Michigan State has dominated the all-time series 71-36 and last lost to the Wildcats in 2002 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
The Spartans continue to be the only team in the nation to possess three players averaging over 18 points per game. Maurice Ager leads the team at 19.2 points and both Shannon Brown and Paul Davis at 18.1 points per game.
Paul Davis should be back in the starting lineup after missing last Saturday's game. Davis took an elbow to the head from teammate Idong Ibok during last Friday's practice. The laceration took 10 stitches to close up, leaving Davis light-headed and dizzy, which forced him to sit out against the Nittany Lions.
Offensively, the teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum; the Spartans are second in the Big Ten, scoring 78.2 points per game while the 'Cats rank eleventh at 59.9 ppg.
One thing that bodes well for Northwestern is the fact that they score about as many points as they give. The Wildcats give up 58.5 points per game, second in the Big Ten. Their defense will be put to the test against the high powered, up-tempo, fast break offense of the Spartans.
With a tough schedule looking them straight in the face to end Big Ten play, the Spartans need to take advantage of this stretch against the lesser lights of the conference. After the Northwestern contest, the Spartans face Purdue at home and then travel to Minneapolis to play Minnesota.
Having already beaten Penn State in their last game, the Spartans face the remaining three teams at the bottom of the standings.
The Big Ten is heating up at the top, with #21 Michigan emerging as a surprise, sitting atop the conference standings along with #6 Illinois and #23 Iowa.
Now's the time for the Spartans need to fix their problems before their schedule stiffens. An upcoming stretch features road games at Indiana and Iowa and home games against Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. All these schools are ranked and dangerous.
As for the Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan games, MSU has already suffered losses to these teams and can't afford to lose a series sweep. If the Spartans can overcome these tough head-to-head matchups, then they will be in good shape as far as their standing in the Big Ten.
MSU coach Tom Izzo believes that all conference games are important and subscribes to the theory that if you can win your home games and about half of your road games in the conference, you'll shake out just fine the standings.
The Spartans hope to put that theory to the test by cleaning up on the conference cellar dwellers.