Michigan State Basketball: Game-by-game predictions for February

Jan 29, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Derrick Walton Jr. (10) defends against Michigan State Spartans forward Miles Bridges (22) during the first half of a game at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 29, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Derrick Walton Jr. (10) defends against Michigan State Spartans forward Miles Bridges (22) during the first half of a game at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball is facing an important month of February and here are the game-by-game predictions.

The regular season is winding down and Michigan State basketball has an important month of February staring it in the face. The Spartans are looking like one of the top teams in the Big Ten, at least in the top half, after 10 conference games and they will need to finish strong if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State won its first game of the month against Nebraska on the road and that was one of those 50-50 contests which could have gone either way. If the Spartans can continue to win tough road games like that, they will be dancing in March.

However, the upcoming schedule isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Michigan State has games in the month of February against Purdue and Wisconsin which will make for a tough stretch.

Take a look at the game-by-game predictions for the Spartans in the month of February.

Tuesday, Feb. 7 — at Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Michigan is on the clock. The Spartans will take on the Wolverines on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor and it’s one of those remaining games which could trip them up. Playing in a hostile environment for a young team is a recipe for disaster, but we will find out what kind of team MSU really is.

The Spartans won the first matchup between the two and it was only an eight-point game because of Derrick Walton Jr.’s contributions. I expect more of the same this time as Walton goes off for 21 and he’s barely helped out by the rest of the team, Zak Irvin included.

Miles Bridges silences the crowd with a couple of big dunks and 3-pointers, but Cassius Winston’s clutch ability down the stretch will be the difference. Josh Langford will also have a nice game, Alvin Ellis III will come off the bench to hit a couple big threes and Nick Ward will bully Mo Wagner again.

Prediction: Michigan State 73, Michigan 69

Dec 29, 2015; Iowa City, IA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) dribbles against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2015; Iowa City, IA, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) dribbles against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, Feb. 11 — vs. Iowa (East Lansing, Mich.)

Iowa always seems to present a tough matchup for Michigan State. In fact, the Spartans went 29-6 last season and were relatively dominant in conference play outside of a three-game skid in January, but two of their six losses on the season were to the Hawkeyes.

That’s kind of crazy to think about. Iowa accounted for one-third of Michigan State’s losses in 2015-16 during a year in which many believe Tom Izzo had his best team since 1999-2000.

Like Michigan State, though, Iowa lost a ton of talent from last year’s team and both are very young this season. These two could be the class of the Big Ten a year or two down the line with the gradually improving young players on the roster, but the Spartans’ youth may just be a little more athletic than Iowa’s.

Michigan State will exact revenge on the Hawkeyes for last year’s two beatdowns in Iowa City and East Lansing. Eron Harris and Tum Tum Nairn remember losing twice to these guys and that won’t happen again as both of them have big games. Yes, you read that right, Tum Tum will have a big game. For him, anything more than two points and four assists is a big game — expect seven points and five assists.

Harris finishes with 18 as he finally gets hot again.

Prediction: Iowa 57, Michigan State 70

Jan 15, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Matt McQuaid (20) looks to pass around Ohio State Buckeyes guard Kam Williams (15) at Value City Arena. Ohio State won the game 72-67. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 15, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Matt McQuaid (20) looks to pass around Ohio State Buckeyes guard Kam Williams (15) at Value City Arena. Ohio State won the game 72-67. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday, Feb. 14 — vs. Ohio State (East Lansing, Mich.)

Michigan State loves revenge games. Losing at Ohio State when the Buckeyes were 0-4 in conference play definitely hurts, but the Spartans aren’t going to let that be the end of the rivalry between the two teams this season. They will get one more crack, at least, at taking down the Buckeyes.

Another Valentine’s Day matchup between these two teams, but unfortunately the Spartans don’t have Denzel Valentine around to make a last-second 3-pointer like he did two seasons ago to beat the Buckeyes at home on Feb. 14.

The Spartans do have Miles Bridges who is going to have yet another big game, but he will be joined by Matt McQuaid who’s going to start heating up from long-range. He has been relatively quiet this season from behind the arc, but the Spartans made an effort to get him the ball against Michigan during that first matchup and they will do so again here.

When the Buckeyes begin to collapse on a driving Bridges, he will kick it out to McQuaid for open threes. He finishes with 12 points on 4-of-6 makes from downtown. That’ll be the difference in this one even though Bridges will finish with 17 and Nick Ward will have 14.

Prediction: Ohio State 60, Michigan State 72

Jan 24, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Cassius Winston (5) is defended by Purdue Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson (11) during the second half of a game at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 24, 2017; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Cassius Winston (5) is defended by Purdue Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson (11) during the second half of a game at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, Feb. 18 — at Purdue (West Lafayette, Ind.)

Of the games left on the schedule, this one has to be the toughest. Michigan State’s first matchup with Purdue didn’t quite go as planned as the Spartans took a 38-38 tie into the halftime locker room, but the second half was all Boilermakers. What makes it even worse is the fact that Michigan State was the home team.

The Spartans have struggled at Purdue in recent years and the last win in West Lafayette was during the 2013-14 season. They almost won last season in a comeback effort, but the Boilermakers pulled out a tight one in overtime.

This one won’t be as close as last year’s unfortunately. As we found out from the first matchup between these two, the Boilermakers are just too strong down low for Michigan State. Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan had no issue getting to the basket by backing down Kenny Goins, Nick Ward and Miles Bridges, finishing with an easy two points.

Like last time, the Spartans’ bigs will get into some foul trouble and guys like Kyle Ahrens and Matt Van Dyk will have to come in and relieve them. Things might get ugly if that’s the case.

Bridges has a big game and he’s joined by Josh Langford who also goes off, but the Boilermakers’ Swanigan will put up 20 points and 15 rebounds again.

Prediction: Michigan State 63, Purdue 74

Feb 2, 2017; Lincoln, NE, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44) dunks against Nebraska Cornhuskers center Jordy Tshimanga (32) in the second half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Michigan State won 72-61. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 2, 2017; Lincoln, NE, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44) dunks against Nebraska Cornhuskers center Jordy Tshimanga (32) in the second half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Michigan State won 72-61. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, Feb. 23 — vs. Nebraska (East Lansing, Mich.)

Surely Nebraska wants a rematch after that ugly showing on Feb. 2, but the Cornhuskers won’t have much better luck against the Spartans at home. Nebraska has beaten Michigan State at the Breslin before, but this year’s version of the Cornhuskers is not as dangerous as it’s been in recent years.

However, this could be a trap game, sandwiched between Purdue and Wisconsin. If that’s the case, the Spartans and Cornhuskers will play a very close contest, with an even slimmer margin than the game in Lincoln.

Izzo knows not to overlook any one opponent and he will drill that into his guy’s heads. Unfortunately, Tai Webster will do his best to keep the game close and Jordy Tshimanga will have another big game against a thin Michigan State post, but Nick Ward (healthy this time) will counter with 15 points and eight rebounds of his own.

Miles Bridges will have another big game against the Cornhuskers, breaking the 20-point mark this time and hitting some big 3-pointers down the stretch.

Ed Morrow will likely be back for this one which could cause more problems for MSU in the post, but it’ll still be Michigan State’s game to lose.

Prediction: Nebraska 62, Michigan State 75

Jan 17, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Bronson Koenig (24) looks to pass as Michigan State Spartans guard Matt McQuaid (20) defends. Wisconsin defeated Michigan State 77-76 at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 17, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Bronson Koenig (24) looks to pass as Michigan State Spartans guard Matt McQuaid (20) defends. Wisconsin defeated Michigan State 77-76 at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday, Feb. 26 — vs. Wisconsin (East Lansing, Mich.)

I’ll say this, a less talented Michigan State team beat a better Wisconsin team back in 2006-07 when the Badgers were ranked No. 1 in the country. That may not mean much now, but I can already hear people calling me crazy for picking the Spartans to win this one.

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Raymar Morgan and Drew Neitzel were the only true offensive threats in that year’s contest and it took a herculean effort from both, especially the latter, to take down the top team in the land. It won’t take nearly as much of a heroic effort from guys like Miles Bridges or Nick Ward, but they will definitely need to be on their ‘A’ games.

Nigel Hayes has been a problem for Michigan State throughout his career, but he’s not even the Badgers’ leading scorer this season. Heck, he’s not even second as Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ have taken over the top two spots on the team, in terms of scoring.

However, coming into the Breslin hasn’t been all too kind to the Badgers. In fact, the Spartans have won 7-of-9 home games against Wisconsin since that upset in 2006-07. They will continue that trend on Feb. 26 with a nice resume-building victory before the end of the regular season.

Eron Harris will step up and make some clutch shots down the stretch, but it will be Cassius Winston’s spark that leads MSU past Wisconsin.

Prediction: Wisconsin 65, Michigan State 71

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