Although both teams are in search of their first Big Ten victory on the season, the Spartans (13-4, 0-2) have dominated the Wildcats (10-5, 0-2), winning 34 of the last 36 meetings overall and 19 straight in East Lansing.
Heading into Iowa for their Big Ten opener, the Spartans were 13-2 and on a seven game win streak. But after suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Hawkeyes by two points, the Spartans were blown out by Indiana by 22 points.
Now MSU must find a way to come together and show a much better effort at home, where the fans will be loud and ready.
"Part of it is that some teams have played better, and part of it is that we have played worse," said Coach Tom Izzo. "We've got to find a way to regroup and win a game at home. Hopefully we can get back on track against Northwestern.
In no way is it time for the Spartans to panic. The fact remains, Maurice Joseph returned to action against Iowa and Raymar Morgan made his return from injury against Indiana, and now MSU has two key starters back.
"I think four straight years we have started out Big Ten play on the road and the last two years we have started with two road games. It's not an excuse, we're used to that and injuries make it much tougher because of the lack of practice and depth," said Izzo.
The Spartans face a Wildcat team that lost their top scorer and the Big Ten leading scorer from last season. Freshman Kevin Doyle leads the team with 12.4 points per game and five rebounds per game.
The contest features the two best scoring defense in the Big Ten, with Michigan State at 56.4 points per game a close second to first place Northwestern, allowing only 55.9 points per contest.
"We must improve, I think we're going to improve, I'm not very happy with the way we've played," said Izzo. "I still think we are what we are. We are a great basketball team when we are healthy. We have a chance to be a lot better than I thought we would be. We are the only team that has two road games to start off the Big Ten season," he added. Road games in the Big Ten are always tough and there are absolutely no easy games. Every team in the conference plays hard and defends their home court, so if there was any panic in any MSU fans, keep in mind that MSU plays strong at home.
As long as the Spartans can take care of business at home in conference play and pull out several road wins, then they can be as high as third and no lower than sixth place in the conference.
Last year the Spartans finished 8-8 in conference play, going 6-2 at home and 2-6 on the road. While the conference is still strong this season, there are fewer strong teams than last season.
Only Wisconsin and Ohio State are nationally ranked while last year the Big Ten had as many as six teams ranked in the same poll.
The fact that the Big Ten is weaker than last season opens the door for some winnable road games further on in the Big Ten season. The Spartans still travel to Penn State, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin.
While Illinois, Ohio State, and Illinois are hostile venues to play in, the remaining three road games are winnable game, assuming that MSU regroups and gets stronger as they get further into conference play.
It is still no time to panic for MSU, with a two-game home stand against Northwestern and Illinois now at hand, it is MSU's chance to work out some kinks and get a bit healthy before they travel to Columbus to take on the monster Ohio State.