The Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball team is coming off an impressive win in Maui. Notre Dame overcame a 16-point deficit to defeat the #6 Wichita State Shockers, and claim the 2017 Maui Invitational. The schedule does not get any easier, as Mike Brey will lead his team into East Lansing to take on the #3 Michigan State Spartans for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
What you Need to Know:
- Game Time: November 30th, 7:00 p.m. on ESPN
- Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
- Matchup: Notre Dame leads the series 60-35 (Notre Dame won the last meeting in 2014 by 1 point in overtime)
- Current Odds: N/A
- NCAA Tournament Projections: Michigan State #1 seed; Notre Dame #2 seed
Michigan State Details:
- Conference: Big Ten
- Head Coach: Tom Izzo (22nd season; 548- 221 at Michigan State)
- 2017 Record: 5-1
- 2016 Record: 20-15 (10-8 in Big Ten); eliminated in Round of 32
Notre Dame Details:
- Conference: ACC
- Head Coach: Mike Brey (17th season; 388-187 at Notre Dame)
- 2017 Record: 6-0
- 2016 Record: 26-10 (12-6 in ACC); eliminated in the Round of 32
Key Players to Watch:
Bonzie Colson is a preseason All-American. That means he is one of the best 5 players in the entire country, if he continues to play to his potential. He may become the first All-American at Notre Dame since Jerian Grant. Although he is undersized at 6’ 5”, that did not stop him from averaging a double-double last year, and this year through the first 6 games. Many analysts continue to wonder how he keeps this production up. It’s simple; Bonzie plays with heart, has a high basketball IQ, and he can knock down shots from any spot on the floor, a lot of the time fading away.
Matt Farrell is one of the best point guards in the country. In his first 6 games, Farrell is averaging 17.5 ppg and 4.3 apg. It’s a cliché, but Matt plays with some of the most passion and heart of any player in the country. His three-point shooting is lethal, and he is not afraid to shoot with a man in his face.
Miles Bridges headlines the #4 Spartans this season. Along with Bonzie Colson, he too is a preseason All-American. Bridges is averaging 19.7 ppg and 7 rpg for the Spartans on the season. Bridges is only a sophomore and coming in at 6’7” will present a tough challenge for the Irish.
Nick Ward falls just behind Bridges in points per game. Ward is averaging 16.3 ppg along with 5.3 rpg. The 6’8” Forward adds to the size that Michigan State presents. He is also shooting an alarming 76% from the field.
Michigan State Storylines:
Michigan State’s bad record in Challenge. The Spartans are surprisingly only 7-10 all time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. However, the Spartans are 6-2 at the Breslin Center during the series. This will be a pivotal game in the Challenge, as two of the best teams in each conference go toe to toe. Last year the ACC won the challenge easily, defeating the Big Ten 9-5.
The Spartans are 5-1 this season. Michigan State is coming off an impressive win over the reigning national champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels in the PK80 Tournament. This team has Final Four hopes, as many Tom Izzo coached teams have been to in the past. Michigan State’s only loss was by 7 points to an undefeated Duke team. The atmosphere in East Lansing will be hostile and the Spartans will be well prepared.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Final Four type game against Wichita State. In the championship game in Maui, Notre Dame only scored 21 points in the first half against the Shockers. But Mike Brey made the halftime adjustments and the Irish started to cut into the large halftime lead. The Irish eventually cut the lead to just one, as Mike Brey’s perfect out of bounds play opened up Martinas Geben for a dunk. But he was hacked and Geben was able to knock down two clutch free throws to seal the win.
Can the Irish repeat against Sparty? Three years ago, the Irish beat the Spartans in South Bend in an overtime thriller. Back then the Irish were led by two great seniors in Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Mike Brey, led by two seniors once again, hopes to steal a win for the ACC on the road and propel his team to perhaps a top 3 ranking in the country.
Michigan State has Final Four potential. It is early in the year and there has not been a large sample size for either team. When the Spartans are good, the Breslin Center is one of the hardest places to play in the entire country. Michigan State has a completely stacked roster this year. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what the Irish can do against the Big Ten’s best.
If the Irish get off to a slow start like they did against Wichita State, I don’t see them coming back. Notre Dame will have to hit at least 10 three-pointers to get this huge road upset. Mike Brey brings a veteran roster into East Lansing. I think it will be another Final Four type game, but I have the Spartans pulling away in the end.
My Prediction: Michigan State 80 Notre Dame 70