EAST LANSING - With the Big Ten season heating up, it must feel like the inferno for Michigan State this week.
If any two road games in conference play could decide the Spartans' fate, it would be this week, with trips to Purdue and Indiana.
The Spartans have a lot of motivation going into West Lafayette, having been embarrassed there last year 62-38.
At 10-1, Purdue is the surprise team atop the Big Ten standings.
If the Spartans still hope to win the Big Ten title, they must beat Purdue on Tuesday night, because a split with the Boilermakers would do nothing should the two tie for first at season's end.
But if MSU knocks off Purdue, then they would carry the tiebreaker in a tie for first.
In the last meeting, Purdue freshman Robbie Hummel was a last-minute scratch from the game due to illness.
Since then, Hummel has emerged as one of the top freshman in the Big Ten and a major reason why the Boilermakers are in first place in the conference.
Hummel is averaging 10.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game, with a 46 percent shooting from three-point.
Besides Hummel, Purdue also has Keaton Grant and E'twaun Moore averaging over 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Big Men Must Play Solid
It's inside the paint where MSU will have to do their damage. Drew Naymick has picked up his game of late, nearly recording a triple double last game.
Along with Marquise Gray and Goran Suton, the Spartan big-men will have to stay out of foul trouble and win the points in the paint battle.
In the most crucial week of the season, MSU will also look to their senior All-American guard for leadership and scoring.
Coming off a 21-point effort on Saturday, Neitzel has been hot and cold with his scoring all season, despite picking up the slack in assists and defense.
It will be Neitzel who has to show up and lead by example. He must look for his shots and his teammates must set screens to create some good shots.
This is where the big-men also come into play. Suton has been known to play the high point in the Spartan offense and be the main screen setter for outside shots. But if he or the other big-men get in foul trouble, that option might be stripped from them.
This week will say a lot about Michigan State basketball, but one thing is for sure, Tom Izzo's teams in the past have been known for coming up with some big wins.
Two years ago in the NCAA tournament, MSU beat Kentucky and Duke in a single weekend to get to the Final Four.
Despite their road struggles this year at Iowa and Penn State, the Spartans are due for some big dramatic wins, and if this week is the time for them, it could catapult the Spartans from fourth in the Big Ten to being a favorite for the Big Ten title.
MSU Hoops Faces Crucial Week
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