The Garden is a historic and marquee location for any showdown, and just holding the game there is a win for Michigan State.
Rutgers is an impressive 13-2 at home this year, and an unenviable 2-5 in away or neutral court games. While it will be a fantastic experience for the players and the fans to have this game in Madison Square Garden, whoever let the Spartans skip a trip to Rutgers home floor deserves a raise.
Here’s how to catch all the action:
Game Time: Saturday, February 4th at 12 noon (US East Coast Time)
Watch the game: FOX
Comment and Follow Live at the GAME THREAD HERE (live at 9am)
Some basics to sound like a pro:
Michigan State has lost 4 of its last 6 games. That record sounds bad but has a few caveats. Two of those losses came against the number 1 team in the nation Purdue. Notably the home loss was by a single point, where MSU had the last shot of the game and missed. Still MSU let a winnable game get out of reach against the now red hot Illinois squad. Before collapsing against Indiana on the road.
On the positive side, Malik Hall is back playing at least 15 minutes a game. His return was much earlier than expected, hopefully setting up a strong stand in February.
This will be the second time around for MSU to see Rutgers, and despite their win the last time, they have a lot of learning they can incorporate into this game. The most obvious is how to deploy Hall in an effective manner, which should give MSU an overall advantage they didn’t have in the first win.
The player this game may mean the most to is Mady Sissoko. After some up and down performances against much larger opponents (like Purdue’s Zach Edey), Sissoko had his worst career game against Rutgers. Coach Tom Izzo will be forced to either rotate away from Sissoko in this game or find a new way to deploy MSU’s starting center to better impact.
Rutgers has continued to impress this year. In the Big Ten they have more than held their own. The Scarlet Knights marquee win was over Purdue - notably the only loss for Purdue this year.
Rutgers combines strong defense, and consistent rebounds into a winning formula. The program looks like it has been built modeling the early years of Michigan State’s success.
Their challenge in this game will be to shoot their way to victory. Against MSU the first time around, Rutgers was deep freeze cold, shooting 35% overall, and an ugly 12% from three. That poor shooting performance doomed Rutgers, despite their clear dominance in rebounding and points in the paint.
Andy: 72-66 MSU Win
BBD: 68-61 MSU Win
O: 77-74 MSU Win in OT