It's the biggest game of the year! Sure, the Boilers aren't playing IU or for a chance to make the tourney or win the conference, but it's the most important game of the year because Erik and I will both be in Mackey Arena tonight, and the Boilers simply must not let us down. As ridiculously loud former Paint Crew (and Gene Pool) members, I'm sure you'll be able to hear us if you turn up the volume on your television.
There's no love lost between Purdue and Michigan State, mostly thanks to Branden Dawson's antics last year and punch of Travis Carroll earlier this season. Earlier this week I had the chance to chat with a respected Purdue sports broadcaster, and he made sure to emphasize that fans should give Dawson all he can handle (and that it was most definitely a punch), but he really hoped the fans were polite to Gary Harris. Sure we were incredibly disappointed by his choice of MSU over Purdue, but he hasn't been a jerk about it and apparently is a very nice guy off the court. So if you're going to be at Mackey, make sure you boo Dawsen mercilessly, he deserves every bit of it, but reserve your venom for him and Izzo.
|Hope he falls flat on his face|
Why Purdue Will Win
Up in East Lansing, the Boilers were able to hang with the Spartans throughout the first half. Unfortunately the wheels fell off the bus in the second half, but they've shown that they can match MSU's physicality for significant stretches. They key to this game is AJ Hammons. Without significant minutes and production from him, the Boilers won't win (unless they get hot from the 3-point range or something, but c'mon, we know that's never going to happen). Can Terone break out of his slump? Can the freshmen limit the turnovers and play controlled ball? Limiting the turnovers will be key to avoid giving up points in transition, and the defense is going to have to work mighty hard to close out on shooters like Harris. It's going to take 40 minutes of incredibly high energy, smart basketball, and wise shot-selection, but it's certainly possible Purdue can pull the upset. If only because Erik and I will be willing them on. After the IU debacle, this better be the loudest, most impressive home court advantage I've ever seen, so if you're not yelling, you're really helping MSU.
The final upside for the Boilers is that Michigan State has a lot of players really hurting and not at 100%. You never want to take a team for granted just because they're hurt, but this could make for a golden opportunity tonight. Harris is having back spasms, Appling left the Minnesota game early due to serious shoulder issues, Dawson sprained his ankle, Trice is still out with concussion symptoms, and Payne took an elbow to the face (which doesn't hurt his production, it just makes him even uglier). Purdue certainly has the opportunity to capitalize on this, and MSU doesn't have a deep bench.
Why Michigan State Will Win
Payne and Nix (those names just sound like guys who'll hurt you) will most likely cause problems for Hammons, and my big fear is that he gets in early foul trouble and the Boilers get into a hole the can't climb out of. Carroll and Chooch simply don't allow the Boilers to develop their offense, so coming from behind without Hammons is virtually impossible. Also, with all the talented shooters MSU has with Harris, Appling, and Valentine, there are just so many ways the Spartans can beat you. If they wear down the Boilermakers, the game could get ugly, just like the IU loss.
One thing you absolutely need to know before the game
Other than the fact you should look for Erik and I at the game, you should also be on the lookout for Robbie Hummel. He'll be back to be honored at halftime (and hopefully at Harry's following the game?). If only we could put him back in the jersey that they'll be hanging from the rafters, because the Boilers could certainly use him. Coach Hazell and the baseball team will also be at the game signing autographs prior to tipoff. It's going to be quite the festive environment, so let's just hope the product on the court doesn't let us down.
Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas. So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Michigan State by 4.5 points.
Erik's Bet: $8
Erik's Pick: Michigan State 68 - Purdue 64
Kirk's Bet: $7
Kirk's Pick: Michigan State 70 - Purdue 62
Erik +222 (18-7 Against The Spread)
Kirk -146 (10-15 Against The Spread)
Values already bet
Erik 1-15, 17, 21, 23-28, 30-32