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MSU vs. Iowa Preview - Someone Has to Win?

The Spartans and Hawkeyes have been backsliding since their last meeting. On MSU's senior night, one team must win, because basketball games cannot last forever (offer does not apply if said game features Wisconsin).

Matthew Holst






For the first two and a half months of the season, the Spartans had a nearly perfect record at home.  The only blemish was a loss to an inconsistent North Carolina team, which seemed bizarre at the time, but looks only more prescient as time passes. Sure, there were struggles against Columbia and a 17-point collapse against Ohio State in seven minutes, but MSU kept winning, so all continued to be right in the world.

Then Michigan won in the Breslin in late January, and the Spartans have been 2-2 at home since then. The last two home games were losses to Nebraska and Illinois. Very few things involving the last two sentences have been enjoyable.

And while the Spartans' final home game against Iowa might provide some relief in the form of another signpost signaling the end of the season, one can hope that Michigan State will show up ready to play for senior night. It will definitely be the last home game for Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, most likely the last home game as a Spartan for Gary Harris, and it might be the last game in East Lansing in a Spartan uniform for Branden Dawson.

In the midst of the emotions of senior night, the Spartans will face of a Hawkeye team that has been going through a tailspin of their own. Iowa has been 4-4 since they lost to the Spartans in Iowa City more than a month ago, with those losses coming to Ohio State and Wisconsin at home and Minnesota and Indiana on the road.  While that's categorically and aesthetically better than MSU's record in that stretch, I doubt many Iowa fans are taking much pleasure in that fact.

Michigan State can lock up a bye in the Big Ten tournament with a win. What can they do to come away with that win?

  • Shed the funk. The dreaded players-only meeting occurred after the Illinois loss, and at least it sounded like it was productive:
  • Other meetings followed during the week and Spartans said practices have been good, though that didn’t translate to the last game. But Keith Appling shot well Tuesday and called it his best practice in a while "by far." He even spoke up a few times, continuing with the theme of the week.

So they've got that going for them, which is kind of nice. I probably (emphasis on: probably) wouldn't be that upset if the Spartans lost but at least looked energetic on offense and defense doing so.

  • Get defensive boards. Even though they've gone 4-4 since their MSU loss, the Hawkeyes haven't averaged less than a point per possession in any of those eight games. This can (obviously) be attributed to their 4th best offense in NCAA Division One, per KenPom.  They create a good portion of their points by getting 38.0% of their misses, a top 20 number in D1. The Spartans will need to focus on keeping Adam Woodbury, Melsahn Basabe, and Gabe Olaseni off the glass. Fortunately, Woodbury and Olaseni also get called for more than five fouls per 40 minutes, so this might be one case where a tightly-called game could actually help the Spartans.
  • Force it inside. This may be Tom Izzo's most perimeter oriented team.  That said, MSU shot about 43% from two in their loss against Illinois, which (obviously, again) contributed to them scoring 46 points in this game. The Spartans will score more than 46 points in this game, due to Iowa's tempo if nothing else. If they want to score more than Iowa (which would be nice, y'know, because that means the Spartans would win), scoring more points inside the perimeter will cause the outside to open up.
This Michigan State team does have games left in order to create a legacy for itself. This is the last game at home, however, and the last chance to see several Spartans who have served Michigan State well in the past years. While the situation isn't great, that doesn't mean the players haven't been at times, and will hopefully receive a standing ovation as they come off the court around 11:00 PM. Here's to the end of an era, for better and for worse.