Who: No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (4-0) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1)
What: Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
When: Friday, Nov. 22 (9:30 p.m.)
Where: Brooklyn, N.Y. (Barclays Center)
Fun Fact: First meeting
Michigan State and Virginia Tech will play for the first time ever on Friday.
Matchup to Watch For: Adreian Payne vs. Virginia Tech frontcourt
With the uncertainty on who will emerge at the center position for the Spartans, one thing is for sure in the Spartans’ frontline: MSU big man Adreian Payne is having a monster of a season so far.
Payne, a senior, is averaging 17.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. His ability to stretch the floor has been an issue for defenses, and his height and long wing-span is troubling opponents in the post.
On Friday, however, Payne will be going against a very athletic Hokies frontcourt that has three players — Cadarian Raines, Trevor Thompson and Joey Van Zegeren — that average more than 1.5 blocks per game. As a team, Virginia Tech is averaging 8 blocks per game, and it will be an intriguing matchup to see Payne battling against an array of guys who may be just as athletic as him.
Payne missed Wednesday’s practice with a plantar fasciitis injury, and while Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said Payne will still start Friday, it will be interesting to see if the injury bothers him at all.
X-Factor: MSU forward Branden Dawson
Going against a team with the length and athleticism that Virginia Tech possesses, it will be important that MSU junior forward Branden Dawson, the most athletic Spartan, shows up to play on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-6 Dawson is averaging 9 ppg and 9 rpg, and has looked as athletic as ever despite coming off an ACL injury in 2012. He will be in the trenches for most of Friday’s matchup, and it’s important that someone else, other than Payne, is able to match athleticism with Virginia Tech in the paint.
Prediction: MSU 76, Virginia Tech 64
Note: Below is a video put together by isportsweb’s Ryan Squanda showing various members of the MSU basketball team talking about Friday’s game: