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Purdue Basketball: Michigan State Preview

I watch Michigan State games so you don’t have to

Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Where: Breslin Student Event Center, East Lansing, Michigan

When: 9 PM (EST), January 8, 2019


Michigan State Spartans

Current Record: 13-2

Big10 Record: 4-0

Previous Game: 86-77 road victory over Ohio State

Head Coach: Tom Izzo

Projected Starting Lineup

C - #44 Nick Ward - 6’9, 245 - Jr - 16.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG

PF - #25 Kenny Goins - 6’7, 230 - Sr - 6.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG

SF - #0 Kyle Ahrens - 6’6, 210 - Jr - 6.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.7 APG

SG - #20 Matt McQuaid - 6’5, 200 - Sr - 8.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 44% 3PT

PG - #5 Cassius Winston - 6’1, 185 - Jr - 17.7 PPG, 7.6 APG, 44% 3PT

Key Reserves

F / C - #23 Xavier Tillman - 6’8 - 245 - So - 21.3 MinPG, 8.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.7 BPG

SG/SF - #11 Aaron Henry - 6’6 - 210 - Fr - 14.9 MinPG, 4.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 45% 3PT

Advanced Statistics Comparison

Kenpom Ranking

Purdue: 17

Michigan State: 4

Adjusted Tempo

Purdue: 67.6 (264)

Michigan State: 72 (73)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Purdue: 117.6 (6)

Michigan State: 119.6 (3)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Purdue: 97 (68)

Michigan State: 92.4 (17)

Miscellaneous Stats

Effective Field Goal Percentage Offense

Purdue: 55 (41)

Michigan State: 58.3 (7)

Effective Field Goal Percentage Defense

Purdue: 51.6 (218)

Michigan State: 43 (7)

Three Point Percentage Offense

Purdue: 37.2 (52)

Michigan: 40.4 (11)


Basic Set: 4 Out 1 In or 3 Out 2 in (depending on personnel)

Nick Ward Post

This set should look familiar, because Purdue ran it to death with Haas and Biggie.

Ward posts hard and is surrounded by 4 players outside the 3 point arch. Ohio State does good job of keeping pressure on the ball on the outside, while battling Ward for position outside. The ball pressure it key to preventing the entry pass. Purdue must pressure the Michigan State guards because I don’t like Ward going 1 on 1 against any of the Purdue bigs. Preventing the entry pass is going to be key for the Boilermakers.

You’ll also notice Ohio State had solid player recognition on this possession. #25 (Kenny Goins) is the one guy in this set you can cheat off of and not get burned from deep. Purdue will happily give up a Kenny Goins baseline drive and a Nick Ward mid range jumper every possession.

Purdue must have scouting report discipline in this game. Michigan State wants to bait you into leaving shooters to help in the post and then kill you from deep. Purdue has to make Michigan State beat them shooting contested 2’s and not open 3’s.

Nick Ward Transition

Tom Izzo is the master of spacing on the fast break. You can look at any fast break from the last 10 years, and it will look just like this.

Winston throws a killer cross court outlet to McQuay.

McQuay hits the hard posting Ward in the paint.

Ahrens provides spacing on the opposite side.

The floor spacing lets Ward work one-on-one in the post, because of the two wing shooters.

This is a still from the play.

The first thing you should notice is that Winston’s outlet pass has provided the Spartans with a 3 on 2 break.

The two Ohio State defenders (green) are in a bind because Nick Ward is going to punish you if he is allowed to post with two feet in the post, but the only Ohio State defender in a position to help, can’t because Matt McQuay will punish you if you leave him open for 3.

The Spartans have yet another 3 point shooter spotting up on the weak side, just in case Ward gets doubled from the top side and can’t get the ball back out to the strong side guard.

Michigan State thrives in this type of transition. Purdue must run back hard on defense, and apply enough ball pressure in transition to keep Winston from throwing killer outlet passes. Once the Spartans get you in this position, you’re cooked. The best outcome is to let Ward try and score 1 on 1 and not foul him.

Xavier Tillman

The Spartan’s use Nick Ward in spurts, and when he goes out Xavier Tillman comes in, and the offense changes.

Instead of a 4 out 1 in look, they go a 3 out 2 in look, with Tillman and Goins both looking to set screens (some might say moving screens) to free up perimeter shooters. When Tillman gets the ball in the post, he has no thoughts of scoring, he’s just waiting for Winston to come off the down screen for the open jumper.

Normally, I would be fine with giving up a mid range jumper, but Winston is an excellent mid range shooter. If you give him that shot, he will beat you.

When Tillman comes into the game, Purdue’s defensive communication will be put to the test. Michigan State loves the little hip check, off the ball, moving screen. It might get called one out of every 50 times against the Spartans, so Purdue will either need to fight through or switch the other 49 times.



Michigan State’s defense is simple and effective. You won’t see many exotic zones or half court traps from Michigan State. Instead, you’ll see aggressive man-to-man defense.

One thing that the Spartan’s do a little differently than most teams is they refuse to let you catch them in a switch. You’ll notice in the clip above that they avoid mismatches by having their big man show and recover while the primary defender fights through the screen.

Purdue might be able to exploit this in two ways.

Your big man can flash open on the roll before the Spartan big man recovers, but most guards can’t get the pass over the showing big man before he can recover. Nojel Eastern’s unique size may allow him to throw the early pass to the rolling big man. One thing to watch, however, is Kenny Goins sliding in from the weak side and picking up charges on the rolling big man. It’s one of his specialties.

I also like Carsen coming off the screen and either attacking the big man off the dribble or pulling up for his lethal jumper. There is a split second in the transition from the big man showing and the primary defender fighting over that someone with Carsen’s ability can exploit. If Carsen can attack their big men as soon as they show, Purdue may be able to pick up some cheap fouls on the Michigan State bigs.

Back Cut

One way to attack the aggressive Michigan State defense is to catch them trying to jump passing lanes and back cutting for easy lay ups.

In their game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes were able to exploit the back cut on several occasions from the weak side of the floor. Depending on who is on the floor, I think Purdue can exploit this look.

I love Aaron Wheeler on the back cut, and I love his ability to finish above the rim even more.


We’re all familiar with Tom Izzo and Michigan State. This is going to be a physical game. The Spartan’s will set their moving screens until the refs stop them, which generally doesn’t happen in the Breslin Center. Purdue is going to have to match their physicality on both ends of the floor.

As always, rebounding will be key. If I’m being honest, the prospect of Ward and Goins attacking Evan Boudreaux and Grady Eifert tandem on the offense glass is terrifying. The Boilermakers are going to have to figure out a way to compete on the glass if they want any shot of winning this game. Michigan State will blow you out of the gym if you consistently give them multiple chances to score on offensive possessions.

When Purdue is on offense, the newly discovered ball and player movement will be crucial. Michigan State is excellent at shutting down your primary option and making other players beat them. Carsen will need to continue to pick his spots and get his teammates involved early, so he can get free later.

As always, Purdue will have to weather at least one Michigan State offensive explosion in this game. The Spartans are a team that can knock you out of the game in a 3 minute segment. Matt will need to have his time out hands active.

KenPom: Michigan State 81 - Purdue 73 (77% Confidence)

Drew: Michigan State 88 - Purdue 82