Indiana-Michigan St. Preview

While much has been made about Indiana’s resurgent campaign,

keeping things going could prove difficult for the undefeated

Hoosiers.

With the status of three contributors unclear for its daunting

Big Ten opener, No. 13 Indiana looks to avoid a 17th consecutive

loss in East Lansing on Wednesday night against 16th-ranked

Michigan State.

After going a conference-worst 28-66 over the previous three

seasons, Indiana begins Big Ten play as the league’s lone unbeaten

at 12-0 – its best start since going a perfect 32-0 in 1975-76.

The Hoosiers, whose only single-digit victory came 73-72 over

then-No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10, are tied for the Division I lead in

3-point percentage (45.9) and among the nation’s top 10 in scoring

(84.8 points per game).

Coach Tom Crean’s team carries plenty of momentum into

conference play, but continuing its winning streak won’t be

easy.

Indiana, which faces No. 2 Ohio State and No. 18 Michigan

following this contest, hasn’t prevailed at the Breslin Center

since a 62-56 win Feb. 28, 1991. The Hoosiers, though, did take the

then-No. 25 Spartans down to the wire during an 84-83 overtime loss

there Jan. 30.

“It’s a strong conference as always and we’re excited to get

this thing going,” guard Jordan Hulls said. “We got a lot of tasks

at hand and a lot of hard (games) coming up, so we just gotta be

mentally prepared.”

As if Wednesday’s matchup didn’t present enough of a challenge,

the Hoosiers could be at less than full strength with starting

guard Verdell Jones III (hip flexor) and reserves Will Sheehey

(leg) and Derek Elston (broken nose) all uncertain to play. The

trio is averaging a combined 25.0 points.

Michigan State (11-2) opened its season with back-to-back losses

to then-No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 6 Duke, but has since won

11 straight by an average of 22.2 points. The Spartans last won 12

in a row during a 12-0 start in 2000-01.

Tom Izzo’s team found itself in a bit of trouble and down by

three at the break before pulling away in Thursday’s 90-81 win over

Lehigh.

“This win will help us grow up,” senior Austin Thornton, who

scored 11 points while starting in place of Draymond Green, told

the school’s official website.

“Indiana’s going to come in here 12-0 and you know they’ll be

fired up. We’re going to have to be ready. I would like to be able

to say we’re going to have some blowout wins, but the Big Ten is

going to be very tough and very deep.”

Green, who kept himself out of Thursday’s starting lineup after

showing up late for a meeting, should be back in it against the

Hoosiers. Green is averaging a team-high 15.5 points and a Big

Ten-best 9.8 rebounds.

He forms an intriguing interior matchup with Indiana freshman

phenom Cody Zeller. The 6-foot-11 forward is recording team bests

in scoring (15.1 ppg), rebounding (7.3) and field goal percentage

(66.3).

Hoosiers forward Christian Watford, averaging 15.5 points over

his last four games, scored a season-high 22 during Thursday’s

89-47 rout of Maryland-Baltimore County. Senior guard Matt Roth had

a season-best 14 points in 18 minutes off the bench and could be a

factor in this one, especially if Jones is out.

“I think the way that they are playing, the way that these guys

are working, leads me to believe, leads all of us to believe inside

of our program, that there’s a lot of progress that can still be

made,” Crean said.

“Where we want to go as a team, where we want to go as a program

is still a long ways out there, but the way that they’re working

gives us a chance to continue to move towards that.”