Michigan State Spartans
Current record: 22-6
Big Ten record: 10-5
Current RPI: 15
Current Sagarin: 18
2006-07 record: 22-11 (8-8)
2006-07 RPI: 24
2006-07 Sagarin: 20
Series: IU leads 64-42
Last IU win: 2/16/08 (80-61 in Bloomington)
Last MSU win: 2/24/07 (66-58 in East Lansing)
Last IU win in East Lansing: 2/28/91 (62-56)
TV: 2 pm today, CBS
Yeah, my multiday preview didn't pan out. If you missed it, here's my post from Thursday discussing IU's 13-game, 17-year losing streak in East Lansing.
Before I discuss the game, let me address the article that the Indianapolis Star passed off as a preview of today's game: Terry Hutchens wants to know whether this year's team is as good as the 1992-93 Hoosiers. Perhaps the Star needs a comedy section, or some sort of a sarcasm label. This can't be for real. To be clear, I love this year's team. DJ White is enjoying perhaps the best season by an IU player since Calbert Cheaney graduation, Eric Gordon has been great, and the team has done a great job of staying together under tough circumstances. But let's consider the 1992-93 Hoosiers. That year, IU returned six of its top seven scorers from a Final Four team. IU finished the season ranked #1 after going 31-3 against a tough schedule that included five games against eventual Final Four teams, and other games against top teams Florida State, Seton Hall, and Cincinnati. IU won the Big Ten by two games with a 17-1 record, including a season sweep of what may have been the most talented team in Big Ten history, the sophomore version of the Fab Five. Had Alan Henderson not injured his knee, IU would have been the favorite to win the NCAA title and likely would have gone 18-0 in the Big Ten.
Dan Dakich was wisely politically correct, but this IU team, even if it wins out, is looking at no better than a two seed, and the most realistic projection is a #4 seed. That anyone is even considering this comparison shows just how far IU's program has fallen and just how badly we need a coach who can restore greatness. It also shows, as does the continuous employment of Bob Kravitz, that the leaders of the Indianapolis Star hate central Indiana sports fans for some reason. Dennis Ryerson, what have we done to deserve this?
As for the game, the Spartans' disappointing decline has continued. Statistically, the Spartans look fine. They are, in typical Izzo fashion, among the nation's leading offensive rebounding teams and two point field goal percentage. They don't take care of the ball and don't force turnovers. Everything else looks fine. Still, MSU's early departure from the Big Ten race happened because the Spartans can't win on the road. MSU is 8-0 at home in the Big Ten and 2-5 on the road. The losses at IU, Purdue, and Wisconsin are excusable enough, but the road losses to Iowa and Penn State are not. And while MSU is 8-0 at home, the Spartans' games against Minnesota, Purdue, and Ohio State were fairly competitive. What's interesting about MSU's road losses is that while other statistics are all over the map, in the three losses to IU, Purdue, and Wisconsin, MSU has been far below its average in offensive rebound percentage (21.4, 20.8, 26.4). As KJ of Spartans Weblog pointed out before the last game, MSU's two point field goal effectiveness is mostly based on offensive rebounding. Accordingly, a team that can stop MSU from grabbing offensive boards will be in a great position to defeat MSU. An 14th consecutive loss at Breslin won't surprise me, but this is, it seems to me, IU's best chance in years to end the slide.