IU (17-2, 5-1) host a Michigan State (17-3, 6-1) team that is currently on a seven game win streak. Most recently MSU defeated Ohio State and beat Wisconsin at home, no easy feat.
The Spartans are an interesting team this season. They excel on defense but are inconsistent on offense. They lost their season opener to then No. 23 UConn, 66-62. They then lost to, at the time unranked, Miami 67-59 (but we now know that Miami is capable of smacking around a No. 1 ranked team). Minnesota (at the time ranked No. 9) beat up MSU to open up the Big Ten season.
Let's take a look at where the two teams are statistically (because stats are fun!).
MSU comes in at 7th in the Big Ten in terms of scoring offense, while IU is number one. The two teams rank very high in terms of shooting percentages on both sides of the ball.
We mentioned that the Spartans are a good defensive team and here are some reasons why. They steal the ball a lot, averaging 8.5 per game. They hold opponents to 31 percent shooting from the perimeter.
But even with that excellent defense, MSU has a negative turnover margin at -0.40. It isn't big, but it is enough to make you scratch your head. Usually teams coached by Tom Izzo don't have turnover problems, but with as good a defense as they have it doesn't appear to matter much. On the flip side, IU has a +2 turnover margin.
MSU has been averaging 69.2 points per game, 38.7 rebounds, 14 assists, while shooting 46.4 percent from the field. IU is scoring 83.7 points per game, snagging 40.8 rebounds, 16 assists, and connecting of 50 percent of its shots.
MSU is 17th in the Pomeroy ratings, coming in at 35th on offense and 16th on defense. IU is second and 4th on offense and 12th defensively.
The problem for MSU is consistency on offense. Can they score a lot of points without going for an extended period of time without a field goal and then keep IU from scoring? Probably not. IU has been scoring over one point per possession with regularity where as MSU has been fluctuating.
IU needs to start out hot, a first half similar to that against Minnesota would be fantastic for IU. Need to stay out of foul trouble and avoid extended scoring droughts. IU has to minimize turnovers as Izzo's teams excel at capitalizing on their opponents mistakes.
- Breden Dawson vs Victor Oladipo. If Dawson plays well, the Spartans win. Its been that simple all season for MSU. They have won in spite of him, but he has to get the better of this match-up for MSU to win tomorrow. He's averaging 10.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. He will have his hands full guarding Oladipo who is shooting an insane 66 percent from the field. The winner
- Keith Appling vs Yogi Ferrell. Appling is leading his team in scoring at 14.1 points per game and dishing out 4.3 assists. Ferrell has been playing exceptional defense lately and slowing the Spartans point guard could bring their offense to a grinding halt. Against Penn State, Ferrell had an impressive offensive game, if that continues it could be a long day for MSU.
- Gary Harris vs Jordan Hulls. Harris is averaging 12.3 points per game but has failed to score more than nine points in three of the last four games. With Oladipo probably on Dawson and Ferrell on Appling, the task of guarding Harris will fall to Hulls, who isn't good enough (read: athletic enough) to lock him down. It will probably cut both ways as Hulls will have trouble shedding Harris to get open on offense. If Hulls gets open and is hitting shots, IU is nearly unbeatable.
Ferrell could end up being an x-factor in this game as Harris took Indiana Mr. Basketball from him last year. Ferrell should have won it after leading Park Tudor to three state championship games and winning two of them. Harris never even sniffed a state championship. If Ferrell has revenge on his mind, it could give him an edge.
IU has to get out and control the pace of this game. When IU has lost, or had trouble, its because the other team has dictated the pace of the game. IU has to learn how to impose its will on other teams, even the talented ones.
Winning this game will put either team at the top of the Big Ten, probably for the rest of the season. While neither team has an easy road ahead, a win here would go a long way to building confidence.
IU will have a packed Assembly Hall to help them power past Crean's old mentor and his Michigan State team.
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