The Big Ten has been one of the strongest conferences in college basketball for much of the year. There are currently four Big Ten teams in the Associated Press top 25 and three of them are in the top five. One of the more disappointing teams in the league has been the Michigan State Spartans, who travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in a must-win game for both teams today (7pm ET Tuesday; TV: Live on ESPN).
Michigan State currently sits in 11th place in the Big Ten with a lowly 4-8 record in conference play. Last year Michigan State was tied for first with a 14-6 conference record. This has been one of the more disappointing Spartans teams we have seen in quite sometime. Purdue is currently in sixth place at 8-6 in the conference and 13-8 overall. They are looking to make a push for an NCAA Tournament bid. They will need to take care of business at home to continue building their resume for March.
Michigan State will look to get revenge in West Lafayette today. They lost a nail biter in the first matchup back in early January. Purdue went into East Lansing and held on to a 55-54 victory despite shooting only 12% from three. They went an abysmal 3/24 from behind the arc. This was drastically below their season average of 33.9% from three. I expect them to be closer to their average than that poor shooting performance, which will likely make this game much different than the first matchup.
Purdue will get a lift today from the return of Sasha Stefanovic. The junior guard played his first game on February 6th after missing three straight due to COVID. He only contributed four total points in his last two games back, but he’s one of Purdue’s best offensive weapons. He is second on the team in average points at 10.1 points per game. I expect him to get back on track offensively, especially from behind the arc. Stefanovic is the best shooter on the team and leads the Boilermakers in average three-point percentage.
One of the bigger mismatches in the game comes inside the paint. Purdue’s leading scorer, 6’10” forward Trevion Williams, will be going up against Spartan’s forward Aaron Henry (6’6″) for much of the game. That is quite the discrepancy in size on the inside and I expect Williams to dominate once again. In the first matchup Williams put up 26 points, and nine rebounds in 26 minutes of play. I think Williams will be able to control the game from the inside and Stefanovic will handle the scoring from the outside. I see the junior guard being much more prepared in his third game back from the COVID list. He should have his legs under him and will need to contribute to help Purdue win and ultimately cover.
Our Preview’s Michigan State Spartans vs Purdue Boilermakers Predictions & Picks Verdict
I am going to be rolling with the home favorite Purdue Boilermakers. They are currently a -5.5 point favorite and I think they can win and cover this number comfortably. They were able to win the first matchup by one point despite shooting an abysmal 3/24 from three. Stefanovic was only 1/4 from three and 1/8 overall. This was well below all of his average performances. They can’t possibly shoot as poorly as they did the first time around. I expect Stefanovic to have a strong performance in his third game back from the COVID list and I don’t see the Michigan State offense quite being able to keep up. The Spartans are a lousy 4-12 against the spread on the season, which is worst in the Big Ten. So for this preview’s prediction, the pick is to take the home favorite to win by six or more points.