The Matchup: Michigan State (10-2, 1-0) @ Northwestern (8-3, 0-1)
Location: Welsh Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: Big Ten Network (6:00 PM CT)
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: Michigan State is 6-0 this season when Goran Suton plays.
About the MSU Game
Northwestern and Michigan State enter this game seemingly going in different directions. MSU beat previously undefeated Minnesota in their Big Ten opener, while the Wildcats lost to Penn State. The initial reaction upon seeing this is the Wildcats are in trouble. However, Minnesota probably isn’t as good people thought and Penn State probably isn’t as bad. Despite that, though, this remains a tall task for Northwestern. Michigan State is one of, if not the most, physically talented team Northwestern will play this season. The Spartans are unbelievably quick with the ball, led by point guard Kalin Lucas, and have a whole host of future NBAers on the roster. Position for position Northwestern will struggle to matchup.
Besides their speed, the Spartans have size. 6-10 Goran Suton is back at full speed after early injuries and he leads MSU with 6.7 rpg, he also scores 10.3 ppg. Alongside Suton in the front court are 6-8 forwards Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe. Morgan is regarded by some as the best all around player in the Big Ten. He currently averages 14.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg in addition to shooting 62.3%. Roe was the highest rated recruit to enter the Big Ten this season and although slowed by injuries early, he still averages 5.3 ppg and 5.1 rebounds.
Off the bench, MSU can bring in two sharp shooters who have decent size as well. 6-3 reserve guard Chris Allen averages 10.2 ppg, despite not being a starter, on the strength of his 23-of-61 three point shooting. Fellow reserve Durrell Summers, despite receving the wrath of Coach Tom Izzo early on, now shoots 50% from three and is a key member of the Spartan rotation.
How can NU stop this team? The first thing they must do is play much better defense on the perimeter than they did in the second half against PSU. Open shots cannot be allowed. A hand needs to get in every shooter’s face. This is potentially scary as every Spartan shooter, save Lucas, towers over Michael Thompson. It will be interesting to see if Sterling Williams gets any time as a defensive sub. Another thing the Wildcats must do is control the pace of the game. Michigan State wants to play very fast. NU wants to play very slow. NU cannot rush shots as they did at times against PSU. Certain Wildcats must learn that just because you are open doesn’t mean you have to shoot. Finally, NU must place bodies on MSU’s rebounders. One of the killers against PSU was the fact NU got creamed on the boards. Part of the problem was Kyle Rowley only playing 12 minutes. Although he doesn’t pull down a lot of rebounds personally, the fact he can occupy space and bang with another team’s center allows for Kevin Coble, John Shurna, and Jeff Ryan to get rebounds. This needs to happen against MSU. It would also help the Wildcats if Davide Curletti could get over his nagging injuries and get some court time. He would give the Wildcats another bigger body to fight with Suton and company.
Prediction: I think this game will be much closer than many think. I expect Northwestern to stay in the game for about 30 minutes, however, the lack of a home student crowd might be an intangible which works against the Wildcats. I suspect that it will be about 30 minutes into the game when MSU’s talent starts to win out. I believe this will be the first time, and the only time for a while, an opponent breaks the 70 point barrier against NU. Michigan State, 78 Northwestern, 65