What to Expect: Michigan State

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(Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After starting the Big Ten schedule with a 5-1 mark, Indiana continues conference play on Sunday at Assembly Hall against No. 13 Michigan State. The Spartans (17-3, 6-1) have won five straight games, including a 49-47  win at Wisconsin on Jan. 22.

The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1 p.m with Kevin Harlan and Greg Anthony on the call.

While most of the national chatter centers around Indiana and Michigan as the favorites to win the Big Ten, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans arrive in Bloomington for a Sunday matinee with sole possession of first place in the conference.

The departure of Draymond Green, last year’s Big Ten player of the year and now a member of the Golden State Warriors, was a difficult loss for the Spartans, but as we’ve seen for more than a decade now, Izzo has his program right back in contention. Michigan State owns perhaps the most impressive non-conference win in all of college basketball this season over Kansas and has shown a penchant for winning close games as of late. Their last five wins have all come by less than ten points.

PERSONNEL

Like many of the Michigan State teams we’ve seen over Izzo’s tenure in East Lansing, this group of Spartans is built with a strong footprint on defense. It starts in the backcourt with Keith Appling, the junior point guard who was recently added as a captain and was called “RG3 reincarnated” by Izzo. Quarterback comparisons aside, Appling, a former McDonald’s All-American, has emerged as this team’s leader on the floor. While not particularly efficient as a scorer — 46.4 percent on twos and 31.7 percent on threes — Appling gets to the foul line at a high rate (5.2 attempts per game) and boasts a healthy assist rate of 25.6 percent, good for ninth in the Big Ten. He’s also one of the more disruptive perimeter defenders in the conference with the ability to disrupt ball-handlers and create turnovers.

Joining in Appling in the backcourt is Gary Harris, a one-time recruiting target for Indiana and also the state’s Mr. Basketball last season. Harris has been slowed down by a pair of shoulder injuries, but is still putting together a solid freshman campaign. He’s second on the roster in scoring behind Appling at 12.3 points per game. The Hamilton Southeastern product is connecting on close to 39 percent of his threes and has the lowest turnover rate among Spartans regulars. As IU fans are familiar with, Harris is an explosive athlete who can get into the lane and thanks to a very good football career as a wide receiver in high school, he arrived in East Lansing with a Big Ten ready physique.

Two other backcourt regulars with potential to make an impact are freshman Denzel Valentine and sophomore Travis Trice. Valentine has started 15 of 20 games, but recently began coming off the bench. The 6-foot-5 Valentine has nearly identical assist and steal rate numbers to Appling and isn’t much of a threat to score. Trice is more of a 3-point specialist and his success from distance (nearly 42 percent) suggests he should be marked at all times.

Even with Green moving on to a reserve role with the Warriors, Michigan State’s frontcourt prowess is among the league’s best. Branden Dawson, who suffered a torn ACL near the end of his freshman season, has fully recovered and is making his presence felt as an athletic wing who can score around the basket and off of offensive rebounds. Dawson’s offensive rebounding percentage ranks 10th among Big Ten players.

Senior Derrick Nix is a back to the basket scoring threat who does a tremendous job getting to the line and also is a big reason that Michigan State is one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the country. Nix’s free throw rate of 61.2 is a team-best and he’s connecting on close to 72 percent of his attempts, nearly a 20 percent improvement over a season ago.

Junior Adreian Payne, the best shot blocker of the group, is also the Big Ten’s most effective defensive rebounder (25.8 DR%). Payne is long and athletic and getting him into foul trouble in last season’s meeting in Bloomington was a major plus for IU. It’ll be interesting to see how IU defends Payne and Nix with Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. Little used sophomore Alex Gauna or freshman Matt Costello could also be thrust into action if foul trouble arises for Payne or Nix.

POMEROY PREVIEW

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As solid as Michigan State is defensively, to this point, Indiana has been better. In Big Ten play, the Spartans have surrendered .94 points per possession in league play compared to .938 for the Hoosiers. Small gap, but still, it shows just how far Indiana has come defensively this year. This is no longer just an elite offense, it’s a well-balanced group that can play on both ends of the floor.

Free throws have to be a major concern for Izzo entering Sunday’s game. Indiana has only connected on 67.6 of its attempts in Big Ten play, but no team is getting to the line at a higher rate (59.7 percent free throw rate in league play). At some point, it stands to reason that IU will start knocking its free throws down at a higher rate.

Finally, can Michigan State either 1) slow down Indiana down enough to make it a halfcourt game or 2) score enough to keep up if they try to run? Option one is far more logical as the Spartans have been successful in grinding out wins against the likes of Wisconsin and Ohio State.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

Pomeroy’s numbers like Indiana by a final score of 83-73, giving the Hoosiers an 83% chance of a sixth Big Ten win. This is an important game for the Hoosiers to get at home because of the implications it could have in the conference title race. Indiana can’t afford another slip up at home in league play with road games still looming at Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Purdue.

While Zeller’s impact offensively against Penn State isn’t what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, Sunday’s matchups show that he has a chance to substantially impact the game. Neither Nix nor Payne run the floor particularly well and in last year’s game in Bloomington, Zeller quickly put Payne on the bench with foul trouble. Look for Indiana to attempt to establish both Zeller and Watford early with the hopes of getting to the line and then softening up the Spartans on the perimeter.

For Michigan State, if the Spartans can’t at least somewhat control the pace and grind out some baskets late in possessions to demoralize IU’s defense, it’s tough to see them succeed in an environment of trading baskets. Simply put, Indiana is clearly the superior offense of the two and at home, the crowd stands to play a major role in favor of the Hoosiers.

  • http://twitter.com/hoosiersmitty HoosierSmitty

    So Tom Izzo thinks RG3 died? I kid.

    Here’s to hoping Assembly Hall is rocking for the early afternoon game. Kids, don’t get too drunk on Saturday night!

  • http://twitter.com/hoosiersmitty HoosierSmitty

    So Tom Izzo thinks RG3 died? I kid.

    Here’s to hoping Assembly Hall is rocking for the early afternoon game. Kids, don’t get too drunk on Saturday night!

  • BFowler

    I agree, I see a lot of zone early. Especially considering the percentages Appling shoots. Make him chuck from the cheap seats (to quote Shooter from Hoosiers). Although him getting hot is not completely out of the question either….

  • SCHoosier

    It would be cooler to totally ignore him..the if IU gets the win..start chanting his name After the final buzzer goes off!

  • SCHoosier

    I’d put Hulls on the line anytime..he’s human..but he’d do the job.

  • SCHoosier

    Sheheey and Dawson might end up in a cage match..which will would quickly lose:) so just take him to the hole Will.

  • Kenneth234

    I would always take speed over strength at the small forward position, couple that with their heights being about a wash and it is advantage speed on both ends of the floor.

  • IUJeff

    Obviouly PUke is the last in-state school I’d wish GH to go to, but gotta give ur little brother a crumb once in a while.

    ALL Indiana Mr. Bballs belong at IU or an in-state school. The ones that don’t are no longer hoosiers in my book.

  • Medina_Sod

    This is the most mean-spirited and misplaced reply I have ever seen on ITH. Mike is obviously either a troll, or the type of fan other fans wouldn’t like to have around to reply to the comment above like he did. No one should engage this clown anymore, IMO.

  • Medina_Sod

    This is the most mean-spirited and misplaced reply I have ever seen on ITH. Mike is obviously either a troll, or the type of fan other fans wouldn’t like to have around to reply to the comment above like he did. No one should engage this clown anymore, IMO.

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    The next 5 games are gonna be a big test . Hopefully tomorrow we can take that next step . I don’t think we have played bad but I don’t think we have played at the level expected from this team . Other teams have caught up with us while we have remained about the same . For us to step up I think ….

    * Yogi needs to keep his shot going
    *Will has to remain Will
    *Perea HAS to improve fast ….Cody’s only back up …. (Hanner could be an important key against Mich St. )
    * The rest of the bench has to be productive ….Especially Remy
    *And C-Wat Has to remain consistent .

  • IUMIKE1

    And if they go, “down there”, well let’s just say no further explanation need be put out there as to how they should be viewed.

    I’m looking at you Trey Lyles, anywhere but “there”.

  • IUMIKE1

    Yea, that would be a little bit of a different type of rub. You know he is expecting the harassment and then at the end when he starts thinking that he got in and back out without having to hear it, bam, he gets it at the same time as he’s thinking about being perturbed that they lost. I like that. Maybe even mix in a Gary Who chant, with the emphasis on who or something along that line too. Wait a minute is there a couple of open seats in the student section I think we’re on to something here SC. lol

  • IUMIKE1

    Agree with all points except, IMHO, CW has to become consistent overall this season, before he can remain consistent.

  • IUMIKE1

    Also agree, not IF we play zone but rather how much and how quickly we play zone will be one of the top things I’m waiting to see. Although one of the drawbacks to playing zone is, unless a team is really accomplished at playing zone, which we aren’t, it makes it harder to rebound defensively and MSt is, as always, an excellent rebounding team. I”m with you also in thinking that we give Appling a heat check early to see if the long ball is gonna be falling for him tomorrow, but if he’s hitting from there, then shut him off from it in a hurry cause the last thing we want is for him to get on a roll from deep.

  • IUMIKE1

    Also agree, not IF we play zone but rather how much and how quickly we play zone will be one of the top things I’m waiting to see. Although one of the drawbacks to playing zone is, unless a team is really accomplished at playing zone, which we aren’t, it makes it harder to rebound defensively and MSt is, as always, an excellent rebounding team. I”m with you also in thinking that we give Appling a heat check early to see if the long ball is gonna be falling for him tomorrow, but if he’s hitting from there, then shut him off from it in a hurry cause the last thing we want is for him to get on a roll from deep.

  • Tom S

    There’s not much he can do now about the early games, but he’s actually been pretty consistent in the 6 B1G games, at least from a scoring / rebounding standpoint.

  • PDXHoosier

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the best player in Indiana should go to IU as well. But it doesn’t always happen. since 2000, 5 of 13 have gone to IU. Good percentage, but we’ve missed out on some good ones. Purdont hasn’t had one since 1991 (guess who that was?)

  • IUMIKE1

    CW plays a big part in how well IU plays and we, a lot of the time, go as he goes and for us to be successful in conference play against the upper echelon teams, as well as in the Big Dance, he has to be consistently good, not great but good. I know there isn’t a player out there that doesn’t have an off night at least once in a great while but his seem to come about more than once in a great while. He seems to have the capability of being consistent but, IMHO, his play does not meet the true definition of “consistent”, so far this season. When one talks about consistency you can’t just exclude the biggest part of the sample size (the season up to this point) cause you can’t do anything about it or change it. Plus you have to remember that the toughest part of our schedule, by far, is yet to come. He has a decent rebounding average I won’t argue that but consistent to me means that he doesn’t grab a bunch one game and follow that game up with a 1 or 2 rebound game followed by a 3 or 4 rebound game. When it comes to his scoring it seems to me to be kind of the same story. He has a decent average but it seems like his big games, scoring wise, are usually sandwiched between or around a below average to well below average game. He is shooting 42% from 2pt range which isn’t bad but if you threw all of his blocked shots into the equation I would be willing to bet that his average would be somewhere in the mid to high 30’s. Plus the vast majority of the time (as with anyone that gets their shot blocked) it turns out to be more or less a turnover as well as not even getting a shot attempt on that possession.

  • IUMIKE1

    CW plays a big part in how well IU plays and we, a lot of the time, go as he goes and for us to be successful in conference play against the upper echelon teams, as well as in the Big Dance, he has to be consistently good, not great but good. I know there isn’t a player out there that doesn’t have an off night at least once in a great while but his seem to come about more than once in a great while. He seems to have the capability of being consistent but, IMHO, his play does not meet the true definition of “consistent”, so far this season. When one talks about consistency you can’t just exclude the biggest part of the sample size (the season up to this point) cause you can’t do anything about it or change it. Plus you have to remember that the toughest part of our schedule, by far, is yet to come. He has a decent rebounding average I won’t argue that but consistent to me means that he doesn’t grab a bunch one game and follow that game up with a 1 or 2 rebound game followed by a 3 or 4 rebound game. When it comes to his scoring it seems to me to be kind of the same story. He has a decent average but it seems like his big games, scoring wise, are usually sandwiched between or around a below average to well below average game. He is shooting 42% from 2pt range which isn’t bad but if you threw all of his blocked shots into the equation I would be willing to bet that his average would be somewhere in the mid to high 30’s. Plus the vast majority of the time (as with anyone that gets their shot blocked) it turns out to be more or less a turnover as well as not even getting a shot attempt on that possession.

  • WatchingYogi_atYogis

    I’m pretty sure that shots that get blocked do count as missed attempts. At least they appear to looking at the play-by-plays. But still, factoring in those blocked attempts has been one reason that Watford has almost always shot better from three than two. He’s just not the strongest finisher. However, you factor in all the times he gets fouled going into the teeth of the defense and he starts to look like a much more efficient scorer. He’s made more free throws than anyone else on the team but Zeller has even attempted on the season. Not really arguing with your overall point about his consistency, or that we seem to go as he does, but his game is pretty effective when he does have it going, even if he is getting blocked quite a bit. And it’s a little late in his development to expect anything else.

  • IUfanToby

    Anyone hear anything about why Elson is still not playing? Still having knee issues? I’d rather see him backup CZ than Perea right now.

  • Tom S

    He definitely hasn’t been consistent for the entire season. But the point is that his scoring and rebounding have been reasonably consistent in B1G play. Double figures in points every game, 5 or more rebounds every game. So, at least in my opinion, he’s been pretty consistent over the last 6 games. 7 if you count Jacksonville.

    Again, he can’t now become consistent for the entire season. What he can do is try to maintain the consistency he’s had for the last 7 games.

    Of course, if he wants to break the pattern by going for 22 and 12 tomorrow, I’ll be fine with that. :)

  • marcusgresham

    I can’t begrudge Harris for going to Michigan State. IU was in a numbers crunch on scholarships, so I don’t know how they could have made it work. Izzo is a good coach and MSU is a solid program.
    Also, remember Kevin Ault was Mr. Basketball once and he went to Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State.) Sometimes Mr. Basketball isn’t going to even be good enough to play at IU (obviously not the case with Harris, just making a point.)
    It nauseates me far more to see DeShawn Thomas in scarlet and gray than to see Harris in green and white.

  • marcusgresham

    Going “down there” has been known to cost a guy Mr. Basketball. Ask Shawn Kemp. Maybe Shawn Kemp is the wrong person to reference going “down there.”

  • marcusgresham

    I’d say maybe don’t bust his chops too hard like that when we’ll see him at least one more time this year and who knows how many times in the future.

  • marcusgresham

    I’d say maybe don’t bust his chops too hard like that when we’ll see him at least one more time this year and who knows how many times in the future.

  • marcusgresham

    Eek. Don’t know if I’d have fessed up to that one. I’d have at least said Jerry’s BVD’s. He’s old enough to have people cut him slack on that.

  • marcusgresham

    Your knee BETTER be stable if you’re going to be banging against Payne and Nix. I’d prefer to see Elston out there too, but not at the risk of his availability for the rest of the season.
    I don’t, however, mind if HMP uses his five fouls giving some back to those guys while he is in the game.

  • IUMIKE1

    Interesting. I thought maybe on the ones where the ball had actually left a players hands it might count as a shot but had always figured that since the ball usually doesn’t leave the hands when it is blocked that those type of blocks would not be considered a shot. Maybe him knowing that he rarely, if ever, gets his shot blocked when shooting a 3 has made him subconsciously want to hang around on the perimeter as much as he does instead of getting on the block, sealing his man and calling for the ball. That’s just not his game so I guess at least he is consistent in knowing where he gets his shot blocked the most.

    When he has it going like he is capable of, and we are getting even average play from most everybody else we can play with and are capable of beating any college team out there I believe. Guess that’s why I get so frustrated with him and some of the things he seems to do over and over. Don’t expect him to change a whole lot this late in his college career but then again it’s never too late to start doing something as simple as using a shot fake especially if you are known by your opponents as someone that has a history of being easier to block the shot of than most. With free throw shooting being one of the areas where he really excels and is almost always consistent at it it would be a big help to him and the team as a whole.

  • IUMIKE1

    Ditto that last sentence and in a big way.

    If he is able to maintain the consistency that he has shown as of late then it would go a long way toward making us a lot harder to beat.

  • kwehner

    Sorry about that. I am just getting tired of all the Jordy bashing that many posters have been doing. I don’t think the game hinges on how many minutes Jordy plays, but it may on how many minutes Yogi plays – that is if Yogi is playing well or not. Too many other factors, though. (Watford, Sheehey?) Jordy should play nearly the entire game no matter how many he has scored – the other team knows he’s a weapon and can’t lay off him. And, uh, which podcast? Am I missing something?

  • Geoff_85

    He’s been doing this crap all year.

  • Geoff_85

    Lol, I sure hope you don’t go anywhere without a pack of tissues handy. Your predictions mean so much! Might as well bank a third place finish for IU right now.

  • Geoff_85

    Lol, I sure hope you don’t go anywhere without a pack of tissues handy. Your predictions mean so much! Might as well bank a third place finish for IU right now.

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