Michigan State still has a slim chance to win the Conference and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it won’t come easy, mainly because the Spartans have to win the rest of their Games. It’s possible, but ones like this on the road against Indiana are much harder than they appear. Purdue and Duke have already found that out in close wins in Bloomington earlier this season.
The Spartans have won three of their Four road Games in Big Ten play, but none of them have come easy. They committed 25 turnovers at Illinois 10 days ago and last weekend were down by 13 at the half in Maryland. Indiana is a completely different team at home and that’s why it beat Michigan State in this same situation a year ago.
ACCording to the numbers, Indiana shouldn’t have a chance, especially given that it already lost 85-57 in the first meeting in East LAnsing. But again, the same thing happened to Maryland and it battled for the entire Game when it was at home.
There are a few avenues for the Hoosiers to at least compete and they involve limiting offensive rebounds, not giving up easy shots and getting more from Juwan Morgan. In that first Game, all of those things went in MSU’s favor as it had 12 offensive boards, made 10-of-20 threes and Morgan finished with two points and three rebounds. The problem is that Indiana isn’t a good defensive rebounding team and allows a terrible 37 percent from downtown. The difference is Morgan, who is a much better player than he showed in that first Game. In the three performances after that MSU loss, Morgan averaged 26 points and seven rebounds. And the argument can’t be that he won’t deal with MSU’s size because he had 24 and seven against bigger guys from Purdue.
Morgan gives up plenty of size to Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson, but he’s an athletic, small ball center that you need to be aware of on the perimeter. If he’s on his Game, someone like Ward will have trouble defending him. The other thing the Hoosiers need is more of the same from Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk, which combined for 35 points in that first meeting. Both of them have a quickness advantage over Cassius Winston and Josh LAngford and that’s how they’ll attack in this Game. If all three of those guys get going, the Hoosiers will be in business. That may be enough to cover, while winning would require others like Zach McRoberts or Justin Smith to do more.
On the defensive end, there isn’t a true answer against Michigan State, at least for Indiana. Then again, it played well against Purdue and allowed just 74 points. But similar to Isaac Haas in that Game, Ward is going to eat after posting 18 points and 13 boards in 23 minutes in that first Game. The Hoosiers don’t have anyone to defend him and will have to double team him, which will in turn open up lanes for Miles Bridges and open shots for Winston and LAngford. Throw in Jaren Jackson, a future NBA lottery pick, who will also have an advantage on both ends of the cOurt, and it’s not easy.
As seen in that Purdue Game, the Hoosiers will fight as much as possible and that’s good enough reason to bet on them to cover. Winning isn’t impossible, but they’ll need a little bit more from everyone on the team instead of the top three guys mentioned. They’ll also need some more luck and hope the Spartans aren’t feeling good from distance.
Our Pick – Indiana +9