Four keys for Michigan State in Indianapolis

Breaking down the four most important things the Spartans will look to do in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend.

Michigan State opens its Big Ten Tournament on Friday night against Northwestern in the final game of the quarterfinal round.

After missing out on the regular-season title, the Spartans are focused on accomplishing their second goal: Winning this tournament.

Here are four keys for Michigan State in Indianapolis this weekend:

1. Controlling turnovers

Michigan State has turned the ball over 16 times in each of its past three games and was killed by points off turnovers in its previous two games (losses to Michigan and Illinois).

Whether it be an issue of getting the team back together with three pieces joining almost simultaneously, the product of trying to get in transition more of just happenstance, turnovers are plaguing the Spartans. Cleaning up the little controllable mistakes will go a long way for the Spartans trying to advance through the tournament.

2. Defense

Defense also became an issue down the stretch for Michigan State in the final month or so of the season. Each of the past five teams have shot better than 46.9 percent and four of five have hits more than 40 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Switches and ball screens have been a point of emphasis in practice leading up to the tournament. How well the Spartans have picked up their play – focused on the guards switches and big man ball screen defense – it will go a long way just like cutting down turnovers.

3. Rhythm

Tying in with the first two points, the Spartans are seeking to gain some semblance of rhythm after adding Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne It is like adding multiple ingredients to something cooking on a stovetop, you don't know the impact on the overall picture until all the ingredients settled in and mix.

That is in essence what the first three games have been so far with all the pieces back in the mix. With more practices and more time to mesh, good things will come … which leads me to …

4. Win the games

Rhythm comes with more games played and the Spartans need as many of those as they can get right now. Three are available to them and winning to advance on and on would be a huge help to this team.

Winning breeds confidence and that's another thing this team – looking especially at Appling – needs.

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