NCAA Friday Night Basketball: Michigan State/Purdue Preview

by Big Al Staff

A college basketball doubleheader on FS1 tips off at 7 PM ET in a battle between perennial Big Ten powers.

Michigan State has underachieved this season, but head coach Tom Izzo may have pushed the right button to get his team going again. The Spartans had lost three straight games to begin their conference campaign for the first time since 2001-02 with losses to Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But Michigan State rebounded to defeat Nebraska on the road on Saturday by an 84-77 score. The Spartans then crushed Rutgers at home on Tuesday, 68-45, as a 3-point favorite.

Izzo got his best defensive effort from his team all season in limiting the Scarlet Knights to just 45 points on 30.5% shooting from the field. Michigan State had allowed their previous five opponents to make at least 47.6% of their shots, which resulted in at least 77 points in all five of those games. The Spartans rank an uncharacteristic 54th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom for an Izzo-coached team.

Izzo’s more impactful move might have been shifting Rocket Watts back to his more comfortable shooting guard role two games ago against Nebraska. Watts began the year by filling the big shoes of the graduated Cassius Winston at point guard. Foster Loyer started the game against the Cornhuskers with freshman A.J. Hoggard playing 23 minutes off the bench at the point, which was the longest he had played all season. Hoggard’s solid effort with five assists persuaded Izzo to start him against Rutgers, where he played 25 minutes and posted six assists in the victory. Hoggard’s ability to operate as a pass-first facilitator has helped Aaron Henry score 27 and 20 points in his last two games. Henry’s 27 points against Nebraska were a career-high for the junior.

Michigan State is 27th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are scoring 78.0 points-per-game with five players averaging at least 8.2 points-per-game. The Spartans’ best two victories this season were against Duke and that win against Rutgers in their last time on the court that improved their record to 8-3.

Purdue has lost two straight games, along with three of their last four after losing at Illinois by a 66-58 score on Saturday as a 5.5-point underdog. The Boilermakers are 7-5, with all five of those losses being on the road away from Mackey Arena in games against Clemson, Miami, Iowa, Rutgers, and the Fighting Illini, in their last game. Their highest-profile victories are against Ohio State and Maryland.

Head coach Matt Painter returned the top-three scorers from his team last year that finished 16-15. But this team had holes to fill from last season. Painter has gone young with five freshmen averaging double-digit minutes per game in his ten-man rotation. Once again this year, Painter has two big men who are in timeshare playing in the post. 6’10 junior Trevion Williams is scoring 14.1 points-per-game and adding 9.6 rebounds-per-game. 7’4 freshman Zach Edey adds 9.1 points-per-game along with 4.1 rebounds-per-game in his 14.3 minutes per game. Guards Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter are both scoring over ten points-per-game. The Boilermakers make 40th in the nation by converting 37.9% of their 3-pointers. They are 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom while ranking 47th in defensive efficiency.

BookMaker lists Michigan State as a 4-point favorite with the total set at 143.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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