What to Expect: Michigan State

  • 01/20/2017 9:38 am in

Indiana returns home this weekend for a Saturday afternoon matchup with Michigan State. The Spartans are 12-7 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play.

The game will be broadcast at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN with Dave Flemming, Dan Dakich and Molly McGrath on the call:

Injuries have already been a major problem this season for Indiana. The situation got worse on Wednesday night at Penn State when the Hoosiers lost OG Anunoby to a knee injury. Anunoby is out indefinitely, which means Indiana is now without one of its most dynamic playmakers on both ends.

Depth was considered a strength of Indiana’s roster in the preseason, but all of the injuries have changed that. Collin Hartman, expected to be the team’s senior leader, hasn’t played all season due to a knee injury. Anunoby missed multiple games earlier in the season with an ankle injury and is now out with the knee injury. Juwan Morgan missed Wednesday’s game at Penn State with a left foot injury. His availability for Saturday remains up in the air.

But the Hoosiers must try to make the best of their situation and what remains on the schedule. Saturday’s game is a chance to climb above .500 in conference play and win a third straight game for the first time since early December.

MEET THE SPARTANS

Given the offseason roster attrition Tom Izzo had to deal with in East Lansing, it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that Michigan State is still figuring things out nearly halfway into conference play.

The Spartans graduated Denzel Valentine, Matt Costello and Bryn Forbes and lost Deyonta Davis early to the NBA. Michigan State is relying heavily on youth as its two leading scorers are freshman.

The headliner is Miles Bridges, a 6-foot-7 forward originally from Flint who was a teammate of Curtis Jones and Thomas Bryant at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Bridges is Michigan State’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per game. In four Big Ten games, he’s 6-of-12 on 3s and 13-of-20 on 2s. Bridges missed seven games with an ankle injury, but appears to be close to 100 percent now. He is turnover prone, but without Anunoby, could be difficult for Indiana to slow down.

Joining Bridges in the starting frontcourt is Nick Ward, a 6-foot-9 freshman. Ward is first in the Big Ten in block percentage in conference games and ranks in the top ten in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom.com. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is a ridiculous 73.8 percent, but putting him on the line isn’t a bad idea if he has a clear path to the basket. Ward is hitting just 55.1 percent of his free throws.

The other froncourt name to know is sophomore Kenny Goins. He’s a low usage offensive player, but is very good on the defensive boards. In just 18.9 minutes per game, Goins is third on the team in rebounding at 4.9 per game.

A defined backcourt and wing rotation is still a work in progress, but it may soon be tightened up. In Big Ten games, the Spartans are regularly playing nine players with two others getting spots minutes.

The starting guards in last weekend’s loss at Ohio State were Eron Harris, Lourawls Nairn and Joshua Langford. Harris is the team’s third leading scorer at 12.1 points per game and is hitting 40 percent of his 3s in Big Ten games. Nairn has been excellent in terms of distributing and taking care of the ball in league play. His assist rate (23.8 percent) is seventh best in the conference and his turnover rate (8.9 percent) is 10th best. Langford, a freshman McDonald’s All-American, is making 44.2 percent of his 3s this season.

Sophomore Matt McQuaid has really struggled with his perimeter shot as he’s just 23-of-70 from deep on the season and 4-of-14 in Big Ten games.

Senior Alvin Ellis is turnover prone, but can knock in the open 3 and is aggressive in looking for his shot.

Cassius Winston played just 11 minutes at Ohio State, but Izzo told Dan Dakich on Wednesday that he’s the “smartest and most savvy” of the team’s freshmen. Winston’s ridiculous assist rate (53.9 percent) currently leads the country. He’s shooting just 30 percent on 3s in Big Ten play.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

Michigan State enters as the Big Ten’s best defense as Penn State was knocked out of the top spot in Wednesday’s loss to the Hoosiers.

The keys to this one for Indiana? Taking care of the ball and rebounding. Michigan State is nearly as turnover prone as Indiana. The Hoosiers may also have an advantage on the offensive glass. Michigan State is a really good defensive rebounding team, but Indiana has proven it can generate second chance points against some of the nation’s best.

Both teams are also very foul prone as Indiana ranks 14th in the conference in opponent free throw rate and Michigan State is 13th.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The KenPom prediction is Indiana by seven, which obviously doesn’t account for the loss of Anunoby and the status of Morgan. Sagarin also likes the Hoosiers by close to seven.

It’s tough to predict how Indiana will adjust to the loss of Anunoby, but it’s also worth noting that just two of Michigan State’s players (Nairn and Ellis) have ever played in Assembly Hall. The crowd should be one of the best of the season and it’s an important game with road trips to Michigan and Northwestern looming next week.

The team that takes care of the ball best and wins the rebounding battle is likely to prevail in a matchup between two of the Big Ten’s most storied programs.

(Photo credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America)

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  • BL4IU

    All about who suits up; must have JM and DD.

  • pcantidote

    I expect that we’ll see an inspired effort from our guys. Really hope JM can go.

  • BigRed74

    If JM is good to go and TB and DD play together in stretches we should be able to defend well and crash the boards. I know lately our Turnover rate is down and I think it is a direct correlation to DG getting more minutes dude can distribute and hit a 3 something Newkirk has not shown he can do on a regular basis. I also don’t think its a coincidence that TB has started playing better by getting better feeds from DG when he is in the game. Time for him to start if you ask me. I would like to see McRoberts get a shot at Michigan Sts freshman and see what he can do to lock him down defensively. LETS BUILD SOME MOMENTUM GO HOOSIERS.

  • mckillio

    I love your optimism, it literally made me feel better about this game.

  • sd chuck

    Hoping for another big game from TB, RJ &JBJ will be solid. If JM plays we’ll be ok. Someone is going to have to step up with quality minutes, maybe a new star will emerge. DD, ZM and FM, somebody step up. DD has to foul less, ZM needs some offense, we usually play 4 against 5 on offense, FM get on the boards!

  • IULore

    This is the kind of game that can get our season back on track. BEAT EM BOIS!!!!

  • BigRed74

    Sarcasm? Lol I just think Michigan St is awful young to come into Assembly Hall and beat us. I know we lost to Nebraska at home but if we come out with intensity we will be fine.

  • vicbert caladipo

    These games where we have a star out just aren’t as fun for me. Sure I’ll watch, but it just won’t be the same without OG. He’s one of a kind. I’ve had this empty feeling ever since he went down. Such a good kid. If I feel this crappy, I can only Imagine how OG feels. Get well brother…

  • kurk81

    We’ve all seen this happen: a key player goes down, and in the immediate aftermath his team pulls together and plays really, really well for a couple of games. Then reality sets in and the team settles into what they are without a key player. I’m looking for an inspired effort against State, and for a few games after. But soon enough, we’ll be wondering ‘what if.’

  • IdahoHoosier

    Too many times a player will have a career day against IU’s lackluster D. Now IU’s most versatile defender is out, JM will be out or possibly limited, and MSU has Miles Bridges (and other talented freshmen). I’m concerned that one or two of MSU’s young men go off tomorrow. I’ll be watching but I’m not hopeful.

  • BL4IU

    Very similar feelings but just going to focus on other players I’ll enjoy watching develop. Freshman are a blast, really like to see TB and JM take it up another notch and I’m also interested to see how FM and ZM grow. Hey, how about that McFly follow? Love to see him get it going.

  • John D Murphy

    I liked the minutes FM got on Wednesday, especially since he has gotten so few this year. ZM plays with intensity but is really a hole in the offense. DD is going to have quit picking up so many cheap fouls. His minutes/foul ratio must improve dramatically if this team is going to salvage this season.

  • John D Murphy

    We have 5 remaining home games (MSU, Mich, PSU, NW, PU)
    and 7 remaining road games (Mich, NW, Wisc, Minn, Iowa, PU, OSU).
    7-5 gives us a winning record in the conference.
    I see 3-2 at home beating Mich, PSU and either MSU or NW
    I see 4-3 on the road beating Mich, Minn, Iowa, OSU

  • IdahoHoosier

    I think that is a very realistic prediction/outlook. I think the B1G is all pretty close though and it could very easily go either direction (more or less wins) real fast.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    I want to see a whole ot more of DG. I thought he played well wednesday and has earned more PT

  • Sandra Wilson

    JM will guard bridges, but needs help…..There is a built in help man, that’s the player that guards Nairn…..Our players could shoot blindfolded better than this kid…..Minn. never put a defensive player on him outside 12 feet…..I hope we’re smart enough to take advantage of a glaring weakness…..This is a game we should win…..Speaking of defense, if you watched Iowa last night, they make us look like an all-star defensive team….What’s happened to the B1G ?

  • PBzeer

    Just because Zach doesn’t score, doesn’t make him a “hole in the offense”. Other than RJ and JBJ who both played 20 more minutes, Z was the only other player with more than 1 assist. He was also, the only player to make the Rebound, Assist, Steal & Block columns with 2 in each. And that doesn’t include the couple of balls he kept in play that led to scores.

    When you’re shorthanded, you need all the hustle you can find.

  • IULore

    This whole season may be ‘what if.’ Colin, OG, JM, lots of tough injuries at bad times.

  • Ole Man

    Honestly think you’re overly optimistic on the road record. I would love for IU to go 3-4 in that span. I see losses at Minn (always a horror show and they have a decent squad this year), NW, Wisc, PUke.
    We MIGHT get by OSU which is beginning to gel and defend their home court. Mich will be a squeaker and Iowa is always tough but should be doable.

  • BMusic

    We’re about to find out if McSwain can play any defense. Because the three guys I’d most want guarding Bridges (Anunoby, Morgan, and yes, Hartman) are in street clothes, and McRoberts is Hartman Lite (no disrespect). Freddie, my man, you better be getting so up into Bridges at this moment that you’re answering his cell phone.

  • Piker

    The crowd will be important. Come on kids let em have it….the whole game. Don’t let up.

  • Piker

    Forgot to add…Love the picture Alex, hope to see alot of that.

  • With OG out, one of two things is going to happen, I think. The team gels like it did last season when JBJ went down, and some players step up and play in a way we haven’t seen so far. In that case, perhaps we’re pleasantly surprised. Or, nobody steps up to take OG’s place as the heart of the defense, and the season completely unravels. I don’t think there will be any middle ground.

  • Fifer39

    Well I certainly hope the team doesn’t take that attitude! Time to play with a chip on our shoulder and with a next man up mentality. Coach has got to convince them they’ve got the talent and for some of them they’re just going to have to learn in the deep end. We’ve been dealt a couple of cruel blows but it doesn’t need to define our season. And don’t limp into this – smack them in the mouth (not literally!) from the outset and plan on keeping it going for 40 minutes. C’mon!

  • Fifer39

    Pleasantly surprised?!!!! If this group grinds me out a win tomorrow I will be proud as a new dad and hollering the house down. (Which will wake everyone up and I’ll be in the doghouse all of Sunday – but it’ll be worth it!!)

  • I hear you, but I was really referring to the entire season. I can see a strong game tomorrow at home with the crowd cheering — that would be a natural emotional response to OG’s injury. However, what happens over the long term? That’s what I’m waiting to see — who steps up to fill OG’s shoes? Will anyone do so? That will determine, IMO, how we’re all feeling at the end of the season.

  • IU_Nation

    Is Juwan officially out tomorrow? I thought he was day-to-day but maybe you are right? I don’t know

  • SCHoosier

    No way is IU favored in this game (or should be). If Morgan is back might be a toss up..if he’s not..tell me who’s going to guard Bridges?

  • Fifer39

    With everything going on I guess I’m in the cliched ‘one game at a time’ mindset. The team needs to not be worrying about the B1G, tourney seeding, or even making it there. Don’t need to be putting anymore pressure on themselves, just focus on what they can control for now. Looks like plenty of us on here who’ll do the worryin’!

  • Yeah, fretting is our job, not theirs.

  • Piker

    That’s your argument a freshman bridges? Don’t see that as the deciding factor but the game will tell.