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Nebrasketball: Michigan State Spartans Preview

Nebraska heads to East Lansing to take on the Spartans

NCAA Basketball: Armed Forces Classic-Michigan State vs Gonzaga Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers return to the road to take on the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing Tuesday night. The Huskers are riding a two-game win streak while the Spartans enter the matchup riding a four-game win streak. The game also marks the third straight at the Breslin Center in the series with MSU returning to Lincoln next month for the first time since Jan. 2, 2021.

Nebraska enters the matchup coming off a huge home win over Iowa Thursday night in Lincoln. The Huskers posted a Fred Hoiberg era best in defense, holding the Hawkeyes to just 50-points, the lowest total under the fourth-year head coach.

Not only that, the game marked the fourth-straight in which the Huskers held an opponent to 40 percent or lower shooting from the field (Purdue, Kansas State, Queens University, and Iowa). The win moved Nebraska to 4-5 against Power-Six teams on the season and 1-2 in Big Ten action on the season.

Six Husker players are averaging at least 9.7 points per game, including three players in double figures. Senior forward Derrick Walker leads UNL in both scoring (13.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) while Sam Griesel is second on the team in scoring (10.7 ppg) and distributes a team-high 4.4 assists per game. Griesel’s double-double on Thursday was the seventh of the season for a Husker.

Michigan State has had a tale of two seasons thus far. A daunting non-conference schedule started off with games against Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Alabama on neutral courts — including the USS Abraham Lincoln’s flight deck — along with matchups against Villanova and at Notre Dame.

The Spartans played like one of the top teams in the country early on with sophomore guard Jaden Akins and senior forward Malik Hall both healthy and playing but got blown out at Notre Dame and fell at home to Northwestern with Hall out and Akins making his first return against the Wildcats. Hall finally returned for limited minutes Friday against Buffalo, scoring 11 points in just 12 minutes.

Michigan State’s Malik Hall drives to the basket late in the second half of the Armed Forces Classic.
Kevin Knight

As Hall returns to the lineup and barring further injury issues to a small roster, just 10 scholarship players make up this year’s squad, Michigan State will likely battle for the top ranks of the Big Ten this season after being written off by most analysts as a rebuilding year for MSU.

Fifth-year graduate forward Joey Hauser is a big reason for that as he has finally started playing at the elite level many expected out of him two seasons ago following his transfer sit-out year after leaving Marquette. Hauser leads the Spartans in scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg) while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State leads a balanced attack this year as three other Spartans in addition to Hauser are averaging double figures in scoring. The backcourt point guard duo of senior Tyson Walker (13.4 ppg, 3.3 apg) and junior A.J. Hoggard (12.5 ppg, 6.2 apg) is one of the best in the Big Ten, complementing the excellent wing play provided by Hall (11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg). Three other Spartans are averaging at least 6.7 ppg.

Nebraska trails Michigan State 21-9 in the all-time series that dates back to February of 1920. The Huskers are 3-13 against Michigan State since joining the Big Ten, while the Spartans have won the last nine meetings.

Since joining the Big Ten, UNL has faced a ranked Spartan team in 11 of the 16 previous meetings. While MSU is not ranked in this week’s AP Poll or Coaches Poll, it did receive five votes in the AP and briefly entered the poll at No. 12 in Week Three and No. 20 in Week Four. MSU also received 14 votes in this week’s Coaches Poll and was ranked No. 25 in Nov. 14’s poll, No. 15 No. 21, and No. 20 on Nov. 28’s poll.

Nebraska has won twice in East Lansing in the Big Ten era, including a 60-51 win over No. 9 MSU in 2014 and a 72-71 win over the No. 11 Spartans on Jan. 20, 2016. Last season, the Huskers challenged No. 10/9 Michigan State in East Lansing through much of the matchup until MSU used a 12-0 run to ice the game late, winning by 13. Four Huskers scored in double figures while tying a season high in steals with 12. Derrick Walker tied a then career-high 16 points.

Tuesday’s game at Michigan State is Nebraska’s eighth road game in the first 15 contests, while the Spartans will be UNL’s seventh Quad 1 opponent of the season. As of Jan. 1, the Huskers’ strength of schedule ranks in the top-25 nationally in both the NET (18th) and KenPom (24th).

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo watches his team from the sideline during the Armed Forces Classic.
Kevin Knight

This matchup has a lot of intrigue for potential upset alert despite Nebraska being the underdog by seven points. Michigan State’s offense has at times struggled this season and Malik Hall looks to likely remain on limited minutes for now. While Nebraska has struggled on offense on the road at Indiana and on neutral courts like against Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Memphis, the team’s defense has been really strong all season and especially of late. Not only that, but the Spartans face arch rival Michigan on Saturday and so the Huskers may catch the opponent looking ahead on the schedule. Still, a road game in the Big Ten is tough place to win, the Breslin Center even more so than other venues in the league.

  • When: Tuesday, Jan. 3 at 6:00 p.m. CT/7:00 ET
  • Where: Breslin Center (14,759) - East Lansing, Michigan
  • TV: Big Ten Network, streaming via FOX Sports App
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), Stephen Bardo (analyst)
  • Radio: Huskers Radio Network; Kent Pavelka (play-by-play), Jake Muhleisen (analyst)
  • Broadcast Stations: KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln, KKCD (105.9 FM) in Omaha, KHYY (106.9 FM) in Scottsbluff, and KAMI (1580 AM) in Lexington
    Also available on and the Huskers app.
    The pregame broadcast with Pavelka and Muhleisen begins one hour before tipoff.
  • Betting Odds: Nebraska is a 7-point underdog with the Over/Under set at 130.5 according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Michigan State No. 46 in KenPom
2022-23 Record: 9-4 (1-1)
Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Record at MSU: 675-271 (28th year)
Career Record: Same

Nebraska No. 82 in KenPom
2022-23 Record: 8-6 (1-2)
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Record at Nebraska: 32-73 (4th year)
Career Record: 147-129 (9th year)