The last 48 hours as a Purdue basketball fan has seen a lot of rending of garments. It does not get much easier, either. Next up is a Michigan State team that is among the nation’s best. A Purdue victory restores immediate confidence that this just might be “The Year” and allows us to keep pace with Ohio State for the Big Ten. A loss doesn’t end the Big Ten race, but we must then rely on the Buckeyes to get at least one more loss and it raises questions about Purdue in the form of “they are good, but can they really beat the best out there?”
It won’t be easy.
Instead of a usual preview McLain Moberg of The Only Colors approached me for a Q&A. After the vitals we’ll get in to his answers.
From: East Lansing, MI
Date : Saturday, February 10, 2018
Tip Time: 4pm ET
Location: East Lansing, MI
Arena: Breslin Center (14,797)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 20-15, 10-8 Big Ten (lost to Kansas 90-70 in NCAA Second Round)
2017-18 Record: 23-3, 11-2
Opponent Blog: The Only Colors
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 68-53
Last Michigan State Win: 66-62 in Big Ten Tournament Championship Game on 3/13/2016
Last Purdue Win: 80-63 at Purdue on 2/18/2017
NCAA Tournament History: 31 Appearances (20 consecutive), 1979 & 2000 National Champion
Coach: Tom Izzo (567-223 in 23rd season at Michigan State)
T-Mill: Michigan State has had some turnover issues this year. Have they been fixed or are theys till a concern?
McClain: The Spartans have turned the ball over a total of 363 times this year, with an average of 14 per game. In my opinion it’s still something to be concerned about. It’d be one thing if opponents were always forcing Michigan State into bad situations, which then resulted in turnovers. It’s an entirely different thing to continuously make the errors on your own. If MSU starts shooting themselves in the foot with the turnover bug, I expect it will be a long day at the Breslin Center.
T-Mill: How do you see Michigan State’s frontcourt performing against Purdue, especially in defending Isaac Haas?
McClain: This will be the most interesting matchup to watch. I’m really excited for this actually. I think Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. will do just fine in defending Haas and Vincent Edwards. Do I think MSU will shut these guys down? Absolutely not, they are too good for that. The Spartans must find ways to disrupt how good Edwards can be offensively and try to get Haas off the block. In the past MSU has seen opponents use double teams to force Nick outside of the paint, doing the same to Isaac wouldn’t be a bad idea considering he shoots 61.6% inside the arc.
One other thing Michigan State needs is for Ward and Jackson to play smart. Getting into early foul trouble (both have been known to do this in the past) isn’t going to help anybody except Purdue.
T-Mill: Many thought the Big Ten was Michigan State’s to lose, but that has not been the case. What has been their biggest problem?
McClain: Every college basketball team has multiple problems and Michigan State is no different. In early January they went through a rough patch, fans saw MSU learn how to deal with and battle through adversity. Something MSU hadn’t really experienced until this point.
Playing through the Ohio State, Rutgers, and Michigan games showed some flaws the team had. When MSU got down in these games it was as if all life had left the building. The motivation, energy, and aggression had completely gone away. Fans were watching a team go through the motions and try to win based on talent alone, which never works.
Since then, we’ve seen Michigan State get behind in games against Maryland, Penn State, and Iowa but now we are seeing a different result.
T-Mill: Both of these teams are extremely well balanced throughout the starting five. Who stands out for MSU’s bench?
McClain: Matt McQuaid, he averages just under 20 minutes per game and typically adds his own spark to this Spartan team. He doesn’t average an enormous amount of points, assists, or rebounds but he ALWAYS goes out there and gives maximum effort. Matt is the kind of guy I’d want on my team if I was a basketball coach. There is a fire inside of him that might be bigger than anyone in the starting lineup. He always plays with the right amount of energy and aggression. He’s also been known to hit some clutch three pointers in his day.
T-Mill: Both of these teams have been in some major recruiting battles of late, most notably Xavier TIllman and Jaren Jackson. How does Izzo keep beating out Painter for these guys?
McClain: I’m not sure Izzo is “beating” Painter or anyone else out for these guys. Recruiting battles are always somewhat amusing to me because you never really know what a kid is going to do after you meet with him. Verbal agreements don’t exactly mean anything in today’s world.
One minute they are on social media saying “Thanks to MSU for the opportunity, can’t wait to be there next year” and the next they are going to Duke. So I’m not sure what Tom is doing differently, I think he goes into recruiting like he does coaching. All in or not in at all. So at the end of the day if he doesn’t get a young guy to sign with his team he doesn’t hang his head about it.
T-Mill: This is a huge game in the Big Ten standings. Does the winner have the inside track to a No. 1 seed in March?
McClain: I think it certainly helps. Winning this game means something different to both sides. If Michigan State wins, it keeps them in the running for a possible three way share of the Big Ten Championship between Purdue, MSU, and OSU. If the Spartans lose then any chance they had of winning it outright or having a share is gone (unless one team goes on some crazy losing streak).
If Purdue wins, their chances of keeping the No. 1 seed in March stay intact. Losing the one game to Ohio State doesn’t take that away from them, in my opinion. So beating Michigan State and winning out (more than possible) for the Boilermakers would be huge in terms of winning the conference and maintaining a high seed for the big dance.
T-Mill: Does Michigan State need this a little more than Purdue?
McClain: Yes they do. Michigan State needs a huge win on their resume before the regular season ends. The losses to Ohio State and Michigan continue to haunt them in the conference standings. The Spartans can’t afford to go 0-3 against the best B1G teams on their schedule.
The fan base wants to know MSU can win a big game in a playoff type environment because that’s exactly what Saturday is going to be like. The Boilermakers are coming in to East Lansing (our house) looking to snatch the life out of MSU and their home crowd.
It’s time Michigan State stands up and shows the world what they are made of.
T-Mill: What is your pick for Saturday?
McClain: I’m taking Michigan State 80, Purdue 76. I think the Spartans stay out of foul trouble early, hit shots, take better care of the ball and win a huge game at home against the Boilermakers.