Date: Wednesday, January 20th
Time: 5:30pm CST
Location of School: East Lansing, MI
Coach: Tom Izzo (21st year)
2015-16 Record: 16-3 (3-3 conference)
It's the beginning of the tough side of the conference schedule for the Huskers. Let's go to East Lansing!
2014-15 Season: 27-12 (12-6 conference)
The Spartans had somewhat of a down year as they spent a good chunk of the season un-ranked due to injuries and player development. They ended the regular season in third place in the conference. Fortunately they found the right spark at the end of the season that helped them to win the Big Ten Tournament and placed them in the #7 spot in the NCAA Tournament. They carried this momentum through the tournament until they got beat by eventual National Champion Duke in the Final Four.
Michigan State has had a pretty good run until recently. They started out at #13 in the nation and worked their way up to #1 with a 13-0 record by beating the likes of Kansas, Providence, and Louisville. All top notch teams that are still ranked in the top 25.
Again, this has really been a good year for the Spartans. Then Iowa came along. The Spartans seemed to have trouble with the Hawkeyes not once, but twice this season. The first loss was a 70-83 loss in Iowa City and the second was a 59-76 beat down in East Lansing. If you saw the game, you know how bad it really was.
They followed up that loss to Iowa with a last second loss to a struggling Wisconsin team. A team that is without their star, and now retired, coach Bo Ryan on the bench. So, it will be interesting to see where the Spartans are mentally for their game against Nebraska.
Players to Watch
Denzel Valentine - Was out for a few games with a knee injury in December but was able to come back. His numbers were down a bit and probably contributed to the losses to Iowa and Wisconsin. He is currently averaging 17.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 6.6 apg. The guy is a beast and they are looking forward to a fully healed guard. He was third team all Big Ten last year.
Bryn Forbes - Is second behind Valentine in scoring with 13.6 ppg and has been shooting 46% from the 3 point line. If he gets hot, the game could easily get out of hand.
Deyonta Davis - Deyonta is a Freshman Forward who has been making some big strides in his first year. He is currently averaging 8.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg but his real contribution this year has been on defense where his deflections can keep teams from shooting the paint. Keep him in the back of your head. He should be a big factor in the Spartans game plan in the future.
What will probably happen
This is a really good Spartan team that has hit a rough spot in the season. Fouls have gotten them in trouble in the last few games but that is understandable with the aggressive play of the Big Ten. However, if this problem persists I can see the Huskers take advantage of the free throw line late in the game to make this a closer game that most are expecting. Nebraska is shooting 71% from the line so they are capable of dragging this game out. Valentine is back but not quite 100% and if the Huskers can push his ability it could schedule an upset in Michigan.
However, this is a Tom Izzo team. Yes, they are known to struggle at times but it's kid of hard to gauge when they get in and out of their funks. Iowa has turned into a fairly good team and I believe Wisconsin was a fluke loss. Can Nebraska pull this off? Maybe in Lincoln but going up to East Lansing is an entirely different scenario.