Big Ten Tourney Preview: MSU v. Iowa

Can the Spartans capture their third Big Ten Tournament championship in eight years? The first step to that feat will be defeating the Hawkeyes Friday in the United Center. Read SpartansInsider Doug Warren's preview of the game - including key matchups, possible strategies, and his final score when you <I>Get Inside</I>.

THE MATCHUP: Michigan State Spartans versus Iowa Hawkeyes

DATE: Friday, March 11, 2005 – Chicago, IL. – United Center

TIME: 6:40 p.m. ET (ESPN Plus)

GAME NOTES: The Hawkeyes defeated Purdue, 71-52, Thursday afternoon in the tournament's opening round. Adam Haluska led the Hawkeyes with 17 points and 6 rebounds, while Jeff Horner chipped in with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists.

Iowa entered the Big Ten Tournament having won its last three games. In conference games, the Hawkeyes led the league in blocked shots (4.31 bpg) and ranked second in field-goal percentage defense (.426)

Michigan State had a bye Thursday due to their second place conference finish. The Spartans haven't played a game since their 90-64 win over Penn State last Saturday.

The Spartans are looking to capture their third Big Ten Tournament championship in eight years. In seven years of the Big Ten Tournament, MSU has a record of 8-5. The Spartans won the tournament in 1999 and 2000, and lost in the quarterfinals in 1998, 2001 and 2002. In each of the last two seasons, MSU has lost in the semifinals. Michigan State is 7-3 when the tournament is held in Chicago.

KEY MATCHUPS:

Center: MSU's Paul Davis (6'11" 255) versus Iowa's Erek Hansen (6'11" 210)

If the Spartans are to play deep into March, Paul Davis (11.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) must be more aggressive in the low post. While he is a very good passer for a big man, he needs to attack the basket more often. That will give him more opportunities at the foul line and allow the Spartans to crash the boards for second chance putbacks and possessions. When Davis is aggressive offensively, the Spartans become that much better.

Hansen has been a disappointment this season; he is basically a shot blocker and little else. Davis had 10 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in 31 minutes of action versus the Hawkeyes back on February 5th. Conversely, Hansen had 4 points, 0 rebounds and 5 fouls in 14 minutes of action in the same game.

If Davis is to establish a newfound aggressiveness, his matchup against Hansen is the perfect time to do it.

Power Forward: Iowa's Greg Brunner (6'7" 245) versus MSU's Alan Anderson (6'6" 220)

This is a match that will be fun to watch. Brunner is a banger (15.3 ppg and 9.1 rpg) who has been at times the Lone Ranger for the Hawkeyes this season. Brunner has collected 10 double-doubles this year and was a second-team All Big Ten selection by the media.

Anderson, a second team All Big Ten media selection with Brunner, has been on fire for Spartans over the last month, averaging 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds over his last nine games. He was a Big Ten co-player of the week to close out the regular season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals while shooting 61.5 percent from the field (16-26), leading Michigan State to a pair of wins over Northwestern and Penn State.

These two players will be the key components into how far their respective teams will advance this weekend and beyond.

Point Guard: Iowa's Jeff Horner (6'3" 185) versus MSU's Drew Neitzel (6'0" 175)

Horner is a do-it-all player for Iowa (13.4 ppg, 4.8 apg, 1.3 spg), who will take his share of shots from the point. Neitzel made the first start of his career against the Hawkeyes back on February 5, and has improved immensely since that first start (6 points, 1 assist). While Neitzel is averaging just 3.3 points and 2.9 assists per-game this season, he has recorded 56 assists and 20 turnovers in his last 20 games.

Wingman: Iowa's Adam Haluska (6'5" 210) versus MSU's Shannon Brown (6'4" 200)

Haluska has averageD 15.0 points-per-game for the Hawkeyes this season. He had a big day against Purdue Thursday and will need to come up big once again if the Hawkeyes are to pull the upset over the Spartans.

Brown, a native of Maywood, Illinois, will have a homecoming of sorts at the United Center this weekend. The athletic sophomore is averaging 10.3 points and 3.2 rebounds on the season. He has hit for double-digit points 16 times this season and playing just 12 miles from home could boost his energy level to breakout proportions.

Kelvin Torbert and Tim Bograkos will spell relief for Brown defensively off the bench for the Spartans and both veterans will provide a change of pace for Haluska to contend with.

KEYS TO VICTORY:

Iowa: Slow down the game and pound the ball inside to Brunner to attempt to get Davis and/or Anderson in early foul trouble. If that happens, expect Matt Trannon to get the early call from the bench to stop Brunner from running roughshod in the paint.

On the outside, expect Horner to control the tempo by not only finding the basket himself, but by using dribble-penetration to dish for open looks for Haluska and Mike Henderson, who scored 11 points versus Purdue yesterday. If any of these three players get hot from the perimeter, it will make things more difficult for Michigan State.

Michigan State: Attack the glass and run the break to force the Hawkeyes to go to their bench and get the shot-blocking Hansen off the floor. Then go to Paul Davis down low to attempt to get Brunner into foul trouble. If Davis and the Spartan fast-break can get some points early, it will place extra pressure on Horner, Haluska, and Brunner to pick up the scoring slack and tempt them to hurry their sets to catch up.

Prediction: This will be a nip-and-tuck game with the undermanned Iowa team leaning heavily on Brunner, Horner, and Haluska to keep pace with the deeper and more talented Spartans.

If Paul Davis plays with a chip on his shoulder and Alan Anderson, Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager fill the lanes on the Spartan fast-break, the game could get ugly for Iowa quick.

Final: Michigan State 75, Iowa 63


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