Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State basketball's opponent.
No. 3 Michigan State (1-1) will hit the road this week, traveling to take on No. 12 Seton Hall. The Spartans are coming off of a bittersweet win against unranked Binghampton at home Nov. 10.
This week The State News talked to The Setonian's sports editor Tyler Calvaruso to get an insider's perspective on Seton Hall as the Spartans look forward to meeting them in New Jersey on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m.
Q: After it looked as if Myles Powell would be out for an ankle injury, he now is rumored to play this Thursday. Do you think Powell will be able to play at full capacity? How much from an insider's perspective does the team rely on Powell? How does the team compliment him?
A: If Powell plays on Thursday night, he’ll be playing at full capacity. Kevin Willard would not put him on the court at anything less than 100%, even in a game of this magnitude. To say the Pirates rely on Powell offensively would be an understatement. He is the team’s undisputed star and everything runs through him offensively. Even when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, Powell’s movement off the ball keeps defenses occupied and frees up space for Seton Hall’s other players to operate.
As for how Powell’s teammates complimenting him, Seton Hall has a stable of versatile wings and post players. Powell will more often look for his own shot, but he has complete faith in his teammates he will put the ball in their hands without any hesitation.
Q: Do you think Seton Hall is capable of beating a top 5 team without Powell at full-go? As Seton Hall’s first matchup against a ranked team, will there be any changes to the game plan?
A: I think anything is possible on any given night in basketball. With that being said, it’s going to be a tall task for Seton Hall to defeat a top-five opponent if Powell doesn’t play. This team is built to win with Powell on the court, not on the sideline. Losing him turns an already tough game into one that will require the Pirates to turn in a flawless performance in order to win. If Powell plays, the offensive game-plan will remain predicated on him per the usual. If he doesn’t, Willard is going to have to find someone else to run his offense through.
Q: Michigan State relies on Cassius Winston similar to how Seton Hall relies on Powell for big game breaks. How do you think these two will play on the court together?
A: Assuming Powell does play, it’ll be a treat to see he and Winston sharing the floor. You can’t put a price on having two of the elite players in college basketball going at it. With that being said, Powell won’t be the one guarding Winston throughout the night. That responsibility will fall to Quincy McKnight, Seton Hall’s defensive stopper. I’m not sure what Michigan State’s plans are defensively, but Winston vs. Powell will almost certainly not be a defensive matchup on Seton Hall’s end. If Powell is able to play, it’ll be a treat to watch the two battle, even if they’re not directly going at each other every time down the court.
Q: Seton Hall returns 85% of their minutes and 87.7% of their scoring from last season. How does this veteran team help Seton Hall? Is there anyone else, besides Powell, that MSU should look out for?
A: Seton Hall wouldn’t be where it is right now without so many veterans and contributors last season returning. Powell gets all of the love from the national media, but the Pirates feature an extremely talented core, consisting of Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, the aforementioned McKnight, Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu, Romaro Gill, Jared Rhoden and Tyrese Samuel.
Mamukelashvili is the one Michigan State should be wary of whether Powell plays or not. He stepped up when Powell went down against Stony Brook and essentially carried the Pirates to the finish line against the Seawolves. His European stretch-four skillset allows him to beat defenses in a variety of ways. He’s also physical down low on defense and is tough on the glass.
Q: Quincy McKnight stacked up lots of turnovers at Sacred Heart before transferring. How does he look this season? What has he done to become a better caretaker of the ball?
A: McKnight struggled a bit with turnovers at times last season, but he has done his best to clean up his act in that area. In McKnight’s defense, he’s a natural shooting guard tasked with playing point guard. His comfort zone is working off the ball, not as a facilitator. Until last season, that was a role he was relatively unfamiliar with.
Q: What is your score prediction, and why?
A: I have two sets of predictions – One for if Powell plays, one for is he doesn’t. If Powell plays, I think Seton Hall keeps it close throughout the night until Michigan State pulls away in the closing minutes for a 74-67 win. If Powell sits out, I have the Spartans winning 78-65. The Pirates will play hard without Powell, but there’s only so much they can do without him.