The Matchup: Northwestern (9-6) @ #7 Michigan State (15-2)
Location: Breslin Center (East Lansing, MI)
TV: Big Ten Network (5:30 PM CT)
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Fun Fact: Craig Moore has scored 75 points in his career against Michigan State, an average of 15 per game.
About the Game
The first matchup this year between these two teams was decided by a 12-0 Michigan State run at the start of the second half. That run erased a 33-32 Wildcat halftime lead and provided the winning margin in a 77-66 Spartan victory. Overall, that game was similar to many I’ve seen from Michigan State this year. It seems the Spartans will often let a team hang around for a half or for 30 minutes, but will then turn up the dial and run past their opponent. Run is really the operative word as Wildcat fans who saw the Spartans at Welsh-Ryan have to acknowledge the Spartans showed tremendous team speed. Despite the fact NU tried to slow the game down, Michigan State still got down the court with speed and scored 77 points. A key to a Wildcat upset has to be controlling the pace of the game better. Of course, Michigan State will get some breakaways, but the Wildcats cannot let the game turn into a Raymar Morgan dunk show. Morgan is still the Spartans leading scorer with 14.8 ppg. He also averages 7.0 rpg. Although he showed some high-flying skills against NU at Welsh-Ryan, he also showed a nice jump shot as well. Morgan had the flu for Saturday's game and missed a workout Monday with the virus. No word on what that means for Wednesday.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Michigan State to me is the fact they don’t seem to miss open shots. As a group, they shoot 46.8% overall and 38.3% from three. Kalin Lucas is the Spartans other top scorer at 13.7 ppg. It is Lucas’s great speed that often triggers the impressive Spartan break. Off the bench, NU will have to contend with shooter Chris Allen who scored double figures at NU. As much as Morgan, Suton, or Lucas, it was Chris Allen’s dead-eye shooting which overpowered NU at Welsh-Ryan.
The other major area where NU is at a disadvantage in taking on the Spartans is, of course, on the glass. The Spartans outrebound their opponents by 10.2 per game. NU averages about four less than the teams they play. Goran Suton leads the Spartans with 7.4 ppg, but don’t forget guys like Marquise Grey and Delvon Roe who also can crash the glass and get easy twos after a teammate’s miss. Perhaps the strategy to counter this for Northwestern will be to force turnovers. In the last two games Northwestern has forced more than 30 turnovers. Perhaps Michigan State’s only unimpressive stat is they have more turnovers than assists. I expect Jeremy Nash to get a lot of time based on his play the last two games, however, I believe it would be a mistake for Coach Carmody to simply stick him at the top of the 1-3-1 and let things be. If Northwestern tries to play the 1-3-1 all day, Michigan State will shoot them right out of the gym. How well Coach Carmody varies his defensive looks might be a key to the game for NU.
Prediction: Michigan State has several advantages in this game. First, MSU is playing at home, second NU has a terrible rebounding margin, and third MSU’s total talent is far superior. Based on these stats you might expect a blow out, but I think Craig Moore’s love for playing in and against the state of Michigan will give NU a boost. As a result, I expect a close game. Michigan State, 69 Northwestern, 65