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Previewing MSU vs. Northwestern

It will be Derrick Nix's final game at the Breslin Center.
It will be Derrick Nix's final game at the Breslin Center.

Game time: 6 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Location: Jack Breslin Student Events Center, East Lansing, Mich.
Online streaming: BTN2Go
Radio: Spartan Sports Network

First things first.

In order for MSU to have a chance to play for a Big Ten share, Michigan has to beat Indiana at 4 p.m. If you're rooting for Indiana so MSU doesn't have a shot, I can't help you, and I feel bad for you. A banner's a banner, and one will likely be in the building on Sunday (though not in the rafters). We'll see if they have a chance to bring it out.

As for seeding, I'll defer to SpartanDan's crazy grid.

MSU's regular season comes to an end as the Northwestern Wildcats come to town. It's the first time MSU and Northwestern have met this season.

It's also the final home game for Derrick Nix. He may have come in as Mr. Basketball and a four-star recruit, but it really has been a pleasure to watch Nix grow as a player and a person over four years. From weight loss, to priorities, to developing a smooth passing ability and post-up game and getting a degree coming from nothing in Detroit, he's represented what college athletics are all about. Here's a story I wrote about him and Garrick Sherman in 2011.

****Here's a fantastic story from Rexrode that everyone should read.***

He's made mistakes along the way, and he probably won't be playing in the NBA, but he's always been a passionate kid and a nice guy, and his post-MSU career should be successful, whatever it is.

As for the game, there really isn't a whole lot to say?

Northwestern comes in on a seven-game losing streak, not reaching 60 points in any of them. They've scored at least 60 just four times in conference play — the last being Feb. 2 — but actually have a 3-1 record when they do.

In Big Ten play, Northwestern is No. 10 in adjO, No. 8 in eFG% (44.9), No. 7 in 3P% (31.5), No. 10 in 2P% (42.9).

Individually, it seems like half the team has missed significant time due to injury. One wouldn't image there's much left in the tank. Among current players, Reggie Hearn leads with 13.4 points, along with 4.3 points. Dave Sobolewski averages 10.2 points and 3.8 assists. In their most recent game, a 66-59 loss to Penn State, Alex Marcotullio had 22 points on 6-for-9 from 3.

They turn the ball over 17.6 percent of the time in B1G play, which is middle of the pack. It's Northwestern, which means backdoor cuts and 3s. Northwestern is No. 7 in the nation and No. 1 in conference play in terms of 3-pointers being a percentage of total points.

Defensively, it's even worse: No. 12 in adjD in Big Ten play, No. 12 in eFG% (49.9), No. 10 in 3P% (34.5), No. 11 in 2P% (49.0), No. 9 in FTR (40.0). They don't force many turnovers or block many shots. The one bright spot is B1G opponents shooting just 64.2 percent on FTs, which leads the nation. The 1-3-1 could cause MSU some fits, but having Branden Dawson and Keith Appling drive into the lane would be good ways to go. If the ball can get into Nix, he should be able to have a good finale.

On the glass, Northwestern is dead last in B1G play in getting offense rebounds (22.9 percent), as well as giving them up (40.9 percent (holy crap)). The Spartans need to own it.

KenPom projects a 69-51 MSU win, giving the Spartans a 96 percent chance. As for the chances of raising a banner, KenPom gives Michigan a 44 percent chance of beating Indiana.

I don't see a Kevin Coble-like performance in this one. Even if Indiana beats Michigan and MSU's game doesn't mean as much, MSU should still cruise in this one, especially if they give a Wisconsin-like effort. If not, then there are major problems. Then again, MSU hasn't had that "WTF!!!??" loss that seems to happen every year.

It would be nice to send Nix off with the standing ovation and logo kiss during the game that MSU missed out on last season.