Michigan St.-Indiana Preview
Michigan State has already earned a share of the Big Ten title. However, that's not enough to satisfy coach Tom Izzo and his team.
The fifth-ranked Spartans can win the title outright with an eighth straight victory as they try to continue their recent success over No. 18 Indiana on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall.
Unranked to begin the season and loser of three of five to conclude January, Michigan State (24-5, 13-3) has won seven in a row by an average of 14.4 points since losing 42-41 at Illinois on Jan. 31. The Spartans earned a share of their seventh league title under Izzo on Sunday after Wisconsin won 63-60 at Ohio State.
While Izzo and the Spartans are happy with their latest accomplishment, they hope it's only the beginning of good things to come.
"We're playing for a lot more than just sharing a Big Ten title," said conference player of the year candidate Draymond Green, averaging 19.3 points in the last four contests.
A seventh consecutive victory over Indiana (22-7, 9-7) would give Michigan State its second outright regular-season championship in four years.
"I get paid to make sure people understand you have bigger goals," Izzo said. "Whenever you accomplish one, there should be another one. I get paid to never be satisfied and I let the players know that."
That's why the Spartans are not expected to coast in their final two games against the Hoosiers and at home versus the No. 10 Buckeyes on Saturday. Indiana coach and former Izzo assistant Tom Crean also does not expect that to happen as he tries to guide the Hoosiers to their first win over Michigan State since an 80-61 home victory Feb. 16, 2008.
"They really seem to be clicking on all cylinders right now," Crean told Indiana's official website. "They are certainly a worthy champion in the way that they have played the conference season, so we know that we've got our work cut out for us."
Michigan State, which held Nebraska to 29.2 percent shooting during a 62-34 home win Saturday, has won the last six against the Hoosiers by an average of 15.4 points.
Guard Keith Appling had 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds as the Spartans shot 54.7 percent in an 80-65 home win over Indiana in the conference opener for both teams Dec. 28.
The Spartans, holding opponents to 37.2 percent shooting this season, also kept 6-foot-11 Indiana star freshman Cody Zeller (15.4 points per game) to a season-low four points.
Foul trouble limited Zeller to seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in 18 minutes of a 69-50 victory at Minnesota on Sunday. Christian Watford, who was 0 of 13 from the field in the previous two games, went 2 of 4 and finished with 12 points.
"Just shows you how deep we are and how we're all capable of playing if we put our mind to it," said guard Victor Oladipo, who also had 12 points.
Watford made 9 of 16 shots, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, to finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds at Michigan State in December. He's averaged 20.3 points in three career games against the Spartans.
Though Indiana has dropped its last two against Michigan State at Assembly Hall, it's averaging 78.9 points on 50.3 percent shooting while going 6-1 at home in league play.