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Michigan State at Indiana Preview -- A Title on the Brink

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28th, 2012, 7:00 PM EST
ONLINE RADIO FEED: Spartan Sports Network

When Michigan State last played Indiana, the year was 2011. The United States Women's Soccer team was making a lively run for the World Cup, everyone wanted "Moves Like Jagger", and a little movie called "Jack and Jill" captured America's heart. The Indiana Hoosiers were riding high with a 12-0 record including a win against Kentucky. If you recall the first match was a game of runs. Michigan State struck first with at 15-2 salvo, Indiana fired back with a 38-11 megarun, but the Spartans landed the final blow with a 20-0 run that helped form the final score, Michigan State 80, Indiana 65. Our initial recap is HYUH if you want the game broken down in further detail.

Since their last meeting Indiana has looked like a talented, but young team. They've had their successes (wins at home against Ohio State, Michigan) and their pratfalls (lost at home to Minnesota, lost on the road to Nebraska). The Hoosiers do have something to play for; with a Wisconsin loss or two they could possibly receive a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. To me (obviously) it feels like Michigan State's stakes are (subjectively) greater -- securing MSU's second sole Big Ten regular season title in four years.

After the jump, three keys to the game.

You've followed me here, so you must want keys. Good think I uh...definitely thought of a few...for you. Here you go?

  • Hey uh, remember when MSU...uh...kept Indiana in check from behind the arc? That was awesome. Besides Matt Roth (who went 2-5, and his primary function on the team, nay, on the planet, is to shoot threes from five feet outside the arc) and Christian Watford (4-6 from three, he single-handedly kept the Hoosiers in the game), no other player had a three for Indiana. This includes Jordan Hulls, a 48% three-point shooter who went 0-4 in the game. The focus is clear -- have Keith Appling perform the same great defensive duties he did last game on Hulls, hope that Dawson's rapidly improving defense keep Watford in check, and Roth...well, he's going to drain threes regardless. He's IU's Craig Moore.
  • Remember when Cody Zeller was supposed to do, like, scoring and stuff, and then he didn't? I think that helped Michigan State win. Zeller had come into the first Michigan State game on a hot streak which stopped against MSU for three reasons: the inability or indifference of Indiana to feed him the ball in the post, the combined defensive prowess of Dereian Paynix, and foul trouble. While it'd be great if Nix and Payne were both back and healthy, Nix might not be as he sat out Sunday's practice with a strained arch in his foot. If he can't go Alex Gauna might see significant playing time, and his defense on Zeller could get dodgy.
  • So like...Michigan State was supposed to turn it over a lot against Indiana, and then they didn't? Sweet. In their last two games, Michigan State has had their lowest turnover percentage (8.3% against Minnesota) and their highest (28.6% against Minnesota). Coincidentaly, MSU's second lowest turnover percentage on the season, 13.6, came against Indiana. I feel like I can copy and paste this statement in every Michigan State (and possibly every other team's) preview ever written, so why break with tradition -- MICHIGAN STATE NEEDS TO HOLD ON TO THE GIT DANG BALL.
This is going to be one heck of a game -- a reborn Indiana with a chance to knock off its third top five ranked opponent in a year against an MSU team looking to lock up a sole regular season championship much like it did three years ago in Assembly Hall. I'm game for a repeat of 2009.