The last time Mackey Arena had a major spotlight game was two years ago when Duke came to town. The Blue Devils brought the national spotlight with them for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and we weren't ready. Now we get another chance. College GameDay is in town, making it the biggest on campus event since the ill-fated Football GameDay trip in 2004.
This game has lost a little bit of luster from what we originally thought. When it was announced, Robbie Hummel was on the road to recovery and there was the possibility that it could be #1 vs. #2 in the county, both undefeated, for early Big Ten supremacy. Instead, Hummel has been hurt and Purdue has lost a couple of close games, while Michigan State has unexpectedly struggled against a difficult schedule.
Does it make this game less exciting? Of course not! Since Ohio State has a difficult game at Illinois earlier in the day, first place could be on the line in the conference. A Purdue victory would put us two full games ahead of Michigan State in the conference race. It also would give us momentum going into our own contest in Columbus next week.
I have been looking forward to this game for months. Finally the tickets can come down off of my fridge and be used. The Boilermaker Heroes and I will be pre-gaming at Harry's but most of the H&R staff will be in attendance.
2009-10 Record: 28-9, 14-4 Big Ten (Big Ten co-champions)
2010-11 Record: 12-6, 4-2 Big Ten
Postseason Result: Lost 52-50 to Butler in National Semifinal
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 63-45
Last Purdue win: 2/9/2010 at Michigan State 76-64
Last Michigan State win: 2/28/2010 at Purdue 53-44
Time & TV 9pm ESPN
Even though this is a Michigan State preview, I feel like it is almost overkill at this point. We're more than familiar with this team after splitting with them the last two seasons. the key players are all still there: Kalin Lucas, Devon Roe, Korie Lucious, Draymond Green, Garrick Sherman, and Durrell Summers have been the core group for years now. Lucas, Summers, and Green lead in scoring, but the trademark of this team is balance. Keith Appling can be a threat off the bench as a 3-point shooter. Austin Thornton and Adreian Payne give them solid minutes every night.
This is a deep, experienced team, possibly one of the most experienced teams in the country. That makes their 12-6 start so confusing. on the one hand, there isn't a bad loss int hat much (even at Penn State). On the other, For a team that was the preseason #2 team no one expected them to lose all all of these losses. When they struggled with Chaminade on Maui it was a concern. Close losses to Connecticut and Duke aren't awful. Syracuse and Texas were more dominating in victories over the Spartans.
Probably what is more of a concern is the number of close wins MSU had. They have twice escaped Northwestern mostly because of the Wildcats' incompetence in the final minutes. Oakland and Wisconsin also have near victories over them. Something isn't right with this Michgian State team, and their fans know it.
You see the numbers above, but this game transcends them. We know Michigan State is a physical team that will try to dominate the offensive glass and earn second chance points. They are a wounded animal right now, in danger of falling off the pace in the Big Ten as we approach the halfway mark. What scares me is that they are a wounded animal with a pedigree for turning it on at the right time. They also have one of the best coaches in the country. There is not hatred for them, but massive amounts of respect. Their fans respect us and we respect them. Tom Izzo could go over to the Co-Rec today, find five guys, and probably still play us to a 10 point game with them.
The Only Colors knows what is at stake tonight. We should just sit back and enjoy watching some of the best players in recent Big Ten history square off against each other. I'll be there, and I expect to be hoarse by the end of hte night.