MSU Basketball: Spartans leave conference play during Super Bowl weekend

WHO: No. 7 Michigan State (19-2) vs. Georgetown (11-9)

WHAT: Super Saturday Hoops

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 1, at 3 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

WHERE: Madison Square Garden (New York, N.Y.)

FUN FACT: LONG TIME COMING

The last time the Spartans and Hoyas faced off was during the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1986. Michigan State — led by Scott Skiles’ game-high 24 points and five assists — defeated Georgetown 80-68, but went on to lose in the Sweet 16 to first-seeded Kansas, 96-86, in overtime.

The 1986 NCAA Tournament matchup is the only meeting between the two prestigious schools.

MATCHUP TO WATCH FOR: KEITH APPLING VS. MARKEL STARKS

Say what you want about the stellar play of Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris over the past month, but don’t forget about senior point guard Keith Appling who has been conducting the Spartans’ one-way train to AT&T Stadium this season. Appling’s transformation into a true point guard has not only increased his offensive production — averaging 15.4 ppg and 4.9 apg while shooting nearly 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point land — but it has benefited those around him almost as equally as it has benefited him.

Appling will have his hands full on the defensive end with Georgetown senior point guard Markel Starks.  While the Hoyas haven’t played great ball over the past couple of weeks — they’ve lost five straight — Starks has been on a tear offensively. During this current five-game skid for Georgetown, Starks is averaging 19.4 ppg and 4.2 apg. He has been one of very few bright spots for the Hoyas as of late, and the dual between the two senior point guards will be something to watch for on Saturday.

X-FACTOR: MSU FORWARD KENNY KAMINSKI

With Michigan State’s Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson still sidelined with injuries, it’s important that the inexperienced frontcourt of the Spartans continues to improve and develop while they have the opportunity. One of the guys that has the ability to score in bunches in the frontcourt is redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski.

Kenny Kaminski

Kenny Kaminski

Kaminski has abruptly  found himself on the scouting report of opposing teams because of his ability to shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor. The 6-foot-8 long-range gunner from Ohio is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc so far this season, and not only have his strong shooting performances ignited a fire under his own tail, it has boosted the energy of the whole Michigan State team when he’s in the zone.

Kaminski’s ability to spread the floor is huge for Michigan State, and with Georgetown’s opponents shooting 40 percent from downtown over the past five games, Kaminski, and the Spartans, could kick off Super Bowl weekend with a boom if the Hoyas don’t pay close attention to him.

PREDICTION: MSU 75, Georgetown 59