Michigan State is firing on all cylinders to start the season. They started strong against Northern Arizona, then lost to No. 2 Gonzaga by one, and beat No. 4 Kentucky in double overtime. Now Tom Izzo and his squad welcome in the struggling Villanova Wildcats to take part in the Gavitt Games.
This Wildcats team is much different than the Kentucky Wildcats and much different from Villanova teams of the past. Kyle Neptune is in his first year as head coach after taking over for the legendary Jay Wright. To start Neptune’s career, the Wildcats fell to Temple 68-64 and beat Delaware State in a close battle 60-50.
Key players to watch out for on Villanova include redshirt junior forward, Eric Dixon, who had 17 points and seven rebounds in the win over Delaware State. Graduate student Caleb Daniels can be a dangerous force at guard. Daniels struggled in against DSU, but shot the ball well in his previous two games. The 6-4 guard also leads the team in rebounds with 6 a game and 16.7 PPG. Brandon Slater is another forward to look out for at 6-8 in the post and is averaging 12 points and 5.7 rebounds.
For Michigan State, if the Spartans play the way they have to start the season, they should win. Joey Hauser was absolutely balling and has become a great catch and shoot guy when he’s on. The MSU forward had 23 points and 8 rebounds in the win over Kentucky. Though Hauser struggled against Gonzaga look for him to stay hot against Nova.
The biggest thing has been the emergence of Mady Sissoko. Coach Izzo refused to go out in the portal and get another guy to play at the five. It appears he didn’t need to after the way Sissoko has started this season. The forward from Mali, West Africa has had to grind to get the starting job. Now the junior is scoring a casual 16 points against the Wildcats with seven of them coming in overtime. Sissoko will have to continue to play this way in order for MSU to win because they’re so thin at the position.
Finally, for the senior, Malik Hall. Coach Izzo is known for developing his guys into their peaks during their senior seasons. Malik Hall is a leader on and off the court and he had another 20 points against Kentucky. Expect the upperclassmen like Hall, Tyson Walker, and A.J. Hoggard all to have big roles in this game.
Prediction: MSU 74 Villanova 69
Picture credit: The Indianapolis Star