| Lansing State Journal
• What: Michigan State at Indiana
• When: Noon Satur
• Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
• TV/Radio: ESPN / Spartan Sports Network radio, including WJIM 1240-AM and WMMQ 94.9-FM; Sirius/XM Ch. 387 (MSU broadcast)
• Records/Rankings: MSU is 10-9 overall, 4-9 in the Big Ten and unranked. The Spartans are No. 92 in the NET Rankings, the metric that helps determine the NCAA tournament field. Indiana is 12-9 overall, 7-7 and unranked. The Hoosiers are No. 42 in the NET Rankings.
• Coaches: MSU — Tom Izzo is 637-250 in his 26th season as a head coach, all with the Spartans. Indiana — Archie Miller is 206-115 in his 10th season as a head coach, including 67-52 in his fourth season with the Hoosiers.
• Series: Indiana leads 71-55 all-time, including winning all three of the meetings during the past two seasons, both of which ended in MSU Big Ten championships.
• Betting line: Indiana -6
C (30) Marcus Bingham Jr. (6-11) 2.7
PF (25) Malik Hall (6-7) 4.9
SF (0) Aaron Henry (6-6) 14.3
SG (1) Joshua Langford (6-5) 9.6
PG (2) Rocket Watts (6-2) 7.7
F (25) Race Thompson (6-8) 9.7
F (23) Trayce Jackson-Davis (6-9) 19.6
G (2) Armaan Franklin (6-4) 12.2
G (1) Aljami Durham (6-4) 11.4
G (10) Rob Phinisee (6-1) 7.4
• MSU update: The Spartans, now realistically out of the NCAA tournament hunt, will go into Bloomington shorthanded, with point guard Foster Loyer out with a shoulder injury for likely the next week. Loyer might only average 4.2 points and 2.3 assists in less than 17 minutes a game, and he can be a defensive liability, but he’s become the player Izzo trusts most to get some semblance of flow going on offense. And he was the point guard who most consistently got his teammates the ball when and where they wanted it, which made him valuable in the starting role, helping this team try to find a rhythm. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Izzo starts Rocket Watts at the point, giving him another shot to find the groove and confidence that he’s lacked for a couple months. Watts has scored five or fewer points in eight of MSU’s 13 Big Ten games, only once reaching double figures. He’s 9-for-35 on 3-point attempts in Big Ten play and it feels worse than that. Izzo seemed to have settled on starting Marcus Bingham Jr. at center, though he said Thursday that Julius Marble and Mady Sissoko would play “a lot more” down the stretch of this season.
MORE: Couch: A look on the bright side during the worst MSU football and basketball seasons in tandem. Ever.
• Indiana update: Indiana is coming off a 10-point home win over Minnesota, which followed a road shellacking at Ohio State, after the Hoosiers’ second upset of Iowa this season and a loss to Illinois in overtime. For the most part, Indiana has shown it can compete with the Big Ten’s upper tier. The Hoosiers, like MSU, also have a loss to Northwestern. Like MSU, they often play unwatchable offense. Power forward Trayce Jackson-Davis is the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer, behind only Luka Garza and Ayo Dosunmu. He’s also the league’s second-leading rebounder (9.9 per game), just behind Kofi Cockburn. Indiana appears to be on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble right now, though a loss to MSU would put a dent in the Hoosiers’ resume.
• Inside the matchup: No team in Big Ten play is statistically worse at defending the 3-point shot than Indiana. Maybe that’ll help the Spartans find their stroke. MSU is 12th in Big Ten play in 3-point percentage at less than 31%. Trace Jackson-Davis is an interesting matchup for MSU and, by interesting, I mean not a good one. He’s a savvy post scorer and consistent as heck and MSU has struggled mightily against those types of players. Indiana isn’t enormous in size, so that helps. Julius Marble and Malik Hall are probably the best options for the Spartans on Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers’ shooters are streaky and average. The bigger issues are these: Indiana always seems to give MSU trouble. Call it a contrast in styles or whatever. This is a very different MSU team than a year ago, so who knows if that’ll hold. The other problem is MSU’s state of mind. This Indiana team isn’t particularly fun to watch. The Hoosiers shouldn’t get away from MSU. But they’re in a better place right now and my sense is the Spartans no longer believe they’re going to win close games, even if they say the right things. MSU badly needs someone to have a day — Rocket Watts ideally, or Gabe Brown, anyone really.
• Prediction: This is absolutely a winnable game for MSU. But until something changes, I’ve probably picked the Spartans to win for the last time this season.
Make it: Indiana 68, MSU 64
— Graham Couch
Contact Graham Couch at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.