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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans

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A familiar foe in a transition year.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports


Who? Michigan State Spartans (9-5, #22 KenPom)  v. Indiana Hoosiers (11-3, #44 KenPom)

When? 7:00 PM, BTN

Vegas? TBA

Pomeroy? MICHIGAN STATE by 7, 24% chance of Indiana victory


The Numbers vs. The Results

Looking at Michigan State's résumé, you may be shocked to see five losses already, with two of them coming inside the Breslin Center. Certainly losses to Kansas, Notre Dame, and Duke away from home by less than ten points aren't anything to be ashamed of, but dropping a home game to Texas Southern and then being thoroughly unable to score the basketball against Maryland in the Big Ten opener was very unfamiliar for a Tom Izzo-led squadron.

There's no doubt that Michigan State is going through a transition period after losing Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Gary Harris. While the cupboard certainly isn't bare from a talent-perspective, the eye test suggests that Michigan State is having adjustment issues similar but not identical to what Indiana went through last year. Their best win to date is over #94 Marquette but KenPom's numbers still like what it has seen from the Spartans, ranking their offense #48 and their defense #23 in adjusted efficiency.

Familiar faces Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice continue to be major contributors for the Spartans. Dawson's rebounding percentages, both defensive and offensive, are excellent, but he's making only 47.3% of his twos and doesn't shoot three pointers while taking 27.3% of the available shots while he's on the floor. That's, um, not ideal for a team that wishes to score points. He missed the last couple of games before the Big Ten opener with a broken wrist and is now playing with a brace.

Trice and Valentine have stepped intro roles as creators after the departure of the always enigmatic Keith Appling, with assist rates of 34.3% (41st in the country) and 25.5%. They also are top two on the team in three-point attempts, combining to go 41.5% from beyond the arc.

They don't shoot a massive amount of three point shots (34.7% of total attempts, 163rd in the country) but they're 11th in the country at knocking down their attempts, doing so at a 40.5% rate. And they do that without Gary Harris who became the first player in basketball history to make all of his career three point attempts against Indiana probably. MSU's three pointers come almost exclusively from four players: Trice (36.9%), Valentine (46.7%), Bryn Forbes (44.9%) and Marvin Clark (40.6%).


Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 57.2% (12th) 17.3% (47th) 36.3% (45th) 38.1% (154th)
MICHIGAN STATE (Defense) 42.1% (14th) 18.6% (237th) 25.8% (19th) 35.7% (149th)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 47.4% (125th) 16.5% (322nd) 33.5% (225th) 26.2% (17th)
MICHIGAN STATE (Offense) 55.0% (21st) 18.8% (117th) 36.3% (93rd) 30.9% (301st)

Michigan State is woefully terrible at getting to the free throw line and turning their opponents over but has otherwise been good-to-great at just about everything else. They make up for their lack of chances at the free throw line by pulling down their own misses at a high rate. Prevent offensive rebounds is a category Indiana has been improving at since the Louisville game but they will have their hands full against Michigan State who does well in that category on both sides of the court despite being effectively smaller than Indiana. (#232 in effective height, IU is #219)

As will often be the case throughout Big Ten season, Indiana will have the superior scoring ability but must play enough defense for it to actually matter. Their isn't a built in disadvantage from a height perspective but they must be willing to match up with the Spartans' physicality. Nebraska was unable and unwilling to slug it out down low with Indiana where they are at their most vulnerable, but guys like Branden Dawson won't let the Hoosiers off so easy.

Three Things to Watch For:

  • Can road resiliency become a trend instead of a fluke? The Hoosiers showed a lot of mettle going into Lincoln and building a big lead, then showed a lot of inconsistency by letting that lead quickly slip away in the second half, but then showed an extra something by battling back against a raucous crowd to win their Big Ten opener on the road. As nice an atmosphere as Pinnacle Bank Arena applies, the Breslin Center is always a different kind of beast that will, at least, not be while the students are on campus. This will be Indiana's second true road game, and another admirable performance would set the tone for their Big Ten season.
  • Can Hanner Mosquera-Perea continue to build on his performance? HMP's game against Nebraska was easily one of his best as a Hoosier as he showed more offensive awareness than I've seen out of the junior since he arrived in Bloomington. His work on the glass was also incredible and crucial to the Hoosiers' winning effort. We've talked at length about how little HMP actually has to do to make this team even more dangerous, and if he can turn in performances like he did against Nebraska, making good on limited offensive looks and cleaning up the glass at a high level, Indiana can easily jump to the next level.
  • Will Gary Harris appear and score 30 points on 10/10 shooting from behind the arc? I don't think this is possible but let's not count any chickens until the game is over and we're safely out of East Lansing.