Indiana men’s basketball will enter a stretch of three-straight games against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, taking on No. 17 Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan.
Both Indiana and Michigan State lost their last two games. Indiana lost to No. 13 Illinois on Feb. 5 and Northwestern on Tuesday, while Michigan State fell to Rutgers on Feb. 5 and No. 14 Wisconsin on Tuesday.
The Hoosiers are eighth in the Big Ten standings at 7-6, and the Spartans are fourth with an 8-4 record in conference play.
“I think our team can beat any team in the Big Ten if we commit ourselves,” head coach Mike Woodson said at a press conference Friday. “The Big Ten has kind of shown that this season, that anybody can beat anybody.”
Here some things to keep an eye on when Indiana faces Michigan State:
Suspended players set to return
After suspending five players and leaving himself with seven available scholarship players against Northwestern on Tuesday, Woodson announced Thursday those suspended Hoosiers would be able to return against Michigan State.
“It’s important that all team rules are followed and a curfew applies to everyone in our program for a reason,” Woodson said in the release Thursday. “It will be my decision to determine what role each one will have moving forward.”
Indiana will return its best playmaker in senior guard Xavier Johnson, who averages 4.5 assists per game, and its top 3-point shooter in graduate student guard Parker Stewart, who has shot 45% from long range this season. Johnson and Stewart average 10.6 and 6.9 points per game, respectively.
The Hoosiers will also return freshman guard Tamar Bates, sophomore guard Khristian Lander and senior center Michael Durr, who combine for 9.6 points per game. Lander has only played in 10 games this season, but he’ll likely stay in the rotation until senior guard Rob Phinisee returns from his foot injury.
Woodson didn’t say definitively who would or wouldn’t play, but all five suspended Hoosiers will at least be available.
Possible shake ups in the starting lineup
Aside from suspensions, Woodson hasn’t made any changes to Indiana’s starting lineup this season, sticking with Johnson, Stewart, senior forwards Miller Kopp and Race Thompson and junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.
However, Woodson turned to sophomore guards Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal against Northwestern with his starting backcourt pair suspended. Galloway starred, tying a career-high 13 points and playing every minute of the game before fouling out with 2:36 left to play.
Woodson said Friday that Galloway starting is a thought that he’s had and he would evaluate based on Friday’s practice.
“The other night I thought the first time (Galloway) got a crack to start, he was phenomenal the whole game,” Woodson said. “He's definitely played well enough to be in the lineup.”
Woodson didn’t specify who Galloway would potentially replace, but with shooting guard being Galloway’s primary position, Stewart or Kopp would be the most likely candidates.
Michigan State’s balanced attack
The Spartans lack a dominant scorer this season, but they have four players averaging at least 9.9 points per game and eight players averaging at least 5.9. Senior forward Gabe Brown, the team’s leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, is 21st in the Big Ten in scoring per game.
While no one scorer jumps out in particular, the Spartans are collectively dangerous from 3-point range and are second in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 38.8%. Each of their top seven scorers shot at least 30% from long range this season, but no one outside of Brown has made more than 30 3-point shots.
Michigan State’s defense also poses a threat to Indiana, especially from beyond the arc. Michigan State is the only team in the Big Ten outpacing Indiana in 3-point defense, giving up 30% compared to Indiana’s 30.7%, and Indiana has struggled on those shots recently.
Overall, Michigan State is just above average in scoring offense and defense in the Big Ten, sitting at sixth in both categories out of 14.
“I just think they're a solid team,” Woodson said. “(Michigan State head coach Tom) Izzo has always had good teams on both ends of the floor. I don't see anything differently.”
Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Tristan Jackson (@Trist_Jackson), and columnist Da’Qwan Dockery (@ddockery35) for updates throughout the game and the rest of the Indiana men’s basketball season.
Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan
Radio: IU Radio Network