Indiana-Michigan State Preview: Analysis, Point Spread, Prediction, TV Time and Announcers

On Tuesday at 7:00 ET, the 20th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers (22-7, 9-7) return home to host the 5th-ranked Michigan State Spartans (24-5, 13-3) on ESPN.

As always, Jerod, Ryan, and Andy will be here with another episode of The Assembly Call as soon as the game ends with instant analysis and fan reaction.

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Tom Izzo and Tom Crean at Michigan State

IU-Michigan State Gameday Info

IU-Michigan State Preview

Michigan State

The Spartans come in winners of seven straight games after holding Nebraska to just 34 points on Saturday to move to 13-3 in the league.  Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Michigan State can clinch an outright Big Ten Title with a win over Indiana or Ohio State in their final two games.

This year’s MSU squad is among the best defensive teams in the nation.  They rank second in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom and are in the Top 15 in both two- and three-point defense.  The Spartans are also in the Top 20 in defensive rebounding percentage and boast many of the same qualities as some of Tom Izzo’s best teams.  Not surprisingly, Michigan State is the best defensive team in the Big Ten, and they have allowed just three opponents to score over 0.98 points per possession in league play.  In fact, only one team has managed to break the 1.05 mark while eight have scored 0.90 ppp or less.

When these teams first hooked up in East Lansing, the Hoosiers scored 0.98 ppp and lost by 15 points in a game with three sizeable runs.  The Spartans jumped out to an 18-point lead, but IU responded with a 25-2 spurt before surrendering a 20-0 run to Sparty.  So the good news for the Hoosiers is they know they can have success against Michigan State on the offensive end, but they have to sustain their focus and execution for 40 minutes.

Perhaps the bad news for IU is that they allowed 1.21 ppp to Michigan State in that game.  For large stretches of time, the Spartans got whatever they wanted offensively and shot 54.7 percent for the game, including 60 percent from two-point range.  They got to the line 22 times and turned the ball over just nine times.

Draymond Green is the straw that stirs the drink for the Spartans.  For the year, he averages 15.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.9 blocks while showing an improved touch from beyond the arc by hitting 40.2 percent of his triples.  As the stats would indicate, he does a bit of everything for this team, and his versatility will be a touch matchup for Christian Watford or whoever else might draw the assignment.

Guard Keith Appling is the primary backcourt threat for Michigan State.  He has had a breakout sophomore year and was fantastic in the first meeting with 25 points, seven assists, and six rebounds.  Appling’s shooting percentages aren’t all that impressive, but he does a terrific job of getting to the free throw line where he hits over 80 percent.  Victor Oladipo seems the most likely candidate to guard Appling, which should be an entertaining matchup throughout the game.

The Spartans have gotten terrific rebounding and frontcourt play from Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, and Branden Dawson.  Nix has slimmed down a bit and averages 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 18.8 minutes while shooting 56.0 percent from the field.  He sprained his foot against the Huskers though, which has his status in doubt for Tuesday’s game.  As a sophomore, Payne has posted nearly identical numbers to Nix, while Dawson is an explosive athlete who is second on the team in rebounding and third in scoring as a true freshman.  The Hoosiers have to keep these guys off of the offensive glass if they expect to win this game.

Also on the injury front, guard Travis Trice is likely to miss another game with an ankle injury.  Senior Austin Thornton has been playing well in the backcourt of late, and Valpo transfer Brandon Wood also averages nearly nine points this year.

In all, the Spartans have scored at least 1.10 ppp in 11 of their 16 Big Ten games and have been held to less than 1.04 just three times.  In all, Michigan State ranks second in offensive efficiency in the conference.  They are first in offensive rebounding percentage and two-point shooting and are second in effective field goal percentage.  The only key stat where MSU ranks outside of the top half of the league is turnover rate, where their 19.7 mark is seventh in conference play.  Consequently, the Hoosiers will have their hands full on defense.

Indiana

The Hoosiers just played on Sunday, picking up a 19-point win at Minnesota.  Four Hoosiers scored in double figures, led by Victor Oladipo who continued his strong recent play with 12 points and eight rebounds.  Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls broke out of their recent slumps to score 12 points each, and Verdell Jones added 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.  Indiana has now won five of their last six games to move to 9-7 in the Big Ten.

Perhaps more important than those offensive numbers is the fact that the Hoosiers turned in their best defensive performance in league play by holding the Gophers to just 0.79 points per possession.  Even though the IU defense has improved recently, they still rank in the middle of the pack in terms of defensive efficiency in league play.  It is imperative that they limit MSU’s offensive rebounds and prevent the easy baskets that burned them in the first meeting.

As has become a recurring theme, Oladipo has emerged as the team leader in recent weeks.  Since embracing the role of offensive facilitator against Purdue, his aggressiveness and production have flourished.  Over the last six games, he’s averaging 16.0 points and 6.2 rebounds while getting to the line nearly eight times per game.  Jerod even did some research that revealed startling similarities between Oladipo’s numbers over this stretch and Dwyane Wade’s sophomore year at Marquette.  No one is arguing that Oladipo is Wade’s equivalent from a talent perspective, but it does speak to just how well he’s been playing.  Turnovers are the main concern against the Spartans, so Oladipo needs to stay aggressive while limiting his miscues.

It will be interesting to see how Cody Zeller fares in his second game against the rugged Michigan State front line.  In the first matchup, he managed just four points and three rebounds while being plagued by foul trouble.  He was outmuscled by the likes of Nix and Payne, but he has to find a way to be more effective this time around.  Zeller scored just seven points against Minnesota on Sunday, but prior to that game he had been playing some of his best basketball of the season.  He’ll need to use his quickness and mobility to his advantage against the bigger Spartan defenders.

Watford’s play will also be key.  Going into the Minnesota game, he had been held without a field goal in three of his previous five contests.  However, it’s worth noting that Watford has played some of his best games against Michigan State.  He scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first meeting and had 21 points in their only matchup last season.  Watford’s contributions on the glass will be critical in this game, and IU fans would love to see him notch his first double-double since the first game between these two teams.

Indiana’s bench has continued to make positive contributions in virtually every game, and the likes of Derek Elston, Tom Pritchard, Verdell Jones, Matt Roth, and even Remy Abell will need to produce for the Hoosiers to pull off their third win over a Top Five team this season.

While Michigan State boasts the Big Ten’s most efficient defense, IU is the league’s most efficient offensive squad, so something has to give.  They have scored at least 1.10 ppp in five of the last six games and should come in with confidence on that end of the floor.  The Hoosiers have the top-ranked free throw rate in league play, and it will be important for them to improve on the paltry nine attempts they managed in the game in East Lansing.  This matchup also pits the top three-point shooting team in the league against its best three-point defenders, and the Hoosiers will also find it challenging to get second chances on the offensive glass.

Final Thought

Everything about this game should be fantastic.  You can expect a raucous home crowd for the Hoosiers, which will complement a number of intriguing matchups on the floor.  For Indiana, defense and rebounding will be critical.  They gave up far too many uncontested looks in the first meeting, and they have to keep the always physical Spartans off the offensive glass.

On the other end of the floor, IU needs to remain aggressive and put the pressure on Michigan State defensively.  Led by Oladipo, the Hoosiers have done an exceptional job of drawing fouls and have excelled at the free throw line, both of which will be important against the league’s top-rated defense.  Zeller and Watford will have to produce in the frontcourt, while Oladipo needs to balance his aggressiveness with sound decision-making to prevent turnovers and transition baskets.

Expect a close game that will come down to the final minutes where the Hoosiers will be hoping for another dose of late-game magic at Assembly Hall.

**********

Listen to Andy Sunday on The Assembly Call. Follow him on Twitter at @AndyBottoms.



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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