PREVIEW: MICHIGAN STATE VS. PURDUE

With the regular season finished, the ninth-annual Big Ten Tournament awaits at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans (20-10, 8-8 Big Ten) routed the Boilermakers (9-18, 3-13 Big Ten) in their only meeting this season on Feb 8.

With the regular season finished, the ninth-annual Big Ten Tournament awaits at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Ohio State (23-4, 12-4 Big Ten) was able to claim the regular season conference title but the tournament championship remains far from reach.

The third and final game on Thursday's opening day will feature #6-seed Michigan State taking on #11-seed Purdue.

The Spartans (20-10, 8-8 Big Ten) routed the Boilermakers (9-18, 3-13 Big Ten) in their only meeting this season on Feb 8.

The Boilermaker roster shows five players averaging in double-figures, but only two (Matt Kiefer and Marcus White) are active. Carl Landry and Nate Minnoy are out with knee injuries while Korey Spates has been dismissed from the team.

Kiefer leads the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game and White adds 10.6 per game for a team that is missing huge parts their offense and team.

Also missing parts heading into the post-season are the Spartans, who are dealing with some key injuries.

They lost a big man and great defender inside when senior Matt Trannon went down with a broken jaw two weeks ago. Then just last week, Marquise Gray, Trannon's starting replacement at power forward, suffered a fractured foot in the game with Wisconsin.

While Gray is expected to miss the remainder of the season, Trannon is questionable for Thursday's game. Earlier last week, he was fitted with a face shield so that he might be able to play in the tournament. The injury requires four to six weeks to heal. The mask is similar to that of Rip Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons, except Trannon's extends below the chin to support his broken jaw.

The Spartan offense remains deadly and could be a driving force in the tournament. Maurice Ager (19.1), Shannon Brown (18.2), and Paul Davis (18.2) rank two, four, and five in scoring in the Big Ten.

The second-highest scoring team in the conference (75.9 PPG), MSU will be up against the worst scoring defense in the league (70.9).

The Boilermakers have had a tough year with several problems and season-ending injuries. Coach Matt Painter deserves credit for keeping his team playing well and developing the players that he has.

Freshman guard Chris Lutz has stepped in and is averaging 9.3 points per game in over 30 minutes a game. Painter is setting himself up well with players for next year's team.

On the other hand, Tom Izzo believes that his team has the potential for big things in the post-season if can get a few breaks. The first task is to get off on the right foot against Purdue because #3-seed Illinois awaits the winner of this game.

Illinois just ended their season by knocking off the Spartans on their home-court in East Lansing.

With a solid offense and a neutral-court site, the Big Ten tournament is a perfect place to get a few more wins before the real tournament starts. The Spartans can still make some noise and send their seniors out with a bang.


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