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What We Learned: Michigan State Spartans 63, Indiana Hoosiers 60

Closing thoughts on the Big Ten’s nightcap.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Indiana Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans shot efficiently and played well throughout en route to another tight Big Ten victory. They are now the third team in the conference to reach 10 wins in league play. However, they still sit at third place in the conference behind undefeated Purdue and Ohio State also.

Their win this evening over the faltering Indiana Hoosiers only furthers the build up of the Spartans game versus Purdue on next Saturday. For Indiana, it is their fourth straight loss in conference play. They have now gone from 5-3 in the Big Ten to 5-7, seemingly squashing their chances of an NCAA Tournament bid.

Here are some closing thoughts in the Spartans 63-60 victory.

What We Learned

1. Jaren Jackson Jr. may end up being the X-factor for Michigan State.

Sure, Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges, and Nick Ward are the core that makes Michigan State so successful. Yet, it is the freshman Jackson who may be the player who ends up making the clutch play in the postseason. Outside of Ward, he is the most efficient offensive producer Tom Izzo has currently. This shows that he can be relied upon down the stretch in games.

Also, take into account Jackson’s ability to block shots at such a high level. In this game alone, he had six blocked shots, in the first half. He already averages three blocks per game, which leads the Big Ten and is top five in the country. Roll his efficiency offensively into that and you have one the more valuable assets to Michigan State.

He may not be the player who dominated every minute of the game, but Jaren Jackson Jr. has big play capability. Whether that is a timely bucket of shot block, only time will tell.

2. Indiana fell from grace so quickly.

It seems that only a few weeks ago we were entertaining the idea of Indiana squeaking into the the NCAA Tournament. They had a decent 5-3 mark in the Big Ten and were coming off a nice win over Maryland. Since that game they have dropped the last four contests. While three of those four were against ranked opponents, they did lose the other game to Illinois, one of the worst teams in the conference.

This struggle has not been due to a lack of poor play either, their opponents were just plain better. Even in their loss to Illinois, which will be characterized as a bad one, the Hoosiers shot 56 percent in that game. Ultimately, it was 18 turnovers that were their undoing.

While we once thought Indiana had a real chance of sliding into the NCAA Tournament, that thought is no more.

3. Michigan State is sitting in prime striking position.

Heading into a game against Iowa on Tuesday, Michigan State has to be looking ahead to their date with Purdue next Saturday, The game will surely determine who has the edge to take the Big Ten Tournament, which is not too far off by the way. Obviously, it would be completely misguided to take Iowa for granted, especially on the road. However, the Boilermakers have to be on the radar.

Outside of their game against Purdue, the rest of the Spartans schedule plays into their favor quite nicely. After the Purdue game, Michigan State has games left against Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, and Wisconsin. All of those contests are completely in the Spartans favor. If they can beat Purdue, who looked bad at times against Rutgers, the rest of their season may be a breeze.

Overall

Michigan State now heads to Iowa for a date with the lowly Hawkeyes on Tuesday. The Spartans will need to be careful not to look to their next game, against Purdue. Though that monumental match-up is surely in the back of their minds, they cannot come out slow against Iowa. The Hawkeyes do have the talent to upend teams if they are not focused.

As for Indiana, they go East for a game against Rutgers on Monday. Though the Scarlet Knights looked impressive against Purdue, this is still a favorable match-up for the Hoosiers. They will look to snap that four game losing streak on the road.