The Michigan State Spartans are currently on a nine game winning streak. Their last loss was to Michigan in early January (super unfortunate).
The Spartans last traveled to Minnesota where they shot 63.6% from three and blew the Gophers out by 30, winning 87-57.
Now Michigan State heads to Evanston, Illinois to face the Northwestern Wildcats. For this weeks Q&A we brought in Tristan Jung from Inside NU. As always he will be providing us with the best analysis possible.
The Wildcats finished last season 24-12 (10-8 B1G) and tied for fifth place within the conference. During the Big Ten tournament they managed to defeat Rutgers and Maryland before losing in the semifinals. The university then received their first ever NCAA tournament bid as a 8th seed. This season they are 15-12 (6-8 B1G). Do you think the Wildcats finish strong? And possibly make a push in the Big Ten tournament?
We just lost to Rutgers. Rutgers!
Um...Bryant McIntosh, the team’s leader and starting point guard for the last four seasons, appears to have a significant arm injury and missed most of the second half against Rutgers. With him and backup Jordan Ash out, the team is completely rudderless, as seen by the aforementioned loss to Rutgers. He’s questionable for Saturday’s game. Even when playing, McIntosh has been a shadow of his former self, which is bad, because the entire team is focused around his playmaking ability and unique passing talent. Northwestern could sneak one or two games to close out this season, but at this point the NIT would be a gift.
What would it take for the Wildcats to be invited back to the Big Dance this year?
A minor miracle. Winning the Big Ten Tournament is the only option.
Chris Collins is in his fifth year as head coach. Where does the fan base stand with him?
Chris Collins would’ve been completely unassailable a la Pat Fitzgerald if he managed to solidify Northwestern’s success and make the NCAA Tournament. Instead, fans are mostly left puzzled by Collins’ performance this year. He’s had some shockers this season (Indiana, Georgia Tech and Nebraska) where he’s failed to make good adjustments. He’s also been left to scramble together patchwork solutions and new defensive styles to make something work. The matchup zone worked for five games but has failed in the last two. It’s not good. We still have a ton of faith in him, but it’s no longer the all-encompassing defense we wanted, especially with the Johnnie Vassar lawsuit looming.
Who is one player that has really impressed you this season?
Dererk Pardon has really honed his post game and is a legitimate offensive force. He’s always been good defensively, but now I trust him as one of Northwestern’s primary offensive options. I keep going back to his crazy game against Purdue in which he went 9-for-12 from the field with 20 points against Haas and Haarms. Am I mad Northwestern didn’t keep feeding him in the endgame? Yes. He’s really become a top-tier Big Ten center, in my opinion.
What is your favorite part about watching this Northwestern team?
Bryant McIntosh’s 16 assist game against Minnesota was a thing of beauty. When the offense is working and Northwestern’s athleticism on defense holds fast, Northwestern is fun to watch. But Northwestern has precisely one quality win this season (over Michigan, you’re welcome), so there hasn’t been much of that this season (that Michigan game was also extremely ugly).
Scottie Lindsey is a tremendous player in his senior year. He is the teams leading scorer (14.6 PPG) yet he’s only shooting 38.4% from the field and 33.2% from three. What has been the cause of his low shooting percentage?
Scottie Lindsey takes some really bad shots. With McIntosh and Vic Law mired in slumps, Lindsey has all the pressure to create for this team. It’s actually really telling that his points per game is at 14.6. That sounds great, but when you realize he’s taking 30.3 percent of the team’s shots (the fifth-highest of any player in the Big Ten), that 14.6 points per game becomes hollow. Let’s look at the guys above him. Happ - 18.3 PPG, Edwards - 17.1, Carr - 19.6, Bates-Diop - 19.6. Corey Sanders and Lindsey are at 14.5 and 14.6, respectively. That’s a huge drop-off that implies some sort of inefficiency there. Incidentally, Bridges is seventh and he’s at 17.3. Lindsey has already taken 180 threes and he’s only shooting 33.3 percent on them. In all of last season, with two NCAA Tournament games and three Big Ten Tournament games, Lindsey took 180 threes total. He’s really chucking, and it’s not been good.
What are three things (for the better) you want to see change before the regular season is over?
1. Starting the second half well. Northwestern has repeatedly come out completely lifeless after halftime. Let’s not do that.
2. Better play from Gavin Skelly. Skelly is winding down a successful Northwestern career after coming in as an unheralded two-star, but he’s 8-for-28 from three in conference and he hasn’t been the same energizer he was last season.
3. A healthy Aaron Falzon would be huge for the rest of this season and next year. He had 8 points off the bench against Maryland and Rutgers and it would be huge if Northwestern could get more production from him.
Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?
Michigan State 75, Northwestern 63. Northwestern will try to slow this one down. It will not work.
Thank you to Tristan and everyone else at Inside NU for making this Q&A possible!