With the #4 Spartans playing host to #3 Purdue today, this one is shaping up for the battle for a Big Ten title and a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Think about this. This game is the fourth time this season in college basketball that two AP Top five teams have played. The Spartans have played in three of them. According to the folks in Las Vegas, the Spartans are three-point favorites.
Purdue enters the game with a 23-3 overall record, including a 12-1 mark in Big Ten Conference play. Michigan State is also 23-3 and 11-2 in the Big Ten.
You can also add the hype that this game is the Jud Heathcote tribute game. Jud’s family will be here as well as ICONIC Big Ten head coach Gene Keady who is a Purdue ICON, a great friend of Jud’s and another mentor to Tom Izzo.
There is another interesting tie between Keady and Izzo. “When Michigan State beat Indiana, the win moved Head Coach Tom Izzo into second place among all coaches for career Big Ten Conference wins, breaking a tie with former Purdue coach Gene Keady. Izzo now has an all-time conference record of 267-122. Former Indiana Head Coach Bob Knight is the all-time leader with 353 wins.”
Michigan State describes the game as, “The matchup against Purdue is the Jud Heathcote Tribute Game. George M. (Jud) Heathcote, who passed away at the age of 90 last August, coached the Michigan State men’s basketball team from 1976-95, guiding the Spartans to 340 victories, three Big Ten titles, nine NCAA Tournament berths and one national title during his 19 seasons in East Lansing “
“Hopefully the game will be as good as the build-up,” was how Tom Izzo looked ahead to the game. He went on to add of the Boilermakers, “They’ve got skill. With those four seniors that I think really are solid, being on the road won’t bother them. They’re a very good shooting team and they got a post player. So they kind of got a little bit of everything, which good teams have.”
While the Boilers have a team with more experience than the Spartans, they have one area they are not as fortunate as Michigan State. Izzo said, “Maybe, maybe, their depth isn’t quite.” Tom Izzo is 24-16 in his career against Purdue.
“Sometimes you worry so much about (Isaac Haas) in there, you don’t guard the 3’s, they’ve got probably the best team in the whole country of having an inside and outside game.” So how does Izzo deal with Haas in the middle? “Don’t foul him, I think we’ve committed too many fouls in the last couple years. Last year here, we were playing really good until we had to put Matt (Van Dyk) in there against him, and it didn’t work out so good. We don’t want to get in a foul situation. He’s going to score some points. He’s big, he’s good, he’s talented and his hook shot has gotten better.”
Here are some curious notes about the game via the Purdue Perspective:
- No. 3-ranked Purdue looks to rebound from its first loss since Thanksgiving at No. 4-ranked Michigan State in the Boilermakers’ first top-5 showdown in almost 30 years.
- Wednesday’s loss to Ohio State was Purdue’s first in Big Ten play and dropped the Boilermakers into a first-place tie in the league standings at 12-1 with the Buckeyes. Michigan State is one game back at 11-2, in what has become the best three-team race in America.
- Purdue is looking to avoid its second straight league loss for the first time since 2014-15.
The game tips off at 4 PM and can be seen on ESPN. It can also be seen streaming via the WatchESPN app.
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