This Saturday, the 20th ranked Michigan State Spartans (10-2) will host the Texas Longhorns (7-4) in what will be the Spartans’ final non conference game of the season.
Michigan State and Texas have been common non conference opponents of recent, as this matchup will be the sixth time the two have met in the past 7 years, with last year being the first time the two teams didn’t meet since 2005.
Several of these matchups in the past have featured one or two highly ranked teams while many of the games have come down to the last second as well. The recent series of games all started 2006 when a largely unheralded and unknown Drew Neitzel hit a game winning shot down the lane late to beat the Kevin Durant led Longhorns at Madison Square Garden.
The series continued a year later when freshman Kalin Lucas had a coming out party, scoring 18, helping the Spartans give the the 5th ranked Longhorns their first loss of the season.
The meetings between the two continued to be exciting in 2008 when Durrell Summers nailed a three pointer in the corner in the final seconds to secure another Spartan victory.
The first three matchups were all close, exciting games that came out in Michigan State’s favor but since then, Texas has taken the last two meetings between the two before the series was put on hold last year.
With the series back on for this year, both teams come into this game certainly after having gone through many ups and downs on the season.
For the Spartans, while their 10-2 record may look nice, injuries and turnovers (over 15 of them a game) have forced them into the struggle of finding a consistent rotation of players. This struggle has in turn, caused Michigan State to sputter to disappointing losses against both Connecticut and Miami.
As for Texas, they opened up the season by getting thrashed by Division II Chaminade 73-86 in this years’ Maui Invitation while later suffering close losses to both USC and UCLA, thus starting out the season just 5-4.
However, Texas comes into this game on somewhat of a high note, after upsetting 23rd ranked North Carolina on Wednesday 85-67 and will be looking to continue this streak against a very talented Spartan team Saturday.
When the two teams take the floor Saturday afternoon, the two men the Spartans will need to watch will be the two leading scorers of Sheldon McClellan (15.5 ppg) and Julien Lewis (11.6). But even while the Spartans will need to keep an eye on these guys, neither one of them is really a lights out scorer (McClellan shoots just 36% from the field).
At the end of the day, Michigan State is a lot deeper and a lot better team than Texas from top to bottom. They are better with the bigs with both Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne and also have the advantage at the guard position with both Keith Appling and Gary Harris.
However, this Texas team is still dangerous. They just took down a very talented North Carolina team a few days ago. At times this season, Michigan State has played very sluggish and if the Spartans don’t come to play, they could very well find themselves on the losing end of this one.
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandarunner