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The Michigan State game.

Michigan State Spartans
Current record: 18-4 (8-2)
Current RPI: 4
Current Sagarin: 7
Current Pomeroy: 14
2007-08 record: 27-9, 12-6 (lost to Memphis in NCAA Sweet 16)
2007-08 RPI: 13
2007-08 Sagarin: 15
2007-08 Pomeroy: 15
Series: IU leads 65-44
Last Michigan State win: 3/2/2008 (103-74 in East Lansing)
Last IU win: 2/16/2008 (80-61 in Bloomington)
Last IU win in East Lansing: 2/28/1991 (62-56)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 4 pm, ESPN

While conventional wisdom suggests that the Big Ten does not have a great team this season, but absent an inexplicable home losses to Northwestern and Penn State a couple of weeks ago, the Spartans would be in control of the Big Ten race and in the thick of the one-seed discussion. Of course, Penn State and Northwestern are much better than usual, but it would be interesting to know the highest in the Big Ten standings a team has finished in a season in which it lost at home to both Penn State and Northwestern.

I digress because I don't have much to say about this game. It appears to be IU's second most hopeless remaining game, ahead only of the trip to Mackey in a couple of weeks. This team is yet another example of the classic Izzo formula: good shooting plus excellent offensive rebounding equals an incredibly efficient, if not pretty, offense. On the defensive side, the Spartans excel only at rebounding, but that's enough to make MSU's defense very effective. Unlike matchups against the likes of Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, and even Ohio State and Illinois, MSU seems likely to manhandle the Hoosiers. Currently, the Spartans rank #3 nationally in offensive rebounding, coming up with 42.2 percent of their own misses, and #8 in defensive rebounding percentage, limiting opponents to 27 percent of their misses. MSU doesn't take all that many three pointers, but they choose carefully, ranking #44 nationally with 37.8 percent shooting from behind the arc, and thanks presumably in large part to second chance points, the Spartans shoot over 50 percent from inside the arc. MSU doesn't take particularly good care of the ball and doesn't force many turnovers, but the Spartans play solid field goal defense and rarely allow or miss out on a second chance.

Of course, the subtext in this game is the first conference game between Izzo and his protege, Tom Crean. They previously met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007, and MSU defeated Marquette. Many IU fans will be wondering if they are watching a preview of future IU teams? To some degree, that seems likely. The one thread that runs through Crean's good and mediocre Marquette teams is excellent offensive rebounding. Marquette under Crean never really excelled on the defensive boards the way Izzo's teams do, but Crean's teams also tended to be more perimeter oriented, with more three point shooting, and also look a bit better on turnovers on both sides of the ball.

The only positive for tomorrow is that Raymar Morgan, MSU's #2 scorer and #2 rebounder, will miss his second consecutive game because of walking pneumonia. Still, the Spartans, with Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton, and a host of others, even a competitive loss by IU would be a surprise.

For the Spartan side of things, be sure to check out this preview from Spartans Weblog, one of the finest basketball-focused blogs around. As KJ notes, IU may be starting to show the Izzo-Crean influence already. In conference games, IU ranks #3 in offensive rebounding percentage and #2 in defensive rebounding percentage, and #3 in three point percentage (41 percent, thanks in large part to great games from Matt Roth and Devan Dumes in the last week.