Yeah, so some football game happened yesterday that I'm not going to talk about anymore. Instead, let's focus on the basketball team as they host Michigan State tonight at 5:30 central time, and will be televised by the Big Ten Network with the always energetic Tom Hamilton calling the game alongside Jim Jackson.
This is the Big Ten opener for Michigan State, who come into the game with a 10-3 record. While 10-3 would be a good non-conference showing for most programs, Spartan fans have to be a bit disappointed. Michigan State went just 1-3 against the 4 good teams they played, winning at home against Gonzaga, losing to Florida on a neutral court, and losing on the road to North Carolina and Texas. Those aren't exactly bad losses, in fact far from it, but dreams of a #1 seed are pretty much out the window now.
The player to watch for Michigan State is junior point guard and reigning Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas. He leads the Spartans in scoring at just under 16 points a night and in assists with just over 4 per game. Lucas has been in the news this week because Tom Izzo threw him out of practice, but this story seems hugely overblown to me, and since Lucas played well in MSU's last game, I doubt it will be a problem.
Michigan State is a deep team, with 10 players getting significant minutes. Northwestern will need to slow down Draymond and Delvon Roe inside, as both are good rebounders and shoot a high percentage from the field. But to me the key player for Michigan State is shooting guard Chris Allen, who is a dangerous 3-point shooter and could cause problems vs the zone. And of course I have to mention Derrick Nix and his 10.7% free throw shooting. No thats not a typo, he is 3 for 28 from the free throw line. Nix isn't getting many minutes though, and certainly won't be out there down the stretch given his free throw shooting.
As a team, Michigan State has been very efficient scoring inside, as they're shooting over 55% on two point shots. That is in part due to Michigan State dominating on the glass as usual, rebounding 42% of their misses. There are two things the Spartans don't do well: the first is 3-point shooting (34.8%). They also don't take very many threes, so hopefully Northwestern can clog the middle with a zone and force MSU to beat them from the perimeter. Secondly, they turn the ball over a lot, averaging almost 15 per game. Spartan turnovers were a big part of the 'Cats win last year at the Breslin Center, so NU will need to continue that trend tonight.
In my morning edition of the Boston Globe, Michigan State was listed a 2 point favorite, but checking the lines just now it's moved to MSU -5. Coincedentally, I moved to 5-0 against the spread picking NU games on Wednesday. I've taken NU to at least beat the spread in 4 of those games, but I can't do it tonight.
Michigan State 77, Northwestern 65
The 'Cats have to be a little fatigued after that overtime loss Wednesday, given that they're only using a 7 man rotation. Also, Juice Thompson limped off the court in the final seconds with an apparent ankle injury. Looking around the interwebs I can't find anything about him potentially missing any time tonight, but I'd still expect him to be less than 100%. Additionally, Michigan State will be out for revenge after last year's shocking home loss. Northwestern keeps it close for a while, but eventually they run out of gas and the Spartans pull away.
Comment here if you're watching, and Go 'Cats!