Michigan State basketball

© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State basketball: Top players to watch at the PK85

Michigan State basketball will partake in the PK85 starting on Thanksgiving and here are some top players to keep an eye on.

The PK85 is loaded with incredible teams such as North Carolina, Villanova, UConn, Oregon, Alabama, and Michigan State basketball but not only are these incredible teams but the rosters are loaded with talent.

Looking ahead in a few months, we could see more than one of these teams in the Elite Eight and beyond. We are going to take a quick look at Michigan State and the schedule they have and the top players they will be facing from those teams.

So first up is Alabama which Michigan State plays on Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. ET. Alabama presents certain challenges for MSU but the best two players on this Alabama roster are clearly Jahvon Quinerly and Brandon Miller.

Quinerly is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior point guard who is coming off a torn ACL that happened in Alabama’s NCAA Tournament game against Notre Dame last season. Alabama wasn’t expecting to get Quinerly back until at least December, but he is working himself back into the rotation playing an average of 10.5 minutes in the last two games. He averaged 13.8 points per game and 4.2 assists per game last year.

Quinerly will be the leader of this team going forward playing with two sophomores and two freshmen in the starting lineup. I expect MSU will see a lot less from him currently due to them easing him back into the rotation coming off the torn ACL.

Miller is a 6-foot -9, 200-pound freshman forward who was a five-star McDonald’s All-American. He plays mostly on the wing for this Alabama team but at times will be moved to the stretch-four for this Alabama team. Miller is averaging 20.3 points per game and adding on 9.3 rebounds per game over their first four games. He is a legit three-point shooter shooting 52 percent from deep on 29 attempts.

Looking at their starting lineup, this looks like Malik Hall would’ve gotten the first crack at defending Miller if he was healthy, but I expect we will see Joey Hauser and Pierre Brooks on him. I will be intrigued if he is playing on the wing if MSU goes small ball at all with AJ Hoggard, Tyson Walker, and Jaden Akins and seeing if one of them has to cover Miller. This will be a very difficult matchup in general for MSU due to Miller’s size, ability to shoot the three, and ability to put the ball on the floor.

Moving on to the next potential matchup for MSU this would be either UConn or Oregon so let’s dive into the top players of both teams.

Adama Sanogo leads the UConn Huskies as a 6-foot-9, 245-pound center. He leads the Huskies in points, averaging 21.4 points per game over their first five games this season. On top of that, the UConn big man is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game.

Michigan State actually saw him last year in the Battle 4 Atlantis where he had 18 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks. Sanogo dominated that game against MSU last year, but the Spartans were able to come up with the victory. He will be a difficult guard for Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, and Carson Cooper due to Sanogo adding a 3-point jumper to his arsenal this year. He is a difficult cover due to being a force inside and now being able to step out for the 3-pointer.

N’Faly Dante leads the Oregon team as a 6-foot-11 senior center who averages 14.8 points and 9 rebounds. N’Faly does most of his work around the rim due to lobs and drop-offs from the guards. He is always looking for the put-back dunks and can do some damage in the mid-range but that is not traditionally his game. Dante does have a decent post game when going up against smaller opponents and likes to go to his right-handed hook shot is his go-to move with the back to the basket.

Sissoko and the other MSU centers should be able to defend N’Faly really well due to most of his points coming off drop-offs, lobs, and offensive rebounds.

Looking at the other side of the bracket, the other four teams that MSU could see are Portland, Iowa State, Villanova, and North Carolina. I believe this MSU team should not see Portland due to Portland most likely being in the seventh-place game, so either the Spartans have fallen apart from what we have seen at the start of this season in this tournament or Portland has upset some teams in this tournament and will be a massive surprise.

I also will skip the preview of the Villanova team that Michigan State just beat in the Gavitt Games just a few days ago.

Moving on to the Iowa State Cyclones; the best player for Iowa State is Jaren Holmes who is a transfer from St. Bonaventure in his first season with the Cyclones. Holmes is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior guard that is averaging 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He is an off-the-ball wing who can score at all three levels.

If Michigan State were to play the Cyclones this would be a good matchup for Hoggard and Akins who would both match up physically with Holmes. He is a decent transfer up for the Cyclones but would struggle with Hoggard and Akins’ on-ball defense.

Armando Bacot is one of the best players in the country let alone in this tournament. Bacot is a 6-foot-11 center for the North Carolina Tar Heels. He dominated the NCAA Tournament last year willing his team to the national title game. Bacot is averaging 18.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He is a legitimate national player of the year candidate and looking to lead his team to the title game again. The talented big is great working off the pick and roll as well as a back-to-the-basket player.

This would be an extremely difficult matchup for Sissoko and Kohler due to this being the third big man on the national player of the year candidate.

Caleb Love also sparked this UNC team last year and continues to be a great guard in this Carolina program. Love is a 6-foot-4 guard for North Carolina. He is averaging 17.8 points per game this season while also averaging 5.5 rebounds. Love is a shooting guard and I believe would be a good matchup between Hoggard and Akins defensively.

Obviously, Love is going to get his, but keeping him out of the lane and forcing him to take jump shots would be to MSU’s advantage due to Love only shooting 18.5 percent from three currently on the year.

Michigan State is going to go up against some extremely good players in the PK85 which could cause Michigan State some problems in both the front court and back court. The PK85 is going to test MSU on all sorts of different levels and should be a good test of how good this team can be going forward and if they can sustain the success, they had in the first four games.

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