The ACC/BIG-10 challenge continues tonight in South Bend with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hosting the Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo’s Spartans have had one of the toughest non-conference schedules imaginable so it’s safe to say they are battle tested already. We’ll be previewing the game and then going over what side is the best betting play.
Notre Dame enters this match-up with a 5-1 record and off a 12-point loss to St. Bonaventure. Despite having five wins already the Fighting Irish have struggled to put inferior opponents away and won three of their first five non-conference games by single digits despite being double-digit favorites.
Outside of their last game, the Irish had been consistent on offense but so far early in the season defense has been a problem. Notre Dame is allowing an average of 70.2 points per game and ranks 360th in the country in forcing turnovers, creating only an average of 8.5 turnovers a game.
Senior Nate Laszewski is leading the Irish in scoring with 18.2 ppg while shooting 45.8% from three-point range. Notre Dame has a very experienced line-up outside of highly rated recruit JJ Starling who is averaging 12.8 ppg. Tonight will be the first real test for Starling against a veteran Spartans defense.
Michigan State will come in tonight with a 5-2 record, but with their two losses being to Gonzaga and Alabama. Coming out of the non-conference gauntlet they faced to start the season with five wins is incredibly impressive. The veteran backcourt of Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard has been a major key to the Spartans' success.
Walker leads the team in scoring with 15.6 ppg and Hoggard leads the team in assists with 6.6 a game. Joey Hauser has had a nice start to the season shooting 47.2% from three which has helped the Spartans average 73.9 points per game.
Michigan State can currently be found as -1.5 point road favorites and they are my best bet for this game. The Spartans and Fighting Irish have similar offensive and defensive numbers but it’s important to factor in their schedules when looking at these numbers. Michigan State has played Gonzaga, Alabama, Kentucky, Villanova, and Oregon so comparing their numbers to the Irish who played Bowling Green, Lipscomb, and Radford doesn’t give the full picture.
Notre Dame has been unable to rebound on the offensive end, allowing an opponent defensive rebounding percentage of 83.4%. Michigan State will have the advantage on the glass with Mady Sissoko, so not giving the Irish second chance looks gives the Spartans more control of this game.
I like this number for the Spartans, I think they know how to secure a win in late-game scenarios against talented opponents. If this game comes down to the wire it’s proven that the Fighting Irish won’t be able to create a big turnover so I trust Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard to control the game and lead the Spartans to another victory.