For the second Tuesday in a row, the Michigan State basketball team will once again find themselves taking part in an absolutely huge game at the Breslin Center. One week after dismantling their rivals at home, the 4th ranked Michigan State Spartans (22-4, 11-2) will play host to the No. 1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers (22-3, 11-2). Tip off is set for 7:00 PM and will be televised on ESPN.
In what will be the first top five match up Michigan State has ever hosted, the meeting will mark the second match up between the two power house Big Ten schools this season. The first one came on January 27 and actually turned out to be one of the more entertaining games of the season with neither side backing down or able to gain a distinct advantage upon the other.
Michigan State freshman guard Gary Harris endured countless “Gary Sucks” chants throughout the afternoon but still managed to finish with 21 points, while on the Hoosier side, to make up for the Spartans’ containing Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo played incredible, finishing with 21 points,7 rebounds, and 6 big steals. In the end, Oladipo’s high-motored, spirited play, helped lead the Hoosiers to victory as they downed the Spartans at Assembly Hall, 75-70.
Flash forward to now and the rematch game should be just as intriguing as Michigan State will most definitely be looking to even the score against the Hoosiers as well as grab a hold of the lead in the Big Ten race.
One thing that they will have going for them this time around is the fact that game is taking place in East Lansing. For last weeks’ game against their rival Michigan, the Breslin Center had students lined up at the gates as early as 6:30 in the morning in the hopes to secure a good seat. When the game finally tipped off at 9:00 PM, the Breslin Center was absolutely rocking while the Izzone helped spur the Spartans onward to victory.
With this weeks game meaning just as much if not more, expect to hear more tales of students lined up at the doors in the wee hours of the morning.
“I’d be willing to bet that this maybe could be the greatest crowd ever at this place when you look at it,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “Just because of all the excitement, the kind of team we have, the kind of team they have. It’s made for TV, it’s made for newspapers, it’s made for books. This is one of those reasons that I’m glad I’m in college, I’m glad I’m here because I get the opportunity to do that.”
Another thing to keep an eye out for that definitely came into play last game is whether or not Keith Appling will be able to stay on the floor. In the last game against Indiana, Appling got into foul trouble early and struggled to get into the flow of the game, eventually fouling out and finishing with just 3 points in 19 minutes.
“It hurt us,” Harris said. “He’s our point guard, leader of the team. Having to play without him most of the game was a different experience for us.”
For Appling though, he’s hoping for a stronger showing is this one and doesn’t want what happened last time to happen again.
“I don’t plan on getting a couple early fouls,” Appling said. “I don’t want that to happen to me. I got to try to not use my hands so much. That’s where I get called on a lot of my fouls when I try to hand check guys. I’m just going to try to be solid, not use my hands and stay in front of the guy.”
But the most intriguing part of this game is just how much these two teams mirror each other as both teams feature one of the more balanced rotations in all the nation. With both teams matching up so well, the key will be for Michigan State to win some of these match ups and a big part of it will be containing Indiana’s two stars: Zeller and Oladipo.
In the last game, the Spartans had a lot of success containing Zeller, holding him to just 9 points and 7 rebounds. However, what Michigan State had real trouble with last game was keeping Oladipo in check. The junior guard who is one of the best all around players in the country had his way with the Spartan guards for much the afternoon in the last game. Containing him in this one will be a huge key for Michigan State.
“He’s got the highest motor I’ve seen in years,” Izzo said of Oladipo. “He’s got the ability to guard 1-4. He’s improved his jump shot so much. There is a reason why he did got on that Wooden Award thing because he’s earned it.”
Nevertheless, as both teams take to the floor Tuesday night, a lot will be on the line. In the final moments before tip off, when the referee is making his way to center court with the game ball down by his side, opponents will be staring back at each other, knowing these will be the guys they’ll be going to war against for the next 40 minutes.
While the Izzone is letting Indiana hear it and while Izzo and Tom Cream go through their last second mental notes, the referee has arrived at his destination. As he raises the ball over his head and tosses it up, it’s on.
Another B1G game is off and running.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner