- Indiana must remain poised. The Hoosiers are 5-1 on the road in the Big Ten and need this one to prove that the Illinois game was a fluke. The Ohio State game was huge and went a long way towards paying dividends in regards to the perception the Hoosiers face when they leave Bloomington. But all that can go away if the Hoosiers come out flat in East Lansing.
- Feed the post. The big man has got to eat. Cody Zeller had a rather pedestrian time with Michigan State on January 27th in the Hoosiers 75-70 victory. Zeller finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds, not terrible numbers against the massive front line of Michigan State, but rather average numbers nonetheless. Indiana needs a big effort from their Player of the Year candidate tonight and needs Christian Watford to continue his consistent play throughout the Big Ten.
- Play your game. Indiana is perhaps the best offensive team in transition and needs to focus on pushing the pace against Tom Izzo’s Spartans tonight. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in 3-point shooting coming in at 43.3%. They must defend the Spartans shooters as well as Gary Harris who went off in Bloomington last month on his way to 21 points. Defending the Spartans hot shooting guards well will go a long way towards determining who comes out on top tonight.
For Michigan State
- The Spartans have to relax. They made play after play in Assembly Hall last month and had they not settled for too many long shots, they might’ve beaten Indiana. Tonight to beat the Hoosiers they need to not get rattled by the big time atmosphere. They weren’t picked to finish in the top 3 of the Big Ten this pre season and now here they are tied at the top. They’ve done enough to get here, and they can do enough to stay here. But it’ll all be for naught if they let Indiana come in and control the game right away.
- Pick your spots. Sparty got it to the free throw line just six times in the first matchup of these two teams, playing right to the Indiana mindset. Indiana gets to the free throw line more times than anybody in the country and have shot 132 more free throws than their opponents this year. Sparty needs to fix that tonight by attacking the Hoosiers and taking the right shots. They went 11-23 from beyond the arc in the first matchup, not bad, but if the Spartans start hoisting up 20 plus threes tonight while not getting to the line, then it’s the same old game as January 27th.
- Let the game come to you. Gary Harris scored 21 points in the first game, mostly because he was trying to prove a point to Indiana fans that they should be missing him this year. The former Mr. Basketball will have to slow the pace tonight and not let his emotions get the best of him in this tightly contested matchup. Harris is the best at driving and attacking and he must do that tonight. He had four of the six free throws for MSU in the first game and needs to double that to be effective at home.
I expect a close game. This one will be back and forth all night long and at the end of the night I think we will have a team that really deserves to be in sole possession of first place. Call me a homer, but that team is gonna be Indiana. The way the Hoosiers played on the road against Ohio State two Sunday’s ago was huge and went a long way towards proving to them that they can win anywhere. If they want to win in Atlanta, better yet, if they want to win in Indy before Atlanta, then they must pick up this win tonight.
I like Indiana 79 Michigan State 72