This is going to be an interesting game to watch, as Spartans fans get their first look at a Michigan State squad without Nick Ward. MSU has already lost Joshua Langford for the season, and now losing Ward for the foreseeable future (estimated three to five weeks timetable) is likely going to be a blow too hard to take for MSU’s deep tournament run aspirations.
Rutgers enters the matchup at 12-13 overall, and just a 5-10 record in the Big Ten. However, this is not going to be a cupcake matchup for the Spartans given the loss of Ward. If MSU gets caught looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup with the team’s biggest rival, the Michigan Wolverines, then Rutgers can steal one in East Lansing. Rutgers has the length that can bother a Michigan State team down its best post player. Still, Rutgers has lost four of its past five games and the Spartans should be able to take care of business if the team remains focused and other players are able to step up.
Following a 62-44 win over Ohio State on Sunday, Michigan State improved to 21-5 overall and 12-3 in the conference — which ties them with Michigan for first place in the Big Ten. The Spartans clamped down defensively in the second half, even with Ward’s injury, and held the Buckeyes to just 13 points in the last 20 minutes.
Tonight marks the second meeting between Rutgers and Michigan State this season. MSU won the first matchup 78-67 in Piscataway, New Jersey. However, both Langford and Ward were healthy in that game and combined for 34 points and nine rebounds.
I expect Michigan State to win this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a slow start or closer game than anticipated while MSU adjusts to playing without its top big man.
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