For the first time in more than a month Indiana’s students will be on campus for a home basketball game.
They will be rewarded for the long wait as one of the best teams in the country visits Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Michigan State will arrive in Bloomington with revenge on their minds, but to do it they will have to overcome what should be an electric environment at Indiana.
The Hoosiers swept MSU last year, but it was the Spartans who had the last laugh as they advanced to the Final Four. This year both teams are looking to solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament as they navigate a uniquely challenging Big Ten slate.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
No. 9/11 Michigan State (14-4, 6-1) at Indiana (14-4, 4-3)
- Tip time: Thursday / 8:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
- Television: FS1 (Stream)
- Series: Indiana leads 70-55 (Last meeting: Indiana won 63-62 in 2019 at Bloomington)
- Point Spread: Vegas likes Michigan State by around 3 points. KenPom likes Michigan State by 1.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Michigan State Statistical Leaders
- Cassius Winston (G) 18.1 ppg
- Xavier Tillman (F) 13.9 ppg
- Xavier Tillman (F) 10.0 rpg
- Marcus Bingham, Jr. (F) 4.7 rpg
- Cassius Winston (G) 6.1 apg
- Aaron Henry (G) 3.1 apg
A look at KenPom No. 8 Michigan State’s noteworthy metrics
- The Big Ten’s Best — With the No. 8 adjusted offense and No. 26 adjusted defense, the Spartans are currently the league’s best overall team according to KenPom, coming in at No. 8.
- Making you earn it — The Spartans force an average possession of 18.2 seconds, which is a top 50 metric nationally. The shots teams are eventually getting aren’t falling at a high rate. MSU is limiting the opposition to a 42.6 percent effective field goal percentage which comes in at No. 5 in the country. More fundamental than aggressive, MSU only forces turnovers on 16.4 percent of possessions which comes in at No. 327 nationally.
- Winston the facilitator — With their All-American point guard running the show, the Spartans are the best team in the country when it comes to generating assists. 68.7 percent of MSU’s makes are assisted.
- Second chances — When they miss, MSU is there for offensive rebounds 35.3 percent of the time. That’s good for No. 20 nationally.
- Miller, Green, Durham Preview Michigan State
- Izzo Previews Indiana
- Indiana’s best home wins over Izzo teams
TRYING TO OUT MICHIGAN STATE THE SPARTANS
Rebounding and the transition game have been the backbone of Michigan State basketball since head coach Tom Izzo took over the program 25 years ago.
If you are going to beat the Spartans, you have to be better than they are at what they do best.
“You have to have the utmost respect for Michigan State’s program,” IU head coach Archie Miller said on Wednesday. “And Michigan State’s sustained success has really correlated to the rebounding game. That’s part of the game within the game when you play them.”
Despite putting much smaller teams on the court, Indiana has won the rebounding margin in each of the last three meetings with MSU, including a series sweep in 2019.
Miller knows that if he doesn’t have his team ready to battle on the boards, it is lights out before you even show up.
“Maybe by chance, maybe just by, here recently we have had some success (against MSU), but like if you don’t rebound, the game is over when you play them right away,” Miller said. “So you have to understand sort of the rules of the game. When you play Michigan State, in my opinion, it starts on the glass and then it moves into transition.
“They’re great on the glass, they’re great in transition, and if you can’t handle those two things, you’re going to get beat, and in some ways you’re going to get beat pretty good because they’re bringing it every single game, that’s what they do, that’s who they are, and that’s why they’re successful.”
Both the Hoosiers and Spartans are elite this year on the boards.
Michigan State is +10.1 in rebounding margin per game, and Indiana is +9.1. Both figures rank in the top ten nationally.
Indiana won’t have to try to battle MSU on the glass with a smaller team, but they will have to bring the right mindset.
“For our guys, I think this team, especially this year, has had to have a rebounding mentality,” Miller said. “We have a bigger team and it’s got to be important to us as well and that will be a huge deal in the game is can you hang in on the glass on both ends of the floor.”
Michigan State is particularly long in its backcourt and on the wing which should put added pressure on Indiana’s guards to box out.
“Our perimeter guys have their work really cut out for them and I don’t think our perimeter guys have really answered the bell the way that we have needed them to so far this season on the glass, whether that’s just being able to be physical and block out and keep your guy off or being able to go get some clean ones on your own,” Miller said.
SLOWING WINSTON TAKES A VILLAGE
It is no secret — MSU point guard Cassius Winston is the straw that stirs the Spartans. Miller referred to him as the “premier point guard in college basketball,” and that doesn’t seem like an overstatement.
Of course that means Indiana’s guards will have their hands full trying to slow down last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year. And they know it.
“He gets everybody involved, he leads the charge for them,” junior guard Al Durham said. “I feel like he’s, like, their motor, how they go, so just him being a key player for them, he’s like the key, the head of the snake for them, I would say.”
Winston had two strong performances against IU last year. He had 26 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in East Lansing, and then 20 points and 11 assists in Bloomington.
Michigan State runs what seems like a never ending series of ball screens as Winston patiently probes for openings.
“He’s real ball-dominant,” senior guard Devonte Green said. “He has the ball in his hands a lot and you’re going to have to come off a lot of screens, guard him in the ball screen. And I mean, he’s patient and he knows how to find his teammates.”
Winston has struggled in Michigan State’s last two games, committing 14 turnovers while making just 7-of-25 shots. Indiana also has something they didn’t have during last year’s meetings — rim protection. The 6-foot-1 point guard got downhill on Indiana a lot last year and was able to score around the basket. Seven of his eight made baskets from the field were in the paint in the second meeting in Bloomington.
Although Indiana was able to beat MSU twice last year while Winston had strong games, they know that letting the All-American run wild is a dangerous formula.
If the Hoosiers are to slow Winston down this time, Green sees a total team effort as the key.
“It’s going to take five people to guard him and the ball screens that they run and everybody has to be locked in and doing their job in order for it to work,” Green said.
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