MSU Northwestern CBB

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Michigan State

vs.

Northwestern

College Basketball

Pick

2/17/18

With only one week to go in the Big Ten regular season, the chances of picking up quality wins are dwindling. That’s the biggest problem for Northwestern, which is looking set to miss the NCAA Tournament after finally breaking through last year. The Wildcats need to win out and then do some damage in the Conference Tournament if they want to hold hope.

It seems like a long shot in this Game, but Northwestern at least has a chance to pull of the upset against the Spartans. For starters, the Wildcats have been much better in home Games, already beating teams like Penn State and Michigan with ease. This team isn’t playing the same as a year ago, but there’s still talent to go around and that’s how it can upset anyone in the Big Ten Tournament.

Nothing has come easy for Michigan State, especially on the road. It seems to get down in almost every road Game, from Maryland to Iowa and even the Illinois Game when it had 25 turnovers. The Spartans have escaped in most road wins this season and that at least leaves a window for Northwestern to steal a win.

These teams met last year in East LAnsing and it wasn’t a fun Game with MSU winning 61-52. Unfortunately for Northwestern, Miles Bridges didn’t play in that Game and now Jaren Jackson is on the roster. Dealing with those two in addition to Nick Ward down low is going to be an issue all Game.

Northwestern’s best trait may be its three-point defense, but it gives up 51 percent from inside the arc, which is where Ward comes in. Northwestern’s inefficient offense could also be a problem against the Spartans, which have the best effective FG% defense in the conference.

Starting down low, Dererk Pardon draws Nick Ward and Gavin Skelly gets Jaren Jackson. Needless to say, Northwestern is going to have an issue in both of those matchups. Both Pardon and Skelly matchup in terms of size, but skill and athleticism are another story. The key for Northwestern is in the backcOurt where guys like Bryant McIntosh, SCottie Lindsey and Vic LAw all have to hit their shots. Those guys like to shoot but McIntosh makes less than 42 percent of his two-pointers, while Lindsey (33%) and LAw (37%) take a lot of threes and don’t make them. If one of those guys can get going, that’ll at least give hope to the Wildcats and should keep them in distance of an upset.

Cassius Winston and Josh LAngford have had problems defensively all season on the perimeter and Bridges is hit-or-miss on that end. The problem for Northwestern is that in addition to losing the battle in the paint, it has to play a great Game on the perimeter. LAw has length to use against Bridges, but that’s a hard thing to count on. McIntosh is the type of defender that can get exposed by Winston and if that’s the case, the Spartans could roll to a win.

Northwestern had high expectations this season and with multiple seniors in the starting lineup, it won’t go down easy. But will that be enough to back the home team in this Game, which is coming off an overtime loss to Rutgers? Keep in mind, the Wildcats are playing about a 40-minute drive from campus. The Spartans like winning close and with the advantage down low, it’ll be hard to go against them.

Our Pick – Northwestern +8