4 storylines for IU’s game vs. Michigan State

1. Hobbled Spartans
Indiana hasn’t been the only team with problematic injuries this season. Michigan State is without two key upperclassmen, junior guard Joshua Langford and junior forward Nick Ward. Langford, who averaged 15.0 points per game this season, is out for the year after undergoing season-ending surgery to correct a foot injury in late January. Ward also won’t play after sustaining a hairline fracture in his left hand earlier this month. Senior guard Matt McQuaid is expected to play Saturday, but his effectiveness could be limited by a sprained ankle suffered this week in practice. McQuaid is not only Michigan State’s best 3-point shooter (44.9 percent in league games), he’s one of the team’s top perimeter defenders. His level of play could determine the outcome.

2. Big Ten title within reach
Every moment matters for the Spartans, who are tied with Purdue atop the Big Ten standings. Saturday’s matchup in Bloomington will be Michigan State’s final true road game of the season, with remaining contests against Nebraska and Michigan waiting to be played at home. Purdue hosts Ohio State on Saturday before hitting the road to play at Minnesota and Northwestern next week. The trip to Indiana is a huge opportunity for the Spartans to keep pace atop the league and position themselves for a final week at home. Michigan State is 8-3 on the road this season.

3. Taking on Tillman
With Ward out, Xavier Tillman has enjoyed an expanded role in Michigan State’s lineup. In three starts this season — two of which have come since Ward’s injury on Feb. 17 — Tillman is averaging 16.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, while shooting 69.2 percent from the field. The 6-foot-8 sophomore can be a tough cover in pick-and-rolls, and he’s averaging 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds on the season. “He can shoot the ball from the perimeter a little bit,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “He stretches the floor a little bit more maybe than Nick does. But he’s doing the same thing. They’re pounding the ball inside and he’s giving them a strong presence around the basket.”

4. Indiana’s supporting cast
Rob Phinisee is playing his best basketball since December. De’Ron Davis is playing through an illness, while continuing to give Indiana a needed post presence. Race Thompson is acclimating to Big Ten play, providing important depth inside IU’s frontcourt. Altogether, more consistent contributions from Indiana’s supporting have put the Hoosiers in position to win close games down the stretch. A well-balanced effort helped Indiana to its first win over Michigan State on Feb. 2, when the Hoosiers’ bench outscored the Spartans 28-16. With injuries ripping holes in Michigan State’s rotation, the Spartans’ depth is a major question mark. Indiana’s ability to lean more on players not named Juwan Morgan or Romeo Langford, could be a difference.

9 comments

  1. If IU beats MSU again tomorrow, I will be very impressed. That would be much more impressive than beating a ten-loss WI team that could not hit free throws to save their lives.

  2. So true. 341 teams wish they were sitting in Wl.’s spot . NOT so much the 11 teams ranked higher. (KinPom)’
    I did notify the IU team, they must beat MS in order to impress you.

  3. Only Chet and think about it can have opinions. They are truly geniuses and understand everything better than the rest of us. They should write books or have own twitter account. They are just so knowledgeable on all IU sports. Sorry everyone. Only Chet and Think about it from here on out.

  4. Today’s win against MSU was far more impressive than their win over Wisconsin the other night. MSU is a better team than WI. MSU shot well today, hitting 54.2% of their attempts and made 4 out of 5 free throws. Wisconsin was terrible from the free throw line the other night. MSU was motivated to deliver some “payback” for having been beaten at home earlier this year. MSU was a 6-loss team ranked 6th in the nation. Wisconsin was a 9-loss team ranked 19th. Both wins were big, but beating MSU for the second time this season was much more impressive than beating WI the other night.

  5. Both wins were big

    If it’s big, most are impressed…Size of heart …Size of home…Size of SUV…Size of biceps. Just sayin’.

    A few days ago, Wisconsin was nothing of a big win. Today your tune has changed.

    MSU is without Ward…and has been without Langford for most of BigTen season. Wisconsin was with complete roster and has always been a thorn in our side. Don’t be too caught up in silly rankings. The game is mental as much as anything else….and we’ve always had a ton of mental hurdles against the Badgers and their grinding/get-you-out-of-your-game “style.”

    Lastly, the only reason today’s game was set on a “big” impressive table was because of the Wisconsin win. We lose against Wisconsin and a 30 point victory today doesn’t put us back on Lunardi’s bubble watch. A loss to Wisconsin meant certainty of lost hope for NCAA tournament play. Conclusion: Wisconsin win was a prerequisite and, thus, bigger in terms of pressure and maintaining hopes going into today.

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