Indiana Hoosiers (11-7) at Michigan State Spartans (16-3)
Last night’s game was a frustrating one. We backed the Texas-Arlington Mavericks at home against the Sun Belt Conference-leading Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette. Arlington jumped out to a 15-3 lead and looked like they were going to run away with it early.
The Ragin’ Cajuns came all the way back to tie it up only to find themselves down double digits again late in the second half. Then Arlington completely laid down on their home court and let Lafayette close out on a huge run, and the Ragin’ Cajuns snuck out of Texas with a huge conference road win, 77-65. It was a tough pill to swallow, as for long stretches of this game the Mavericks completely dominated. What can you do, sometimes we lose tough games.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are now the major favorite to win the Sun Belt regular season title and position themselves as the one seed in the conference tournament that will decide who gets the league’s NCAA tournament bid. Today we will switch from small conference ball to one of the biggest leagues in the land, the Big-10, as the Indiana Hoosiers travel to play the Michigan State Spartans.
The Indian Hoosiers will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to face the Spartans of Michigan State Friday night. The Hoosiers had an up and down start to the season but have now won three straight games in Big-10 league play and look poised for another run to the NCAA tournament.
The Spartans, on the other hand, have been riding high all year, even spending time as the top-ranked team in the country at one point. They have hit a bit of a skid in conference play, however, as they have dropped games to Ohio State and Michigan, and find themselves in an unfamiliar place in the Big-10, looking up in the standings at multiple teams.
The Spartans are big -14.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 142 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the Breslin Center.
The fact that Michigan State is ranked number nine in the country right now is shocking to me. This is a top-five team, and there is no doubt in my mind about it. But you can’t ignore the fact that they have struggled in Big-10 play so far, this year.
Losing to Ohio State on the road was somewhat understandable. The Buckeyes are undefeated in conference play and look like they just might be an elite team this season. But the home loss to arch-rival Michigan was a bit of a head-scratcher. They lost by double-digits, on their home court, to a team that has nowhere near the talent level they have, and that one hurts.
We will see if the Spartans can shake off their recent struggles and get back on track tonight. If they play like they are capable of there isn’t a team in the country that they can’t beat. We saw this when they blew out North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Maryland earlier in the season. They will need to play well if they are going to cover this giant number tonight at home against a better than people probably think, Indiana Hoosiers team.
Indiana has been a strange team this year. They have looked great at times, like when they beat solid teams like Notre Dame, Minnesota, Penn State, and Northwestern. But they have also looked downright terrible at times, losing to a bad Wisconsin team and dropping winnable games against Indiana State and IPFW. It looks like they finally have things figured out somewhat as they have won three straight conference games and actually find themselves tied for third place in the league, with Michigan State.
To me, this game comes down to momentum. You have a team in Michigan State that is no doubt, 14.5 points better than Indiana. But they are struggling at the moment, and I expect they would be content with just surviving tonight at home and locking up a win. Then you have an Indiana team that is finally looking like its finding its stride and is stringing wins together in a very good Big-10.
This number is a tough one. If the Spartans play to the best of their ability, they could win this game by twenty-five points. But recently they haven’t been playing that well, even at home, in their last three games they are 1-2 with the only win being a 76-72 squeaker past a bad Rutgers team on their home court. If they play like they have the last two weeks tonight, they could be an upset alert.
I am going to follow the recent trends of both teams and say that Indiana is going to overachieve a little bit and Michigan State is going to underachieve some. I don’t think the Hoosiers have any real chance of a huge upset, but I think they will give a good effort and hang in this game all night long.
With Indiana getting +14.5 points, the game doesn’t even have to be all that competitive for them to cover the number. So, I am going to snatch up that giant chunk of points and hope for a competitive game that ends somewhere in the range of Michigan State 74 Indiana 67. Give me the Indiana Hoosier tonight from the Breslin Center, getting +14.5-points.