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Michigan State Basketball: Northwestern Preview

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MSU looks to keep its momentum going after last week's win over Maryland

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

Opponent: Northwestern

Location: Evanston, IL

Time: 9:00pm EST

Channel: ESPN

KenPom Line: MSU -4

Scouting report

  • After a solid (and somewhat surprising) freshman season, 6'3" PG Bryant McIntosh has taken the reins for Northwestern. He was fantastic in nonconference play (Northwestern didn't have a great SOS) but has struggled against opponents in B1G play. He has a great assist rate which leads the conference in B1G play but he's struggling with his shot as he's just 6-31 (19.4%) from outside after shooting 25-53 (47%) in nonconference.
  • 6'3" senior Tre Demps averaged 18.5 in the two games against MSU last year and while he's shooting 29% from 3 on the year, he's a much better shooter than what that number would indicate. He doesn't turn it over or really get to the FT line but he has the highest Shot% on the team so expect him to try to create offense.
  • 6'8" freshman Dererk Pardon was a pleasant surprise for Northwestern as the plan was for him to redshirt until the injury to Alex Olah called him into action. Since then he's been lighting it up when he's on the court shooting 73% from the field along with a high free throw rate and offensive rebounding rate. Kenpom's lineup data says that Northwestern only plays one true big at a time so he'll mostly be going up against Costello, Schilling, and Davis.
  • 7'0" senior Alex Olah is back from injury and he's a capable scoring big man who has some range. He had 19 points on 8-11 shooting in his last game against Indiana but it was a blowout so it remains to be seen just how well he fares in just his fourth game back from injury.
  • After that Northwestern mostly has 4 wing/forward role players between 6'5"-6'8" in Aaron Falzon, Nathan Taphorn, Sanjay Lumpkin, and Scottie Lindsey all of whom are capable of hitting threes (especially Falzon and Taphorn). Lumpkin in particular has an extremely low usage but he crashes the glass while being third in minutes behind Demps and McIntosh.

Four Factors

MSU on Offense

MSU on Defense

Things to watch for

  • Who's in the rotation? Bess didn't play in the last game while Clark hasn't played in the past two games. Kenny Goins played in the last game but not in the game before that so it seems as though he and Bess switched based on Maryland's size. That's going to be the big story for today as that 4 spot has been the most in flux this season and that could lead to someone transferring if they're unhappy with their playing time.
  • If MSU can keep it going with Forbes, Harris, and Valentine in the backcourt, does Nairn come off the bench when he returns from injury? MSU's highest ceiling is likely with those three guards playing well as Nairn is a below average shooter at best and Harris at least has the athleticism to be at the same level defensively. There seem to be a lot of questions regarding when Nairn will return but those three learning to play well together could be big down the stretch.
Bottom Line

Michigan State's weakness this season has been defending scoring 4's and Northwestern doesn't have one. Although Northwestern has been solid this season I'm not sure they'll be able to keep up if at least one of Harris and Forbes is playing well alongside MSU's most consistent players in Valentine and Costello.

MSU 75 - Northwestern 67