Michigan St Spartans vs. Butler Bulldogs Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 17th 2023


It’s probably hyperbole to say No. 18 Michigan State is hitting the panic button.

But at the very least, the Spartans (1-2) are not where they want to be after three games as they prepare Friday night’s home contest against Butler (3-0) in East Lansing, Mich.

Ranked No. 4 going into the season, Michigan State lost at home to James Madison to open the season and to Duke on Tuesday in Chicago. A win at home over Southern Indiana was sandwiched between those setbacks.

Michigan State’s offense has been a mess, particularly when it comes to 3-point shooting.

The Spartans are 8 of 50 from 3-point range in three games this year, which has befuddled longtime head coach Tom Izzo.

“We’ve had a hell of a summer and fall shooting the ball and right now, we’re not shooting the ball that well,” Izzo said. “So I’m not going to sit here and cry about it. I’m going to say we got to play better. We got to make better shots.”

Another issue for the Spartans has been the ragged play of senior point guard A.J. Hoggard.

Hoggard has scored just 15 total points this season and had only two points against Duke.

“I like the fact that we walked in the locker room (after the game) and the first thing A.J. says is, ‘If I don’t play better, you should bench me. This is ridiculous,'” Izzo said.

Michigan State will try and get on track against an unbeaten Butler team that is feeling confident.

The Bulldogs have scored 94, 91 and 81 points in their three wins so far this year to start Thad Matta’s second year of his second stint as head coach.

Butler went through a roster overhaul that’s typical in today’s world of college basketball, with only three players back from last year’s squad.

“The biggest thing I like right now is just our togetherness,” Matta said. “We’ve got 11 new guys in that locker room. You can win games in the locker room, and you can lose games. Right now, I like where we are. We can’t let up. We can’t relax.”

Matta and Izzo are familiar rivals from Matta’s run at Ohio State. In their first 22 head-to-head matchups, they were 11-11 and the margin of victory was 6.5 points. By 2017 when Matta was let go by the Buckeyes, he held a 12-16 all-time record in the series.

A guard-oriented squad, so far Butler has been led by transfers Posh Alexander (St. John’s) and DJ Davis (UC Irvine). Both players are averaging 13.7 points per game.

Another transfer for Butler will have a homecoming Friday. Guard Pierre Brooks transferred to Butler after spending the last two years at Michigan State, and he hopes to continue a solid start to the season that’s seen him average 13.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

After three games against lesser opponents, Matta knows the competition is about to ramp up with the next two games, as 2023 Final Four participant Florida Atlantic follows Friday’s game.

“We’re getting ready to go to a stretch here,” Matta said. “It’s on now. I think we’ve done what we’re supposed to do. Now as coaches, we’ve got to keep challenging our guys.”

–Field Level Media

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