The Boilermakers and the Spartans will meet again for the second time this season as they look to start the second half of the B1G season with a W. Purdue, who is a program best 20-1. looks to maintain a two game lead in the conference race by getting to 10-1 (Rutgers 6-3/Northwestern 5-3). Purdue is led by National Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey and supported by potentially the best freshman backcourt in the country in Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. Michigan State is looking for a statement win and to get within two games of the Boilers if they can defeat the Boilers at Mackey Arena. The Spartans, currently 6-4,need a resume building win to push them up the seed line. They are led by a trio of double digit scores in Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser, and AJ Hoggard but the return of Malik Hall may be what the Spartans need to get back into the conference race over the last 10 games.
Let’s get into the important matchups!
1 | Purdue’s Depth vs. Michigan State
Purdue’s depth is going to help beat a lot of teams that rely on a really short bench and Michigan State appears to be a team that is going to lean heavily on their best seven. With the return of Malik Hall from injury, Tom Izzo played mainly seven guys in their previous game against Iowa with Hall receiving 25 minutes and Brooks getting 12 minutes off the bench. No other Spartan got more than 8 minutes and no starter played less than 28 minutes. That is a lot of minutes to log and just three days removed from a B1G game might leave them a bit sluggish, especially as Hall rounds back into game shape.
Purdue, on the other hand, features nine players that see 12 or more minutes a game. Even Brian Waddell, who has seen his minutes reduced heavily into the B1G season, is averaging nearly 10 minutes per game. But to give a better insight, Purdue’s bench played an average of 16 minutes against Michigan in their last game. Purdue is able to bring in players that are just better than most other players coming off the bench for opponents or they are able to wear down opponents late in games with fresher legs.
Purdue’s bench has an ability to score points and if the combination of Jenkins, Gillis, Newman, and Kaufman-Renn can get the Boilers 20 or more points, the Boilers will be tough to beat at home (with the understanding that the starters also play well).
2 | Zach Edey vs. Mady Sisoko
In the first matchup in East Lansing, Tom Izzo tried to let Edey go one-on-one with the hopes that they could eventually trade 2’s for 3’s and not allow Purdue’s perimeter players to hurt them. Early on, Purdue was able to get out to a 13 point lead but saw that dwindle as the Boilers ended the half extremely poorly on both sides of the court. Edey was able to take advantage of the way MSU had decided to game plan for him for 32 points and 17 rebounds but the rest of the team accounted for only 32 other points and attempted only 10 three points attempts (hitting 4).
If Izzo is going to again go with a single coverage type of scheme against Edey, then Purdue’s perimeter shooters are going to have to make them pay for it. However, it is going to come down to whether Zach can take advantage of his opportunities against a team that is willing to let him go 1 on 1 most of the game. This is going to be a game where Zach likely gets 20-25 shots for the game and he is going to have to hit 50%-60% of those if the offense is going to be effective around him. That is a lot to be responsible for but Edey has been able to score on better defenders than Sisoko.
On the other end of the floor, Sisoko just doesn’t provide any sort of threat from the outside to pull Edey away from the paint. If Edey can really hurt MSU on the interior and Purdue is able to hit shots, look for Izzo to go small with Hauser at the 5. That’s one that Purdue should dominate on the glass and in the post.
3 | Tyson Walker vs. Braden Smith
This is going to be a tough matchup for Smith as Walker is MSU’s leading scorer and a guy who dropped 30 on Purdue in East Lansing. Walker was able to really hurt Purdue in the mid-range by making jumpers. Michigan State went to a ‘horns up’ often against Purdue and even more so in their recent game against Iowa that will try to force rotations and get Edey out of the lane. Smith will need to do a good job to get through those screens quickly when he is defending Walker up high. When Walker is used off the ball, he will need to make sure he closes out quickly.
Smith likely won’t be able to drive on Walker as freely as he will be able to when Holloway subs into the game. Walker is a much better on ball defender so Braden will need to pick his spots much more precisely than when Holloway is on the floor. At times in the previous game, Walker did go under a high ball screen so Smith may be inclined to take a step back three pointer to open up the lane more to drive or dump to Zach off the pick and roll.
Overall, Smith just needs to continue to play how he has all season. Make shots when the opportunity presents itself, don’t get tricky on the defensive end by going to steals off the ball, and don’t turn the ball over. If he can do that, Purdue has enough around him in Edey, Loyer, Gillis, Newman, and Jenkins to score points.
Extra Point | How Physical Do The Refs Let MSU Get?
This has been an issue for weeks now and doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for Edey, specifically. Tom Izzo, after the Purdue game, made statements about how Edey is able to get away with so much contact whereas Coach Painter came out a few days ago about Zach being a piñata inside. Where will this game get called is a big question. If MSU is called for the fouls that they make and it forces them to adjust how they defend, it will make it very difficult for the Spartans to beat the Boilers on the road. If they don’t, Edey could end up shooting 15 or more free throws himself and fouling out Michigan State’s front court before the 8 minute media timeout in the second half.
Michigan State, for whatever reason this season, just doesn’t have the presence inside to really make it difficult for opposing post players. In their last 5 games, MSU has given up 31 (Jackson-Davis), 12 (Omoruyi), 32 (Edey), 20 (Dainja), and 16 (Rebraca) to opposing post players. I would expect Edey, if he plays to just his average, will likely score 20+ points and grab 12 rebounds. That won’t be enough by himself and it’ll be on the outside shooters to get to that magic 35% from behind the arc to likely win this game. Jenkins has been on a shooting tear lately and I think this is a game where he really shows out.
Michigan State: 65