Following a heart breaking loss to in-state rival Michigan on Saturday, the No. 7 injury-riddled Michigan State Spartans (18-2, 7-1 Big Ten) will travel to take on the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes (16-4, 5-2).Tip-off is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7:00 pm and will be televised on ESPN.
For Michigan State, you’ve heard it before but yes, once again, they come into this game obliterated by injuries. At MSU basketball head coach Tom Izzo’s weekly press conference on Monday, he called senior Adreian Payne’s chances of playing “slim to none,” meaning Michigan State’s star big man will likely be a spectator for the sixth straight game against Iowa.
“If I could play AP, I’d play him,” Izzo said, while also expressing the fact to some people that if they think he’s resting Payne because he doesn’t care about winning the conference, then they don’t know him and they’re stupid for thinking that.
“In the case of him right now, I’m hoping by the middle of this week he’s running on the gym floor,” Izzo went on to say. “It’s been a tough, tough thing… I’m hoping by the end of the week…he’s starting to cut and jump and I’m hoping by the end of next week he’s ready to go overall.”
In addition to the Payne injury, Michigan State will be without junior Branden Dawson, who is currently out 4 to 5 weeks with a broken hand he suffered after slamming it on a table in frustration during a team film session. Also, senior point guard Keith Appling has been suffering as of late due to a sprained right shooting wrist. However, Appling is determined to fight through the pain for the sake of the team.
“Definitely,” Appling responded when asked if he were going to play on Tuesday. “We already have two of our key players out. If I chose to sit out who knows what might happen. I just want to do whatever I can to help my teammates win, and continue to fight through the adversity.”
“I feel like basketball you are going to suffer some bumps and bruises,” he went on to say. “It is one of the injuries that has affected me most because it is the hand that I shoot with, but I have had a couple days to rest it so I am going to just see what I can do today in practice.”
As for the team the MSU basketball team will be traveling to take on Tuesday night, the Hawkeyes are a very talented and underrated team, and one Izzo likes to call one of the deeper teams in nation.
To put things in perspective on just how deep the Hawkeyes are, nine members of their team have played in every game this season, while their tenth guy, junior guard Josh Oglesby has played in every game since returning from injury on Dec. 22. Compare that with the injury-riddled Spartans and one will find that just three have played in all 20 games this season: Appling, Denzel Valentine, and Gavin Schilling.
“I just think it’s a team that I told you guys the first day we met this year, that I thought they would be the most improved team in the league,” Izzo told the media at his press conference on Monday. “And they are. Fran’s a good coach. They rebound well, they have size, they have some shooters…So all in all, a very good team that we’re gonna have to play very well to beat.”
When taking a look at the match up of the front courts between the two teams, Iowa’s Aaron White (13.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Jarrod Uthoff (9.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), and Melsahn Basabe (8.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) all contribute to a Hawkeye squad that pulls down 44 rebounds a game.
And with both of MSU’s two leading rebounders in Payne and Dawson out of the action for Tuesday night’s game, it’s likely the Hawkeyes will hold the advantage down low, lest someone on the Michigan State front court finds a way to step things up.
As for the back court, senior guard Roy Devyn Marble (16.1 ppg) leads the Hawkeyes in scoring but will certainly have his hands full when he goes up against both Appling (15.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) and the guy who has more-or-less been carrying this Michigan State team as of late: Gary Harris (18.8 ppg, 2.2 spg).
And Harris, while he does acknowledge that the MSU basketball program may be going through some adversity right, he also recognizes that it’s no excuse and that they still have to come to play against Iowa on Tuesday and that times like these can show different sides of a team.
“It definitely shows our character,” Harris said. “We’re not just gonna roll over and be expected to lose, or be expected to be out of the game just because two of our better players are out. We’re still gonna fight and try to go out there and earn whatever we deserve and we’re gonna keep fighting until the end.”