By The Numbers:
January 21, 2014 - Breslin Center - East Lansing, MI
7:00 PM ET - ESPN
The Spartans are off to one of the best starts in school history and are leading the Big Ten conference with a perfect 6-0 record. Though MSU has struggled with injuries this year, they have already recorded wins against teams including Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Texas. They are a Top 5 team in virtually every ranking and there's a reason why. This team is really good. Though Payne is questionable for this game, their lineup is still loaded with talent and they have plenty of depth.
On the other side, Indiana is coming off its most bi-polar week of the season. After upsetting then undefeated Wisconsin at home early in the week, they lost to Northwestern at home. The Wildcats are an improving team, but are a long way from being a quality opponent. In fact, Indiana may have actually done more damage to its resume last week than it gained from that Wisconsin win. Considering this, the Hoosiers need to pull off some upsets to be a serious contender for the NCAA Tournament in March. This is certainly an opportunity.
Projected Starting Lineups:
|Keith Appling||G||Yogi Ferrell|
|Denzel Valentine||G||Evan Gordon|
|Gary Harris||G/F||Will Sheehey|
|Brandan Dawson||F||Troy Williams|
|Adreian Payne||C||Noah Vonleh|
Players to Watch:
Keith Appling - The senior guard is having a great year and actually has scored the most points for the Spartans this season. He has also come up big against top competition like Kentucky, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, where he scored at least 20 points in each game. The other thing that he is doing is holding onto the ball. He is averaging the least amount of turnovers since his freshman year (played 10 minutes less a game). He can attack the hoop, play defense, and dish to teammates. He has a lot of stuff going for him.
Gary Harris - There are a few guys in the Big Ten Player of the Year race and perhaps none more deserving than Harris. He has been great almost all season. He is scoring, rebounding, and assisting his teammates more than his freshman year and he was arguably could have been an NBA 1st round pick last summer. Though his percentage from outside the arch has fallen a tad, he can still tear it up from out there and has the ability to get into the lane. Stopping him may be the most important thing for Indiana to address.
Yogi Ferrell - There is no doubt that the best player on Indiana's roster right now is Ferrell. Though his play this year hasn't been perfect and he has struggled at times with turnovers, he has led the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game and has been able to disperse the ball well with 4.0 assists per game. He has also become Indiana's best deep threat, shooting 41.1% from long range. He has become a diverse offensive threat that can do a ton of damage if allowed. In fact, his poor play against Northwestern probably cost Indiana that game, scoring only 9 points. Regardless, he is a great player that could make a real impact on Tuesday.
Noah Vonleh - Ferrell may be the best player on Indiana's roster right now, but Vonleh is arguably the most important. Indiana has a very thin frontcourt this year and Vonleh has been the one guy who has been able to make a real impact. He has put a strangehold on the Big Ten Freshman of the Year race so far and it's pretty difficult to see anybody coming away with that award right now. He has great athleticism, can shoot the ball, and can defend down low. He has run into some foul trouble this season, but he could have a big night if Payne is out.
Michigan Perspective by Tim Beck: Michigan State enters this rematch undefeated in conference play, winning 10 straight. The first match saw Gary Harris dominate offensively and defensively. He had 26 points and shot 50% from beyond the arc. MSU will be without Adreian Payne this time around but is still firing on all cylinders despite the injury. The key question for me is: can Indiana's Yogi Ferrell go off again like he did against Wisconsin? MSU's defense is better then Wisconsin's and they keep players in front of them. I can't see Ferrell penetrating at will like he did against the Badgers. Keith Appling is still playing like the potential B1G POTY. Branden Dawson had a big game the first time, however, I do not expect to see that again. I expect to see a repeat performance from the Spartans. The only factor I see changing this game is if Indiana is playing their best ball and Michigan State gets guilty of looking ahead to Saturday's match-up with the Wolverines. Tom Izzo will keep his team focused and get the win at home, setting up a big time game on Saturday.
Indiana Perspective by Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit): When most looked at the schedule in preseason, this was slated as a loss for the Hoosiers. As we approach the game, not much differs. This is going to be a very tough game for Indiana to win. In fact, it could possibly be the most difficult game on their schedule all year. However, Indiana has shown they can play with and beat top teams (Wisconsin). Maybe MSU is the best team Indiana has faced this year, but they have already shown they can at least play with them. They were in that first matchup for most of the afternoon until the offense fell apart in the 2nd half. Going on the road is never easy, but IU has nothing to lose in this one. If they win, it could save the season and if they lose, they are exactly where most expected.
Michigan State is one of the best teams in the nation and play well at home. Though they their lone loss occurred at home against North Carolina, Indiana is going to be hard pressed to pull off a win against the Spartans. The Hoosiers will surely be motivated to avoid the season sweep, but this game looks like just a little too much for a young Hoosier team to handle. Michigan State by 12.