The story for much of Northwestern's Big Ten slate this season has been how the Wildcats have continually played teams evenly, only to end up losing due to the issues that often plague young teams. Six of NU's conference losses have been by eight or less points, and a bunch of them, arguably, could have been wins.
However, in their last two games on the road at Nebraska and Wisconsin, the Wildcats have lost by 16 and 15 points respectively. Outside of the first 25 or so minutes of the Nebraska game, NU was dominated by two teams with much more talent. That was a significant drop-off in competitiveness from the prior six games.
Northwestern will look to play much better tonight as it hosts Michigan State, a team that has not lived up to expectations so far. Tom Izzo's Spartans are tied with Iowa for sixth in the Big Ten at 6-4, which isn't a bad record. But for a team expected to be a top-20 squad year in and year out, it's disappointing.
MSU's top three scorers--Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Branden Dawson--present a tough trio to guard for Northwestern, which has had extreme trouble on defense in recent games. Against Nebraska, a team that--as mentioned on this week's Pound The Talk podcast--has averaged 43 points in its last three games not including the one versus Northwestern, the Wildcats gave up 76 points on nearly 63 percent shooting. That's shockingly bad.
We'll see if the Wildcats can turn things around Tuesday. Here's everything you need to know about the game:
UPDATE: Both JerShon Cobb and Nate Taphorn are out for Northwestern. Both have foot injuries.
Time: 6:00 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WGN, 720 AM in Chicagoland and wgnradio.com | 89.3 WNUR and wnur.org
Line: The line opened up with Michigan State favored by 6 and has since inched up to 6.5 points.
KenPom: KenPom predicts Michigan State to win 66-62, and gives the Spartans a 69 percent chance to win.
Key Stat: As of Feb. 9, KenPom has MSU's adjusted offensive efficiency at 109.6, which is good for 40th in the country. Meanwhile, Nebraska, which roasted NU last week, has an adjusted offensive efficiency of 95.2, 294th in Division I. At that rate, the Spartans might score a ton of points against the Wildcats.
Check back here right before tip to follow along with us during the game on our gamethread.