Matt Costello is a fine big man in a guard-oriented offense. Much of that can be attributed to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo adjusting his system accordingly when forward extraordinaire Adreian Payne was drafted into the NBA in 2014, as Costello is a pure low post guy and isn’t a strong scorer.
And Costello will have the opportunity to be a god among men this weekend, when his Spartans visit Ann Arbor to take on their in-state rival Michigan Wolverines. Michigan may be unranked and struggling this year thanks to more injury issues for star guard Caris LeVert, but the Wolverines are actually 1.5 games ahead of the Spartans in the Big Ten standings, much in part to a three-game losing streak suffered by Michigan State last month.
However, there is one area in which Michigan has struggled: rebounding. The Wolverines only average 32.8 per game, ranking 317th in the nation in that department, and their leading rebounder is 6-foot-1 point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who averages just under six per contest.
This is where Costello comes in. Like Michigan State, Michigan’s offense revolves around the guards and the center is really just a body in the middle who gets rebounds as they come to him. There have been exceptions to the rule in recent years, namely Mitch McGary, but the lack of a dominant big man this season is going to cost Michigan down the stretch and Costello being in a position to dominate this weekend will prove that.
Granted, Costello is only 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, but he is averaging 9.7 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field. Over his last five games, he is averaging 11.4 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field. Going up against a Michigan team that doesn’t play well in the paint means that he could be in for a career game and at this point in the season, that’s what Michigan State needs from him.
Otherwise, teams could simply start to use an approach of old fashioned lockdown defense on Michigan State’s guards and probably win, since it will be known that Costello’s abilities are essentially limited.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports