Michigan State vs. Indiana: Complete Game Preview
This matchup truly is college basketball at its best.
Michigan State currently sits on top of the Big Ten standings at 6-1, while Indiana is not far behind with a 4-1 mark through five conference games. These two teams, along with Michigan, are the only one-loss teams in what is considered to be the nation's top conference this season.
But this game has several great storylines outside of the team's records.
Who will come out on top and take an early lead in the Big Ten race?
Let's find out as we go ahead and preview the Michigan State vs. Indiana game.
Who: Michigan State vs. Indiana
When: Sunday, Jan. 27th, at 1 p.m. (EDT)
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN.
Starters for MSU
PG: Keith Appling, 14.1 PPG
SG: Gary Harris, 12.3 PPG
SF: Branden Dawson, 10.5 PPG
PF: Adreian Payne, 9.0 PPG
C: Derrick Nix, 9.1 PPG
Starters for Indiana
PG: Kevin Ferrell, 6.6 PPG
SG: Jordan Hulls, 11.4 PPG
SF: Victor Oladipo, 13.2 PPG
PF: Christian Watford, 12.8 PPG
C: Cody Zeller, 17.2 PPG
What Happened to the Spartans This Week
Tom Izzo's club is riding a seven-game winning streak heading into Bloomington this weekend, including two huge back-to-back wins against Ohio State and at Wisconsin.
Keith Appling and Adreian Payne helped pace the Spartans to a 59-56 win over the No.11-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday. Appling scored a team-high 15 points, while Payne added 14 points and five rebounds.
Just this past Tuesday, MSU had its hands full again, going up against a good Wisconsin team on the road. Appling led the Spartans again, this time scoring a game-high 19 points, while Branden Dawson had a monster game with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The two big wins helped MSU improve to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten.
What Happened to Indiana This Week
While Michigan State got back-to-back tests against some of the Big Ten's best in Ohio State and Wisconsin, the same can not be said for Indiana.
The Hoosiers edged out a 67-59 win over Northwestern on Sunday in a game that was a lot closer than many expected it to be. Cody Zeller had a huge game with 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Jordan Hulls and Christian Wotford added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Indiana returned to the court Wednesday night in a matchup against Penn State, who has yet to win a game in the Big Ten. That streak remained in tact as Victor Oladipo scored a game-high 19 points to lead Indiana in a 72-49 rout over Penn State.
With the victory, Indiana improved to 17-2 overall this season and 5-1 in Big Ten action.
Indiana, Michigan State and Michigan remain the only one-loss teams in the Big Ten heading into Sunday's much-anticipated matchup.
What It Means to Both Teams
This game is as big as it gets for a midseason conference showdown.
Both of these team's only have one loss up to this point, and the winner of this game should put themselves in the driver's seat for the time being in the Big Ten.
Indiana has looked great at times this season, but we have learned that this team isn't perfect, which became evident in a home loss against Wisconsin back on Jan. 15.
The Hoosiers have yet to play a team as talented and as well-rounded as Michigan State.
The Spartans have been playing well as of late and a win in Bloomington would be a huge step for this young, talented team.
With first place on the line, you can bet that both teams will bring their A-game for this huge showdown.
Key Player for MSU
This is a tough one to choose because Michigan State has so many valuable players that have stepped up big at one time or another this season.
But if you had to choose one guy who Michigan State needs to have a big game in this matchup, it would have to be sophomore forward Branden Dawson, and here is why....
Dawson is the most athletically gifted player on this Michigan State team, and one of the top athletes throughout the entire country, for that matter. When he plays well, the Spartans usually win, it's really that simple.
Over the past two games, Dawson has averaged 13.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, both of which resulted in huge victories for the Spartans.
But it's not just Dawson's offense and rebounding that MSU will be counting on in this matchup. The 6'6" forward will also likely draw the assignment of guarding Indiana's Victor Oladipo, who just like Dawson, is one of the most athletic forwards in the nation.
If Dawson can outplay Oladipo in this matchup, then you have to like the Spartans' chances in this one.
Key Player for Indiana
Jordan Hulls isn't Indiana's best offensive player. But when he is on, this team is extremely hard to beat.
Take a look at Indiana's two losses this season, against Butler and Wisconsin. In those two games, Hulls combined to shoot just 6-for-19 from the field, including 0-3 from three-point range, and totaled just 12 points.
Now, if you take a look at Indiana's two most impressive wins this season, against Georgetown and Minnesota, it tells a completely different story. In those two wins, Hulls shot a combined 9-for-16 from the field, including 7-of-13 from downtown, and totaled 36 points.
The bottom line is, when Jordan Hulls plays well, this is arguably the top team in the country.
The Hoosiers are going to need that type of production from their senior guard if they are going to beat Michigan State on Sunday.
Michigan State Will Win If.....
Michigan State is going to have to play its best basketball if it is going to win this game in Bloomington.
But Tom Izzo's club has been playing great as of late, and one of the reasons why is because there aren't any big egos on this team.
Every player on this Michigan State's team has a role, and if each one of those players can fulfill their given role in this matchup, then there is no doubt that Tom Izzo's team can win this basketball game.
First off, the Spartans need to cut down on the turnovers. This is something that hurt them early on this season, but they have cut down on the turnovers as of late, which has resulted in six straight Big Ten wins.
Another thing MSU has to do is contain Cody Zeller, who has been playing great basketball as of late. If the combination of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne can hold Zeller in check, then MSU can win this game.
The final thing that MSU has to do in order to win this game is to get solid offensive production from multiple players. Keith Appling has been very good over the past couple of games, but the Spartans need at least one other player to step up on the offensive end against Indiana.
Garry Harris, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are all capable of taking over a game on the offensive end.
If they can all play well in this one, then you have to like Sparty's chances.
Indiana Will Win If.....
Indiana will win this game if it can control the game to its pace. That means turning this into an up-and-down, fast-tempo basketball game.
Make no mistake about it, Michigan State can run as well, but the Hoosiers are at their best when they can get out in transition and run the floor.
On the offensive side of the ball, Indiana is going to need to get some type of offensive production from someone other than Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.
Yogi Ferrell, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford or Will Sheehey could all be that guy. One of them are going to have to step up and hit some big baskets in this game because Izzo is too good of a coach to let Zeller and Oladipo beat his team alone.
On the defensive end, Indiana's guards are going to have to hold Michigan State's guards in check. Both Keith Appling and Gary Harris are capable of breaking out for huge scoring games at any time. How Indiana's guards will do against those two will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
This has all the makings of a classic Big Ten showdown.
Both teams are athletic, both teams are well coached, both teams have the talent to compete for a national championship, so what will give?
Playing in Bloomington is never an easy task and Michigan State will have to play a near-perfect game if it is going to leave with a victory.
With that said, look for MSU to slow down the pace while Indiana attempts to turn this one into a running shootout. I know, it's weird to think that Tom Izzo wouldn't be up for the challenge of getting out and running, but if there is any team you don't want to challenge in that aspect, it's Indiana.
If MSU can slow down the pace, limit the turnovers on offense, and find a way to limit Cody Zeller on the offensive end, then the Spartans should have a chance to leave Bloomington with a victory and secure first place in the Big Ten.
That's a lot to ask, and in the end, Indiana just proves to be too much for the Spartans in this one.
Make it: Indiana 71, Michigan State 69