Preview: Michigan State vs. Indiana - Noah Vonleh & Adreian Payne Face-Off

Ferrell and Harris will face off again Saturday. - USA TODAY Sports

The biggest game of the Big Ten season so far occurs on this Saturday between Indiana and MSU.

By the Numbers:

Indiana

Team

Michigan State

10-4

Record

12-1

Unranked

Rankings

3,5

88

RPI

17

61

BPI

15

46

KenPom

10

54

Sagarin

6

Jan. 4, 2013 - Assembly Hall - Bloomington, Indiana

2:00 PM EST - CBS

Skinny:

This will be the biggest game of the young Big Ten season with MSU on the road to face Indiana and the game will be important for both teams. For the Hoosiers, this will be the first "big" home game of the season. Indiana has yet to record a marquee win after falling late against Illinois on New Year's Eve and this will be a crucial opportunity to record a win over a Top 5 team. The Hoosiers beats the Spartans in their last three matchups and Indiana will be looking to extend that streak.

For the Spartans, this is a must win for different reasons. MSU is predicted to be in the Big Ten title race, which makes every game huge, especially against the "middle" of the Big Ten. With two games against both OSU and Wisconsin awaiting later in the year, winning these types of games is crucial towards a successful conference title bid. Along with this, MSU has not been stellar in their last few games. They did beat Texas on the road a few weeks ago, but weren't as dominant against Penn State as Spartans fans might have hoped. With these factors in mind, MSU is hoping to remain undefeated on the road in 2013-2014.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Indiana

Pos.

Michigan State

Yogi Ferrell

G

Keith Appling

Troy Williams

G

Denzel Valentine

Will Sheehey

G-F

Gary Harris

Jeremy Hollowell

F

Branden Dawson

Noah Vonleh

C

Adreian Payne

(Note: Keep an eye on Indiana's lineup. Not necessarily for the starters, but they have a lot of diverse players that can play multiple positions and move around. Guys like Vonleh could easily slide down a spot.)

Players to Watch:

Noah Vonleh: The player who many have already pegged as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year this season. Vonleh probably fits better as a power forward, but has seen a lot of time at the 5 due to Indiana's lack of frontcourt depth. Vonleh's best skill is his ability to control the boards. He averages 9.5 boards a game. Along with this, he can also score with his 12.3 points per game. If there is a guy on Indiana's roster that will be a threat upfront, it will without a doubt be Vonleh. He already has 6 double-doubles on the year.

Yogi Ferrell: Ferrell is a dynamic point guard that has become Indiana's primary outside shooting threat. Though his offensive contributions were limited last year, he has grown into his role and is shooting 44.4% from outside the arch already this year. The interesting thing to watch will be how Ferrell battles with MSU star guard Keith Appling. Appling is a player that can defensively attack opponents and can get a flurry of turnovers, which has been something Indiana has struggled with this season.

Keith Appling: One of the most prolific players in the conference. Appling has had an interesting career in East Lansing. Though he has put up some great numbers, he hasn't quite made enough plays to back up what the stats say about his game. This year, his assists are up and his turnovers are down. Part of this is having more ballhandlers on the court, but it's a big improvement for one of MSU's most used players. RIght now, he's averaging 15.8 points and 4.8 assists.

Adreian Payne: Arguably the best big man in the Big Ten right now. Payne returned for his senior year and has been incredibly impressive so far this season averaging 17.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He also can make an impact in other parts of his game including as a lengthy defender and shooting outside the arch where he's at 44.4% so far this season. Payne has his flaws and may not be as physically imposing down low as some may hope, but he's a dynamic player that can impact in the game in several different ways.

Staff Comments:

Indiana Perspective by Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit): Indiana comes into this game with a lot riding on the outcome. There are a lot of games that people call "turning points" in a season. Right now, Hoosier fans are hoping that Indiana's turning point is on Saturday and was not earlier in the week in a loss against Illinois. The good news is that Indiana has to be feeling desperate to get a win and the home crowd will feel that too. Assembly Hall is going to be absolutely rocking on Saturday. Now, MSU is a seasoned squad that has faced plenty of tough crowds, but it could be the right mix to finally get Indiana that win it so desperately needs. The problem of course is that MSU is almost certainly the better team in this game. It's going to take almost everything Indiana has to come out with a win, even though both teams have a ton of talent. A win could change the entire direction of the season, but a loss could potentially start a rough backslide. A lot rides on this one.

Illinois Perspective by Tim Conne (@connertp):

After a stellar first half against then number one Kentucky in the season's second game, Michigan State has been very uneven to this point. Brian Snow, the recruiting analyst for Scout, recently tweeted that the "dirty little secret of the season" is that "outside of the first half of the UK game, Michigan St flat out hasn't played well." That hasn't been as true lately: In fact after an unimpressive win over Oakland, Izzo's crew outscored its next four opponents by a robust 0.40 points per possession, which is the equivalent of an 87-59 win (unadjusted for opposition). But Indiana will be a real test in a true road game in a very hostile atmosphere. MSU will be looking to avenge two close losses last year that probably cost the Spartans a share of the B1G title. Bloomington is an very tough place to win and Ken Pomeroy sees the game as more or less of a toss-up, giving MSU a 58% chance of winning. I'm sure it will be close but a couple of things make me like MSU's chances in this one. They will need to keep IU off the offensive glass, which will be one of the key battles of the game. MSU has cleaned up a lot in this area since letting North Carolina grab 39% of their own misses. If they can hold their own here, their 2-point defense, combined with Indiana's turnover-prone ways, may be enough to keep the Hoosiers' offense in check. How well the Spartans match up with Noah Vonleh will be key, as MSU's front-court depth, other than Adreian Payne, has been questionable. At the other end, the big question will be how well MSU shoots. When they're hitting their shots, they're almost impossible to contain. Both teams like to run, especially after rebounds, which will favor the Spartans if the defense can hold its own and the offense can come close to the 53% from 2 and 39% from 3 they've posted so far this season. Gary Harris is starting to round into form after missing some time with an ankle injury and Keith Appling and Branden Dawson also had strong offensive games in the conference opening win over Penn State.

Prediction:

Michigan State is one of the best teams in the country, but on Saturday, I think a fired up Indiana squad hits the Spartans hards and comes out with the win. This is going to make for an exciting game with all the talent and potential on both teams, but the desperation in Indiana makes the difference. Indiana by 3

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