Both teams badly need a win on Tuesday, in what could be an elimination round for the NCAA Tournament
All it took was a trip to Bloomington.
Michigan State’s 78-71, come-from-behind win over Indiana on Feb. 20 gave the Spartans their second wind. They followed that visit to Assembly Hall with victories against Illinois and Ohio State, rerouting their season from a near-certain NCAA Tournament miss to a place on — or, at least, near — the bubble. Sunday’s loss at Maryland makes the prospect of a Tom Izzo tournament bid a bit more iffy, but it’s still within reach. To stay on the right path, Michigan State absolutely has to beat Indiana on Tuesday night at the Breslin Center.
And what about Indiana? The Hoosiers, too, aren’t totally out of the tournament conversation, though … hmmm … yeah. It’s hard to see things breaking favorably for IU, which will be without dependable guard Armaan Franklin for at least the next two games, and otherwise hasn’t done much of anything well over the past few weeks. Bottom line, Indiana needs multiple wins — both games this week? one this week and two in the conference tournament? — to get back on the good side of the bubble. Right now, given all the recent data points, that’s hard to fathom. But it’s still a possibility.
Making things slightly more difficult for the Hoosiers is the fact that Michigan State’s loss to Maryland on Sunday dropped the Spartans to No. 77 in the NET. So the trip to East Lansing on Tuesday is now a Quad II game for IU. Just barely, at that.
So, about that second wind for Michigan State. … The Spartans looked flat in their 73-55 loss in College Park, so it’s fair to wonder what Izzo’s team has left at this point — especially on a two-day turnaround. Michigan State, which will be playing its fifth game in 11 days, posted just .936 points per possession against the Terps, went 11-for-29 inside the arc and posted an effective field goal percentage of 40.4%. Blehh.
Though he cooled off in Sunday’s game, posting just 11 points, Aaron Henry is averaging 19.0 points over the past four games. You’ll recall he went off for 27 points in the first meeting with IU a week and a half ago. For the Hoosiers, the question remains: who guards this guy?
After he went scoreless from beyond the arc at Assembly Hall, Joey Hauser has fared better of late. Hauser is shooting 54% (6-for-11) from distance over the past three games. Gabe Brown was the Spartan who did the most long-range damage in the first matchup, going 4-for-8 from the perimeter. The 6-foot-8 wing has hit a 3-pointer in each of the past six games, shooting 50% (13-for-26) from beyond the arc during that span.
Veteran guard Joshua Langford is averaging 12.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the past four games.
Things to watch
Indiana keeps playing the same game, so you have to ask the same question: are there two guards capable of impacting Tuesday’s matchup? Al Durham was a non-factor in the first game against Michigan State, going 0-for-4 from the field in 36 minutes. But he’s had better moments over the past two games, starting red hot against Rutgers before chipping in 15 points against Michigan. Khristian Lander can probably expect about 10 to 15 minutes of run after a decent showing on Saturday.
The Indianapolis product was a tough matchup for the Hoosiers last month. Henry dictated the course of play in the second half, challenging IU’s guards with his size and will. How does IU counter this time? Especially with Franklin unavailable, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious solution.
Overall defensive success
Indiana enters Tuesday with the 14th-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency rating during Big Ten play, per Bart Torvik. The Hoosiers have held only three conference opponents under a point per possession, something that hasn’t happened since IU edged Northwestern in double overtime on Feb. 10. Considering that Michigan State has the second-highest turnover percentage during league play, this matchup is an opportunity for Indiana to create chances on the defensive end. Turnovers or not, IU simply has to be better than the no-show defensive showing it produced during the second half on Feb. 20.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Indiana (12-12, 7-10) at Michigan State (13-10, 7-10)
Where? Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich.
When? Tuesday, 8 p.m. Eastern
Channel? BTN | Brandon Gaudin (p-b-p), Robbie Hummel (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Michigan State -3