Two of the best basketball teams in the country will face off as the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans as they take on No.3 Purdue Boilermakers 4 p.m today in East Lansing.
This game has implications for not only the Big Ten but for the rest of the NCAA tournament field. Both the Spartans and Boilermakers are vying for the Big Ten regular season title as well as a one-seed berth in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, Purdue sits tied atop the Big Ten with Ohio State, the latter holding the tiebreaker. The Spartans are just one game behind the the two first place teams.
Barring catastrophic end of season collapse, a win in this game for either team should put them in the driver’s seat to a top spot come March.
For the Spartans this is undoubtedly the biggest game of the year. Bigger than the game vs Duke. Bigger than the PK80 championship game vs UNC and, yes, bigger than the Michigan game.
The Purdue game provides just as many challenges for the Spartans off the court as it does on. This is the Jud Heathcote tribute game so the pressure to perform will already be heightened. In addition, the dark cloud that has been following MSU athletics recently is still present, and will undoubtedly be another stressor for the team
On the court, the Boilermakers are a formidable foe lead by Senior bigman Isaac Haas. Haas, who will be the tallest player on the court at a towering 7 feet 2 inches, should prove to be a challenge for MSU’s bigs. We can also expect for Purdue to play angry following their upset loss to OSU earlier this week.
This is a very winnable game for MSU and could be the tone-setter for a deep run in March.
In MSU’s close call against Indiana the Spartans were out rebounded 53 to 29. In their escape from Iowa they only won the rebounding battle 34 to 30. For the Spartans to win they have to win the rebounding battle and limit second chance opportunities by Purdue.
They also have to cut down on turnovers, an issue which has plagued them all season and, frankly, if not fixed soon will come back to bite them in March. Giving the ball away 14+ times, which is the Spartan’s season average, against quality teams like Purdue is a recipe for disaster. But most importantly, this team has to play with that same swagger and confidence that they had before OSU upset them 80-64 back in January.
Stats Courtesy of NCAA.com & ESPN