Spartans, Izzo in another tough spot

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

February 3, 2018 03:07 AM
Tom Izzo leads fifth-ranked Michigan State, which has a five-game win streak, against Indiana on Saturday. The Spartans are 9-point road favorites.

With controversy swirling at Michigan State, and with the media wolves howling at his door, Tom Izzo is under fire. It’s trivializing the issue to merely call it a distraction to Izzo’s basketball team, but this is a handicapping column, not a newspaper editorial on sexual assault investigations.

The Spartans should be distracted because their campus is in the eye of a scandalous storm and their coach is feeling the heat. Izzo has admitted it’s tough to focus solely on the games.

Still, fifth-ranked Michigan State (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) continues to win. The Spartans take a five-game win streak to Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers (12-11, 5-6) have lost three in a row in the midst of new coach Archie Miller’s rebuilding project.

The analytics line up impressively for Michigan State, which ranks in the top 10 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. With Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward, the Spartans are a nightmare matchup on the front line for the shorthanded and smaller Hoosiers, who could get bludgeoned in the rebounding battle.

Indiana’s only real talented big man is 6-foot-8 forward Juwan Morgan, who scored 24 points in a 74-67 home loss to No. 3 Purdue last weekend. Morgan will be outnumbered around the basket by Bridges, Jackson and Ward, and Morgan is going to need a lot of help from senior guards Robert Johnson and Josh Newkirk plus a couple of unexpected sources to keep the underdog within striking distance.

Michigan State has dealt with turnover problems and had to overcome halftime deficits to win its past two games against Penn State and Maryland. At some point, throwing the ball away and playing from behind will catch up to the Spartans.

The Hoosiers are down, but they die hard, playing Duke and Purdue tough to the final minutes at Assembly Hall, where the crowd will be electric for ESPN’s prime-time game. With a big effort from Morgan and a rare hot shooting night from the guards, Indiana should be live as a 9-point home ‘dog.

With 107 college basketball games on the betting board today, here are 10 plays (rotation numbers listed):

551-Kentucky (plus-2) over MISSOURI; 556-WYOMING (-2) over Fresno State; 584-WEST VIRGINIA (-7½) over Kansas State; 585-Florida State (plus-4½) over LOUISVILLE; 610-INDIANA (plus-9) over Michigan State; 665-Unlv (plus-7½) over BOISE STATE; 672-SAN DIEGO (plus-10½) over Saint Mary’s; 683-Southern California (plus-2) over UCLA; 688-GONZAGA (-11) over Brigham Young; 692-WASHINGTON (plus-6) over Arizona.

Last week: 4-4 against the spread

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