IU/Michigan State Preview

On Sunday at noon from Branch McCracken Court at Assembly Hall, the Indiana Hoosiers will be fighting for their postseason dream. The Hoosiers will face the #9 ranked Michigan State Spartans with just three games left in the 2005 regular season. With consecutive wins over Michigan and Purdue, Indiana slipped their way back into the bubble scene, but are on very thin ice.

Indiana nearly needs to win out in the Big Ten to gain an at large bid. Their first challenge will be one of the toughest of the season against Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

The Hoosiers will not only the motivation of playing for their postseason lives, but are also attempting to win the 400th victory on Branch McCracken Court at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are 13-11 on the year and 8-5 in the Big Ten. No eligible team that has won 10 games in the Big Ten has missed the NCAA tournament, and the Hoosiers are hoping to continue that trend. They must first beat a very tough Michigan State team that is the only team in the NCAA to feature six players who are averaging double digits in scoring.

The Spartans are a team that truly defines the word team. There are six players on the squad that can step up and take over a game with their scoring. The team's main problem was the point guard spot, but Izzo recently anointed freshman Drew Neitzel the starting point guard, which allowed Chris Hill to concentrate at shooting guard, and made the team more effective overall. Since Neitzel was placed in the starting lineup following a loss to Illinois, the Spartans have not lost, going 6-0 during that span.

Despite playing better with Neitzel starting, the main players for Michigan State are Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson, Paul Davis, and Chris Hill. Davis is an imposing post figure at 6'11" and 255 pounds. He can dominate the post and will be a true test for Hoosier freshman DJ White. Davis can get into foul trouble, and Indiana will have to work against him on the offensive end to make him less effective on the defensive. Aside from Davis, the Spartans are a relatively small team, with the next tallest major contributor at 6'6". One of those men is football player Matt Trannon. Trannon is not a scorer for the Spartans, he just big and mean and gets rebounds. Indiana will have to play very physically inside to compete on the boards.

The guards from Michigan State are incredibly athletic, and very good shooters. The team averages 49.7% from the field and knocks down 36% of their shots from behind the arc. You can't foul these guys either, because they'll knock down the charity shots at an 80% clip. From their offensive statistics, it's easy to see why the Spartans have only lost four games this year.

Chris Hill, a former star at Lawrence North, provides senior leadership to the team, as well as an all-around good game. Hill's averaging ten points per game, but more importantly for the Spartans, he averages 4.5 assists per game, and 40% from behind the arc. Hill leads his team, and helps to turn some of their pure athletes into basketball players.

Alan Anderson is the team's other senior, and he's having a big year. He's averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds a game, while shooting 56% from the field. Anderson has a knack for getting to the free throw line, knocking down 81 of 91 shots on the year. Anderson can play inside or outside, and will create matchup problems for Indiana. James Hardy would be the best suited to guard him, but Hardy has seen less time in the last few games for the Hoosiers.

Maurice Ager is leading the Spartans in scoring with 14 per game, and adds in four rebounds per game. Ager is also good inside and out with the ability to draw fouls. He's shooting nearly 50% from the field, with a 40% three point average, and 84% from the stripe. Ager can take over a game with his slashing ability or his three point shot. He's a very dangerous player that Indiana will have to keep an eye on.

The Spartans are filled with weapons, and Indiana may not have enough firepower to combat all of them, but the Hoosiers have a great history against Michigan State. The Hoosiers have beaten Michigan State six of the last seven times the Spartans have brought a ranked team into Bloomington.

Michigan State snapped a bad streak on Thursday night, when they beat Wisconsin, their first win against a ranked team in their last 13 games against the top 25. Alan Anderson was the star for the Spartans that night, going 10-10 from the field with 28 points. The Hoosiers will need Anderson to miss some of his shots in order to win the ballgame.

Indiana has all the motivation, needed to beat a quality team to get into the tournament. The Hoosiers are considered to be outside looking in on the NCAA tournament. Indiana is just 1-6 against the top 50 in the RPI standings, and a win over #16 MSU would help considerably. Hurting the Hoosiers chances even more, they have five wins over teams ranked 200 or higher in the RPI, and a loss to Northwestern, who is in the 140's in the RPI. Indiana is sitting at 83rd in the standings, and needs wins to improve.

Indiana may try to employ some zone defense to control Paul Davis, but if Michigan State is hitting from the outside, Indiana could be in trouble. Michigan State can beat you nearly every way on the court, and they are a very deep team, with no one averaging more than 25 minutes per game. The Hoosiers will have to use the motivation of playing in the NCAA tournament to overcome the matchup problems that they face in Sunday's game.

Gametime is set for noon, with the tip-off to come at 12:17 from Bloomington. The game will be broadcast on CBS with Dick Enberg and Clark Kellogg calling the game. Don Fischer will be working to microphone for the IU radio network, as always.

Probable Starters: 6-6 Alan Anderson, G/F 6-11 Paul Davis, C 6-4 Shannon Brown, G 6-3 Chris Hill, G 6-0 Drew Neitzel, G

Peegs.com Top Stories