RadioSpartan Sports Network
After finally getting a break, MSU returns to action by traveling to Bloomington to face Indiana.
The Hoosiers came in as a national title favorite and were No. 1 before a loss to Butler in Indianapolis. Then they lost at home to Wisconsin two weeks ago. They've struggled of late, but still have the firepower to be one of the best teams in the country, ranked No. 2 in KenPom. They haven't shown much on the road, but this game is at home, and they've fixed the defense.
MSU is atop the Big Ten standings at 6-1, but it will be tough to stay on top as a rough conference slate continues. A year ago, MSU went to Bloomington with a chance to clinch an outright Big Ten title, but the patented blitz from the Hoosiers put MSU in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
MSU will be wearing alternate Nike "Hyper Elite" jerseys. I'm fine with the bronze, but I hate the look of the logo on the front.
Michigan State to wear these new Nike uniforms v. IU Sunday. Purists won't like 'em, but I do. Players will, too. twitter.com/JayBilas/statu…— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 24, 2013
MSU loves to run when it can, but it might be best to slow this game down, as Wisconsin did. Indiana can run better and has more depth than MSU.
The Hoosiers are No. 4 in adjO, with a 56.6 eFG% (No. 3). They shoot 53.6 percent on 2s (No. 17) and 42.2 percent on 3s (No. 3). There isn't really a weakness in this offense. They can score inside and outside with general ease.
There's no shortage of options. Eight active players average at least 11 minutes (Maurice Creek is injured) and none is over 29 minutes. Of course, it starts with Cody Zeller inside. His 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds lead the team. His offensive rating of 125.9 is No. 45 in the county. Zeller is the only IU player with a usage rate higher than 24 percent (24.8).
Elsewhere, Victor Oladipo (13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 steals) has added an outside shooting game to his repertoire (55 percent on 3s) and can still drive to the hoop with the best of them, hitting 66 percent of all his shots. Freshman Yogi Ferrell runs the point most of the time, averaging 7.1 points, 4.6 assists and 2.9 rebounds. There's also Christian Watford (12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds), Jordan Hulls (11.2 points, 3.3 assists, 50 percent on 3s), Will Sheehey (10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds). Like I said, a lot of production in a lot of spots.
Adreian Payne will probably be matched up with Watford, while Nix battles Zeller inside. Keith Appling on Ferrell, Gary Harris on Hulls and Branden Dawson on Oladipo. That last matchup (if that's how it goes) will be key. Oladipo had 13 points against MSU in Bloomington, going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line because MSU couldn't stop him from driving to the hoop.
Gary Harris seems to have hit a freshman wall a bit, but he'll surely be a little more excited playing back in his home state. He took a lot of crap from IU fans after winning Indiana's Mr. Basketball over Ferrell.
The Hoosiers also get to the line a ton, shooting one free throw for every two field goal attempts. Given this is in Assembly Hall, expect a big difference between the fouls called on teams in this one.
On defense, this actually is a really good team. The Hoosiers are ranked No. 12 in adjD with an opp eFG% of 42.3 (No. 10). Opponents shoot just 40.7 percent on 2s (No. 9) and 30.1 percent on 3s (No. 42). Opponents are turning it over on 22.1 percent of possessions. These are better numbers than MSU.
On the glass, Indiana grabs 40 percent of its misses, while opponents grab just 28.4 percent. I don't foresee an MSU win without an edge on the glass.
In Butler and Wisconsin, there are two teams that slow things down and play great D. That's what MSU will have to do, even if it's a bit out of character.
KenPom predicts a 73-63 Indiana win, giving MSU a 17 percent chance of winning (they had a 28 percent chance at Wisconsin). I'm going with IU in this one by a decent margin. I see the Hoosiers going on one of their huge first-half runs, and MSU unable to find enough firepower to climb back. If the Spartans are able to win, then they'll certainly be the team to beat in the conference.