opponent, and Izzo will not allow the boys to take them lightly.

Even as MSU is a 6.5-point favorite (FanDuel) how can MSU ensure a victory Friday night?

After the Kentucky game, it became pretty evident who Coach Izzo trusted on the floor, as it was pretty much a six-man rotation. Malik Hall, Joey Hauser, AJ Hoggard, Mady Sissoko, and Tyson Walker all played upwards of 30 minutes with Jaden Akins playing 27 off the bench. These six combined for 84 of the 86 points on Tuesday night and ended up being victorious over the No. 4 team in the nation.

This leads me to my first key to tonight’s game: stick with what has worked.

1. Stick with what’s been working

I think in order to build momentum for the season, we need to get some continuity early. Play the guys who played Tuesday, allow them to develop chemistry, and limit new lineups if possible. Villanova is looking for answers early, and if we stick to the same game plan, we should be able to limit any type of run from them early.

2. Mady Sissoko needs to stay out of foul trouble

Key No. 2 I would say is pretty obvious: Mady Sissoko must stay out of foul trouble. He did a great job of this down the stretch last time out and, hopefully, it will be easier on Friday night as Villanova has nobody among the talent of Oscar Tshiebwe.

When on the floor, Mady has been incredible. Averaging 11 points on 65 percent shooting from the field, and nearly eight rebounds per game. Sissoko has arguably been MSU’s best player. Maybe the most encouraging thing from his performance on Tuesday was his 6-for-8 shooting from the charity stripe. He will draw fouls all season, and if he can knock down free throws both on Friday night and for the rest of the year, he could draw some national recognition.

3. Shooters need to shoot early, often

Finally, in order to bring home a win, our shooters need to shoot early. We saw the best game of Hauser’s career on Tuesday, scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Hall showed his “closer” mentality, tying the game up twice with a dunk to extend into overtime. Walker also hit clutch shots down the stretch, something we saw from time to time last season. All three of these guys need to seek out their own shot early. They all have the ability to score 20-plus every night, and this could elevate them to a big win on Friday in the Breslin.

If MSU can do at least two, or hopefully all three of these things against Villanova, we should see a Spartan win. This would propel their record to 3-1, awaiting an assured spot in the rankings come Monday.

After Villanova, Michigan State travels west to face No. 18 Alabama in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational, in Portland, Ore.

Prediction: 71-59 MSU wins


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