Spartans seek outright Big Ten title against Hoosiers

Having already secured a share of the Big season championship, the fifth-ranked Michigan State ranked Indiana Hoosiers.

Michigan State's season has been one for the ages as it appeared the Spartans were going to have all kinds of trouble dealing with the better teams on their schedule after dropping back-to-back games to national powers North Carolina and Duke to kick things off. But to the credit of coach Tom Izzo and his club, the wins started piling up from there and MSU is now 24-5 overall and 13-3 in conference. The Spartans notched their seventh straight win on Saturday against visiting Nebraska (62-34), improving to 17-0 at home. They claimed their 13th Big Ten title by virtue of that victory coupled with Wisconsin's win over Ohio State on Sunday.

Indiana too has enjoyed a tremendously successful campaign thus far, as its 22-7 record is far and away its best during coach Tom Crean's four years at the helm. In fact, it marks the Hoosiers' first winning season since 2007-08, and the team is one win shy of matching the win total amassed over the last two years combined. IU is 9-7 in conference this year, also its best mark since 2007-08, and the team has won five of its last six games, including a 69-50 rout of Minnesota on the road on Sunday.

Indiana owns a 64-48 lead in the all-time series with Michigan State, but the Spartans won the first meeting between the two teams this season, 80-65, in East Lansing back on December 28. The Spartans have won the last two games in Bloomington, and they've won six in a row against the Hoosiers regardless of the venue.

Despite averaging a healthy 72.5 ppg, Michigan State boasts only two double- digit scorers in the form of Draymond Green (15.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.6 apg) and Keith Appling (11.7 ppg, 3.8 apg), but the team has balance as four others average at least seven ppg. Not content solely to try and outscore the opposition, the Spartans take great pride in playing stellar defense as foes are netting a mere 57.8 ppg in hitting just 37.1 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 28.2 percent effort from three-point range. MSU is also one of the top rebounding teams in the nation, laying claim to a +9.6 differential. The Spartans put on a defensive clinic in their recent win over Nebraska, permitting the Cornhuskers to shoot a minuscule 29.2 percent from the floor, and the visitors were just 2-of-17 from beyond the arc. As for the home team, it knocked down 56.1 percent of its total shots, including 9-of-20 three-point tries, and notched a 33-21 rebounding advantage as well. Green logged yet another double-double with 20 points and 10 boards, and in the process reached 1,000 caroms in his career. With little chance of the Huskers mounting a comeback, Izzo was able to play 15 guys, nine of which scored points.

From an offensive standpoint, Indiana has actually been better than Michigan State this season, as it averages 77.6 ppg on 49.0 percent field goal efficiency, which includes an impressive 42.6 percent effort from beyond the arc. A total of four players are netting double digits on a consistent basis, with Cody Zeller (15.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) leading the way both in the scoring column and on the glass. He is also the team's top shot blocker (37), all while shooting an eye-popping 63.6 percent from the floor. Defensively, IU permits 65.4 ppg, and the enemy connects on 42.2 percent of its total shots and 33.5 percent from long range. Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo each scored 12 points to lead Indiana to its recent win at Minnesota, the team playing shut-down defense in limiting the Golden Gophers to 31.0 percent accuracy on their field goal attempts and goading them into 16 turnovers. It was a nice bounce-back effort from Watford, who went 0-of-13 from the field in the last two games combined. Zeller had a quiet night with only seven points in 18 minutes of action, but the Hoosiers used a 21-7 edge in points from the foul line to help earn their fifth road win of the year.