Pick – Analysis
These two teams went from locks for the NCAA Tournament to flirting with the bubble life again all because of one upset. When these teams met in early January, it wasn’t much of a Game, but Indiana has different plans this time around at Assembly Hall.
Michigan State fell in overtime (record 6th OT this year) last week to Minnesota and that’s when people started doubting the Spartans again. The funny thing is, they probably play better on the road, although it’ll be hard to match their 20-point win when these teams met in East LAnsing.
Indiana lost at Northwestern last week to further doubt how good this team will actually be in the NCAA Tournament. The last time they won back-to-back Games was all the way back on Jan. 22. The Hoosiers have gone back-and-forth in every Game since, and have now lost two straight, which isn’t a great recipe in postseason Tournaments. They are in a near must-win situation on Senior Night. If they can’t win here, they may need a relevant win in the Big Ten Tourney to make the big one.
In the first Game, everything was going Michigan State’s way. They weren’t shooting all that well, but won the rebounding battle 50 to 28, and James Blackmon Jr. shot a miserable 1-of-14 from the field. MSU won 70-50 and the Game was never really in doubt.
The Hoosiers had no answer for Branden Dawson (14 pts, 13 rebs), and if the senior is on his Game again, that’s trouble because Indiana can’t really match up with him. Unfortunately for MSU, Dawson was knocked out of Wednesday’s Game with a concussion and his status is up in the air. Indiana’s lack of size was also evident in the fact that MSU big men Gavin SChilling and Matt Costello dominated the boards combining for 16. It’s not often you can say that SChilling and Costello dominated at something.
Indiana’s route to success, which has been the case all season, is through Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. Ferrell will see a lot of freshman Tum Tum Nairn on him while Blackmon will draw the attention of Denzel Valentine. Troy Williams could be an even bigger x-factor for the Hoosiers as he did absolutely nothing in the first Game, going scoreless. Williams averages almost 14 per Game on the season. His matchup will be, as expected, Branden Dawson, a current Big Ten defensive player of the year candidate. If Dawson can’t go, it’ll be interesting what happens, but that could mean Marvin Clark Jr. and Bryn Forbes get more play time.
Dawson was off his Game last Sunday against Wisconsin as his son was in the hospital due to pneumonia and he barely played Wednesday due to his injury. The Spartans regularly look to Dawson, Valentine and Travis Trice in big road Games. Valentine and Trice may have to do even more here for their team.
Both of these teams will want to close the regular season on a high note, but usually that advantage goes to the home team. And in this case, playing at Assembly Hall only makes things more difficult. The Hoosiers haven’t been unstoppable at home this year, though, losing to Eastern Washington early in the season, and more recently a surprising loss to Purdue.
Indiana will make things much more difficult to win this time around for Michigan State, it’s just a matter if Ferrell, Blackmon or even Williams will be hitting their shots.
Our Pick – We rate this Game dead even. If the line is pick em to -2, we’ll side with the Hoosiers. At +3 or more we’d have to grab the points.