Sunday was always going to be an important game. Michigan State has been the premier program in the entire conference over the last 20+ years and the road to the Big Ten title often goes through them. This year is no different. They were the preseason No. 1 ranked team and despite some early struggles against a tough slate, they have recovered to solidify themselves in the top 10. They are already out in front of the conference at 5-0, but they have played four home games so far.
Purdue, meanwhile, has seen its dreams of a second consecutive Big Ten title die on the road. Last night’s game was a strong effort with Trevion Williams nearly pulling off a single-handed win. Purdue was once again shorthanded thanks to another injury to Matt Haarms, but fought hard and nearly got the critical road victory it needed. After lackluster efforts against Nebraska and Illinois, last night was encouraging, but it was still a loss.
Purdue needs to turn things around and get a win. It won’t be easy to do so against the best team in the conference, but Mackey Arena is always a force multiplier. Getting this game on Sunday stops the bleeding and keeps us in tournament consideration.
Michigan St. Spartans
From: East Lansing, MI
Date : Sunday, January 12, 2019
Tip Time: Noon
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Tickets: As low as $37 on StubHub
Online: CBS Sports HQ
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
NET Ranking: 8
2018-19 Record: 32-7, 16-4 Big Ten (Big Ten Co-Champs, Lost to Texas Tech 61-51 in Final Four)
2019-20 Record: 13-3, 5-0 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: The Only Colors
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 69-55
Last Michigan State Win: 77-59 at Purdue on 1/8/2019
Last Purdue Win: 73-63 at Purdue on 1/27/2019
NCAA Tournament History: 33 Appearances (22 consecutive), 1979 & 2000 National Champion
Coach: Tom Izzo (619-235 in 25th season at Michigan State)
Purdue might be struggling on the road, but aside from the final 3 minutes against Texas it has been prefect at home for almost two years now. That will be put to the test against a Michigan State team that, as usual, is getting better as the season goes on. At 9-7 a Purdue win stops the bleeding and, since it would come over an excellent MSU team, could be the impetus for a massive turnaround.
The Spartans have been excellent since and 87-75 home loss to Duke on December 3rd. They are on an eight game winning streak and the losses to Duke and Kentucky are far from bad. Virginia Tech got them 71-66 out in Maui in November, but they have been more than solid in Big Ten play, winning four of their five games in double figures.
Cassius Winston (19.4 pg, 6.3 apg) and Xavier Tillman (14.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg) have been excellent so far for the Spartans. Winston was the preseason conference Player of the Year and certainly has played like he wants the postseason award, too. Tillman, a one-time Purdue target, will have a great battle against Trevion Williams. Aaron Henry, a versatile guard from Indianapolis, is their No. 3 option at 10 points per game.
That trio is as good as any trio in the country and will be difficult to stop. They are a big reason that Michigan State is the best scoring team in the conference at 81.3 points per game. They can also play defense, as they are sixth in the league at 63.7 per game given up.
Where I am great concerned is Purdue’s shooting against Michigan State’s defense. Even after a good night last night, Purdue is still last in the conference in shooting at 41.5% and Michigan State is second in field goal percentage defense at 37%. As usual, Michigan State is the best rebounding team in the conference too. They also share the basketball extremely well, leading the conference with 19.8 assists per game.
So… yeah. Michigan State rebounds, shares the basketball, doesn’t turn it over, and plays stout defense. This is all against a flawed Purdue team that may be without one of its best weapons in Matt Haarms. This game will put the powers of Mackey Arena to the test. If there is one small advantage it is that Michigan State has only played two true road games so far. They only won at Northwestern by 5 and won at Seton Hall by 3. If you believe Purdue is better than both of those teams we have a shot, but it will not be easy.