Indiana vs. Michigan State: Spartans Must Defend Cody Zeller

Tyler PosloskyContributor IIIFebruary 19, 2013

Indiana's Cody Zeller goes up for a shot against Purdue on Feb. 16.
Indiana's Cody Zeller goes up for a shot against Purdue on Feb. 16.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If they don’t already, teams should fear Cody Zeller.

The 7-0", 240-pound sophomore forward is an unstoppable force when the ball is in his hands.

His skill set alone had The Sporting News dub him preseason Player of the Year.

As potent and efficient as Zeller and No. 1 Indiana are, No. 5 Michigan State must contain the opposition's best player to have a chance in tonight’s showdown inside Jack Breslin Student Events Center.

The Spartans are hot, having won five straight games and 11 of their last 12. But so are the Hoosiers, who have strung together three straight wins on the heels of their last-second loss to Big Ten rival Illinois, Feb. 7.

Tonight’s battle won’t be about one team dominating the other. Rather, the outcome will hinge on whether Michigan State can slow down Zeller.

Zeller, who leads the Hoosiers in scoring with an average of 16.6 points per game, has been flawless of late. In his last six games alone, Zeller has gone a combined 37-of-62 from the field and has scored 111 points in the process.

His current scoring streak includes a pair of 19-point performances against Purdue, Jan. 30, and Michigan, Feb. 2. Zeller went off for 24 points against conference rival Ohio State, Feb. 10.

The Spartans will certainly have their hands full with Zeller.

But, the stout Hoosier must be challenged by the Spartans defense. 

The Spartans need to get an extraordinary effort out of their bigger players, including junior forward Adreian Payne, sophomore forward Branden Dawson and senior forward Derrick Nix.

Payne leads the Spartans with seven rebounds per game, and both Dawson and Nix are reliable scoring threats.

The trio can’t afford to be soft in the paint or they will pay the price. The Spartans need to be aggressive, assertive and physical from the opening tip in order to have a chance to pull off the upset.

There is a tremendous amount of hype surrounding this game, and with the entire nation watching, Michigan State can’t shy away from the challenge of containing Zeller.