The name of the game in March is “survive and advance.” While the third month of the year may have had a bit of a delayed start in 2022 for Michigan State, March seems to have finally arrived in East Lansing.
The Michigan State Spartans may have limped to the finish line in the regular season. But the men in Green and White have suddenly strung three-straight wins together for the first time since mid-January to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans’ most recent foe was the No. 2-seeded Wisconsin Badgers. Michigan State ended the Badgers’ conference tournament hopes with a 69-63 win on Friday evening. Now, the No. 7-seeded Spartans will face No. 3-seeded Purdue in the second semifinal game of the afternoon on Saturday. Purdue defeated No. 11 seed Penn State, 69-61, on Friday night.
The game will tip-off approximately 25 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal contest between No. 5 Iowa and No. 9 Indiana. The Spartans will likely be underway sometime between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.
The Spartans and the Boilermakers have met only one time this year, two weeks ago on Feb. 26 in East Lansing. Michigan State came into that game desperate for a win after having lost three-straight games and five games out of the previous six.
The Spartans played one of their best games of the season that day, leading the top-five-ranked Boilermakers by as many as 11 points with just under 11 minutes to play in the game. However, in what has become an all too familiar pattern, Michigan State allowed Purdue to crawl back into the game late.
With under a minute to play, Purdue tied the score and it looked like MSU might be headed for another heart-breaking loss. But, with just four seconds left on the clock, Spartan point guard Tyson Walker caught Purdue in a switch and buried a three-pointer over the outstretched hand of Boilermaker center Trevion Williams.
The Izzone went crazy. Michigan State won by a final score of 68-65.
The Spartan got solid contributions from several players on that Saturday. Walker, Joey Hauser, Max Christie, A.J. Hoggard, Julius Marble and Gabe Brown all scored between eight and 13 points. The Spartans hit 45 percent of their three-point shots and forced 17 turnovers.
On the Purdue side, the Boilermakers’ three best players all scored in double figures. Center Zach Edey led all scorers with 25 points. Guard Jaden Ivey chipped in 16 points and Williams contributed 11 points. Guard Eric Hunter scored nine points, but no other Boilermaker had more than two points. Most notably was that Michigan State held the Big Ten’s best three-point shooting team to just one-of-nine from deep on the afternoon.
The victory tied Tom Izzo with former Indiana coach Bobby Knight for most total wins at a Big Ten school. Of course, Izzo has since broken the all-time wins record, and now stands alone at the top of the Big Ten Conference, currently with 665 career wins.
Getting to Know Purdue
As mentioned above, Purdue is primarily led by Ivey (17.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game), Edey (14.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game) and his tag-team partner Williams (11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game), who comes off the bench.
The remainder of Purdue’s starting lineup includes guard Sasha Stefanovic (11.4 points, 2.5 rebound and 3.4 assists per game), Hunter (6.1 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game) and forward Mason Gillis (6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game).
Statistically, Purdue ranks No. 2 in scoring offense (behind Iowa) at 80.4 points per game. By comparison, Michigan State ranks No. 8 at just 72.2 points per game. However, from an efficiency point of view, the Boilermakers are current the top-rated team in the country, according to kenpom.com.
This efficiency is due to very good shooting and rebounding. The Boilermakers currently rank No. 15 nationally in offensive rebounding rate (34.7 percent of their missed shots) and No. 24 in defensive rebounding rate (76.8 percent). Purdue currently ranks No. 11 nationally in two-point field goal percentage (56.2 percent) and No. 3 in three-point field goal percentage (39.7 percent).
In fact, Purdue has eight players who are currently shooting at least 37 percent from three-point distance, including all of their starters, except Edey. Stefanovic (40.3 percent), Hunter (44.1 percent) and Gillis (44.7 percent) all are shooting over 40 percent from deep for the year.
For comparison, Michigan State is currently ranked No. 14 nationally in three-point shooting at 38.2 percent, but only No. 190 in two-point percentage (49.6 percent). The Spartans can also boast four players who are shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc in Walker (50 percent), Malik Hall (44.4 percent), Marcus Bingham Jr. (42.4 percent) and Hauser (41.2 percent).
Also note that Michigan State is only ranked around No. 100 in the country is both offensive and defensive rebounding.
While Purdue is outstanding on offense, defensively the team is a bit vulnerable. The Boilermakers rank only No. 8 is scoring defense (68.5 points per game) in Big Ten play. By comparison, Michigan State is ranked No. 6 in scoring defense at 68.3 points per game.
From an efficiency view point, Purdue ranks just outside of the top-100 in points allowed per possession at 0.992. Michigan State is ranked No. 52 in defensive efficiency at 0.963 points per possession.
What’s at stake and what to expect
At stake on Saturday is a chance to advance to the Big Ten Tournament final on Sunday afternoon against either No. 5 Iowa or No. 9 Indiana. In addition, both teams are looking to prop up their NCAA Tournament resume before the Selection Show on Sunday evening.
With Michigan State’s win over Wisconsin, most bracketologists are bumping the Spartans up to a No. 7-seed. A loss to Purdue will not cause that position to drop. However, a win over the Boilermakers could conceivably make a No. 6-seed possible.
Meanwhile, with the No. 1 (Illinois), No. 2 (Wisconsin) and No. 4 seeds (Rutgers) all eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue has a clear path to a Big Ten Tournament championship banner. In the process, the Boilers might be able to sneak up to a No. 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can win on both Saturday and again on Sunday.
The line for the game on Draftkings.com initially opened with Purdue favored by 5.5 points. This corresponds to a 29 percent chance that Michigan State can spring the upset. As of press time, the line is currently up to Michigan State +6.5. Note that Kenpom projects a final score of Purdue 77, Michigan State 72 with a slightly better 32 percent chance of an upset.
Overall, the math is saying the Purdue and Iowa both have roughly a 40 percent chance to win the Big Ten Tournament, while Michigan State and Indiana both have a roughly 10 percent chance.