After nearly throwing away two victories in a row, but managing to salvage them in overtime, the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (15-1, 4-0) will hit the road and head to Evanston, Ill. to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (8-9, 1-3).
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET and will be televised on Big Ten Network.
Coming into this contest, it sounds like a broken record, but yes, once again, the main thing to worry about for the MSU basketball team in this one is the current state of injury and illness of the team.
According to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, senior big man Adreian Payne is questionable for Wednesday’s match up, due to a right foot sprain that has been giving him problems for well over a month now.
“We gotta get him to 100 percent,” Izzo said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “I gotta look at the big picture for him and the big picture for us. There’s no question he showed that he can play with pain. If it’s going to linger because of playing, which I don’t know if that’s positive or not yet, we’re gonna definitely err on the side of getting him healthy.”
Other issues that could play a factor for the Northwestern include the recent illnesses of juniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, who may be somewhat limited in minutes come Wednesday night’s game.
As for Michigan State’s opponent for the game, Northwestern, while they have seen their fair share of losses this season, they are currently coming off of a big home win over a then No. 23 Illinois team, 49-43.
The Wildcats are led by senior guard/forward Drew Crawford, who averages a team high 15.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
“I’ve loved Crawford ever since he was a freshman,” Izzo said. “He’s competitive, tough, hard-nosed, plays a lot of different positions and doing anything he can do.”
Junior guard JerShon Cobb adds 11.9 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Wildcats while both Tre Demps (9.9 ppg) and Alex Olah (9.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) make solid contributions for Northwestern.
However, the team that should have the clear advantage in this one will certainly be Michigan State. Gary Harris (17.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Keith Appling (16.4 ppg, 4.6 apg) form one of the best back courts in the country, both offensively and defensively.
However, with the possibility of having Payne out of the lineup for Wednesday’s game and Dawson limited or unable to go, it does make the inside match up a little more interesting, and players like sophomore Matt Costello, redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, and freshman Gavin Schilling will all certainly have to step up their game on the inside for Michigan State.
Nevertheless though, in a series that’s been dominated by Michigan State over the years (the Spartans have won 17 of 19 dating back to 2003), look for the MSU basketball team to once again be the favorite in this one.
Still, despite this fact, Izzo isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Anytime you win a game that gives you confidence,” Izzo said, referencing Northwestern’s most recent victory over the Illini. “We got to go on the road and that place will be rocking and that will be exciting.”