Indiana (6-22 overall, 1-15 in conference)
Why Indiana Could Win
1) Rebounding - This clearly is Indiana's strength. Currently, they are fourth in the conference in rebounding margin at +2. Compared to Michigan State's +11, however, the Hoosiers appear
2) Motivation - Indiana is coming off a great game at Penn State where they only lost by 3. Coming off of one of their worst years ever, this is one of the biggest games that they have all year. They are playing the Spartans at home with a chance for a big upset that they hope can carry over to next season.
3) Confidence - After their competitive first half against the Spartans earlier in the year, I am sure that Indiana thinks that they can hang with Michigan State. That game was much closer than the final score indicated and if the Hoosiers have a few things go their way, they will be in this game.
4) Assembly Hall - Once again, this is another venue where the Spartans have not played very well in recent years. Tom Izzo is only 2-9 in Bloomington and hasn't won at Assembly Hall in six years. I'm sure the place will be rocking since they are hosting the Big Ten champs.
Michigan State Keys to Victory
1) Efficient Offense - In their first meeting, Michigan State's offense struggled in the first half. They got off to a slow start and allowed Indiana to hang around. Kalin Lucas did not shoot the ball well as he finished 4-15. Durrell Summers also finished 1-11 including 0-8 from the 3-point line. Since that game, however, Tom Izzo has shifted the focus of the offense and has emphasized getting the ball into the post. The Spartans should be able to dominate in the paint so look for a lot of touches for Goran Suton and Delvon Roe.
2) Rebounding - As this is Indiana's strength, we will have to counter it and show them why we lead the Big Ten in this category. By cleaning up the glass, we will limit Indiana's offensive opportunities.
3) Perimeter Defense - Indiana is not a bad three-point shooting team. Within the Big Ten season, they are shooting just over 35% from distance. It will be important for Michigan State to defend the three-point shot as I think it is an essential aspect of the game that the Hoosiers will need to beat a more talented team like the Spartans.
I said this yesterday, but today's matchup against Indiana is the ultimate trap game. The Hoosiers fall near the bottom in almost every conference statistic and are obviously outmanned as their roster is filled with numerous first year and junior college transfer players. With that being said, they still have a shot at beating us. Crazier things have happened. I would argue that losing to Northwestern at home was less likely to happen than Indiana's chances of beating us down in Bloomington. Sure, Northwestern is the better team, but we were playing at home in a building where we never lose. Tonight, we play a worse team, but in a building where we struggle to win despite normally having a better team and we are doing so on only one day of rest.
In the end, I think that Spartans have too much talent to lose against Tom Crean's team. Indiana will play with passion, but I think the Spartans know that tonight is a must win game. They don't want their chances of winning an outright title to come down to the season finale against Purdue in the Breslin Center. Tonight is the night we get it done.
Michigan State over Indiana 77-58.
Other Michigan State Notes
1) Free Press Compares Spartans to '00 Team - The link can be found here. This is ridiculous. I'll tell you right now, that even if this team pulls off a miracle and somehow wins a national title this year, they won't compare to the 2000 team. Not only are they not as tough, they also lack the talent that the 2000 team had. That team had Jason Richardson coming off of the bench! This is a classic example of how a less competitive Big Ten is making Spartan fans think that our team is better than we actually are.
2) The Bleacher Report Ranks Top 5 Spartan Tournament Games - The link is here. It's not a bad list. Here's my own since Tom Izzo has been coach.
- #5 - Duke vs. Michigan State 2005 - Just because it was Duke and no one ever thought we would win that game. Maurice Ager's dunk over J.J. Reddick was classic
- #4 - Michigan State vs. Princeton 1998 - This was the victory that started it all. The Tigers came into the game 27-1 with their only loss coming to number one seed North Carolina earlier in the year. I was there in person and remember it clearly. The best was how the Spartans were winning by 2 with 40 seconds left and Mateen jacked up a horrible 22-foot three that miraculously went in. The rest was history.
- #3 - Kentucky vs. Michigan State 2005 - The Spartans upset the Wildcats, but almost blew a late lead as Kentucky forced overtime on Patrick Sparks' three-pointer at the buzzer.
- #2 - Iowa State vs. Michigan State 2000 - I still feel like we beat a better team that day. The best part was Mo Pete's back door alley-oop play to win the game. Why don't we run that anymore?
- #1 - Florida vs. Michigan State 2000. The basketball wasn't that great, but the dramatics of Mateen and winning the championship was priceless.
"IU has clinched 11th place in the conference." - hoosierreport.blogspot.com
I thought that this was pretty funny since it is written so matter of fact.
Tomorrow: Indiana Post Game