If you cut to the core of what has been Michigan State’s biggest issue during the three-game skid that they will try to halt on Saturday against Maryland, it is not all on the offensive end of the floor.
The Spartans hit 11 threes against Nebraska and lost. They made another eight against Wisconsin and lost.
But the issue for Tom Izzo’s team is defense. The one thing that Michigan State has struggled with most of late is the one thing that Maryland perhaps does best -- space the floor -- and they should try to exploit it on Saturday in East Lansing.
Nebraska used Shavon Shields as a power forward and he carried the Cornhuskers, scoring 28 points. Versatile wings Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok combined to score 38 points for Iowa. Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes put 25 on the Spartans in that narrow Badger win.
Maryland can do the same thing.
Jake Layman, Robert Carter, Jr., and Diamond Stone are all mismatches in the front court against less mobile bigs like Deyonta Davis, Matt Costello, and Gavin Schilling. The Terrapins can stretch it from the rim to the three-point line with any one of those three and can mimic what Shields, Hayes, Uthoff, and Jok did to be successful.
All of it starts a little further out, though, with point guard Melo Trimble. Michigan State will be without Tum Tum Nairn on Saturday, which removes their best perimeter defender and the player who would have checked Trimble on the defensive end.
Yes, that is the guy who Trimble famously crossed up last year and hit a step-back three at the end of the first half, but Nairn is a good defender. He is an agitator. Trimble’s job now gets easier as an offensive initiator getting the ball to Layman, Carter, and Stone.
They can space it out more comfortably and he should be able to operate.
Now comes the final part. They have to hit the shots that they create. We saw about as stark a contrast between two games as there can be with one team in college basketball. After putting up 100 points on Ohio State, the offense was ground to a halt against Northwestern.
The Terrapins shot just 23 percent from three on 17 attempts. They will need more on Saturday.