My preview of Northwestern's matchup against the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans: GUARANTEED to be at least as enjoyable as watching a six-hour long video of somebody suffering from opiate withdrawal!
Hit the jump for el terrible.
Are they good?: They suck! I stopped paying attention to Michigan State after their first two games were both LOSSES. Northwestern won its first SEVEN games, but MSU lost their first two! Should be a blowout. (checks notes) (sees MSU's first games were against UNC and Duke) (sees that they've won 15 straight) (sees that they manhandled Indiana, beat Wisconsin, and romped over Iowa by 30) Oh.
What are they good at?: Kenpom ranking of 9 on offense, 5 on defense. LIKE WHOA. Great rebounding, efficient scoring, unbelievable defense.
What are they bad at?: Watching Michigan State's first two games, I was convinced a nagging deficiency for MSU would be the lack of consistent point guard play. Losing Kalin Lucas, who guided your team to two straight final four bids, is tough, and UNC hit the Spartans with a half-court trap that forced some turnovers that turned into run-out dunks. I also might have questioned a team depending on Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne for center play. Oddly enough, both of these concerns have found their answer in the same guy: all-everything candidate Draymond Green, who plays a rugged brand of point forward with the strength to body people in the paint and unreal rebounding talent, bringing down 9.8 per game. D-Raymond is probably my favorite player to watch in the Big Ten right now. Its a weird role, but it encompasses Green's talents and playing style perfectly.
Why were Northwestern's two games against MSU close last year?: Really good question. Northwestern did not play well in either game: in the first game, John Shurna was hampered by his ankle and shot 1-for-11, and in the second, Shurna was hampered by Delvon Roe, and shot 2-for-10 with several comically blocked shot attempts. Yet, one game was a three-point loss on a tip-in by Green in the game's final ten seconds, the second went to OT after Northwestern had a late lead but couldn't get off a shot with the ball and the game tied.
I'd argue the first game wasn't exactly close. Northwestern was down 13 with two and a half minutes left, and the determination, pure luck, and skill of Juice Thompson rallied the Cats to 12 straight points, including nine by Thompson. Other than that freak stretch, NU was solidly beaten by the Spartans.
The second was a combination of a masterful first-half defensive performance - the 1-3-1 worked excellently - and poor offense - regardless of how well you play, MSU won't often put up 18 points in a half.
Can NU win?: Some of the things which murdered NU in the past - tough to stop Lucas, and Roe pestered NU defensively - are gone, which bodes well for Northwestern. So I wouldn't put it past the Cats to throw some kinks in what should be a blowout after two tough performances last year.