Baylor vs. Michigan State prediction. College basketball odds, picks
Due to a lackluster performance from its frontcourt players, Michigan State finds itself in a challenging position entering Saturdays matchup with No. 6 Baylor in Detroit.
Mady Sissoko and Carson Cooper, who have combined for 7.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, have struggled to make a significant impact at center.
And despite Malik Hall’s commendable efforts, his height (6-foot-8) limits him as a genuine interior presence.
Teams with dominant interior forces have capitalized on Sparty’s frontcourt weaknesses this season.
The Spartans have struggled in post-up situations and offensive rebounding, ranking in the 40th and 25th percentiles, respectively.
Defending against larger wings attacking the rim has also proven to be a challenge.
Offensively, Michigan State has had difficulties generating rim opportunities, often opting for mid-range and unconventional paint looks.
The team’s shooting struggles have added to the woes.
However, there’s a glimmer of hope for the Spartans as they face Baylor, a team known for its guard-heavy approach.
Under Scott Drew, the Bears have emphasized guard play, presenting an opportunity for Michigan State’s talented backcourt, featuring Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard.
Despite the frontcourt struggles, the game against Baylor offers a chance for Michigan State to pull off the upset and end a two-game slide.
Baylor (9-0), with notable victories over Auburn, Florida and Seton Hall, is a guard-heavy team.
While the Bears boast experienced players down low, their primary playmakers are guards RayJ Dennis and freshman standout Ja’Kobe Walter.
Tyson Walker Getty ImagesBaylor’s limited reliance on post-up plays (only 2.4% of possessions) sets the stage for a guard-on-guard matchup.
Not to dismiss the Bears undefeated start, but much of their success has been on an over-reliance on three-pointers.
Per KenPom, Baylor has benefited significantly from three-point shooting luck, making 46% of its shots from beyond the arc while opponents have struggled at 27%.
At some point a regression is coming to close the gap.
Conversely, Michigan State has had a bit of bad luck. Despite shooting under 30% from three, the Spartans are undervalued, with ShotQuality projections indicating a shooting percentage closer to 35%.
And their 4-5 record equates closer to 6-3 based on the quality of shot attempts taken and allowed.
Schematically, the matchup favors Michigan State. The Spartans excel in defending pick-and-roll ball handlers, ranking ninth nationally in PPP allowed.
Baylor’s reliance on ball screens could play into Michigan State’s defensive strengths.
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Moreover, Sparty’s preference for running the floor aligns with Baylor’s vulnerability in transition defense, as the Bears rank 323rd nationally in PPP allowed.
In a mostly guard-centric game, the Spartans have a chance to exploit Baylor’s potential regression and showcase their two-way shooting capabilities.
While larger interior-based teams have exposed Michigan State’s frontcourt, Baylor’s guard-focused approach provides a different challenge.
Saturday’s game in Detroit presents an opportunity for Michigan State to secure a significant win and potentially hand Baylor its first loss of the season.
Pick: Michigan State +3.5 (play to +2)
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