FORT WAYNE – Indiana is expected to be a full strength when the No. 1 Hoosiers travel to play No. 4 Michigan State tonight.
Indiana coach Tom Crean said during Monday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference that junior guard Victor Oladipo is expected to play against Michigan State. Oladipo sprained his left ankle in the Hoosiers’ 83-55 win over Purdue on Saturday with 46.7 seconds left in the first half and didn’t play in the second half.
Oladipo had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks in Indiana’s 75-70 win over Michigan State on Jan. 27 in Assembly Hall.
(Oladipo is) a great player, Michigan State freshman guard Gary Harris told reporters Monday. He thrives on the defensive end. He gets a lot of stuff going offensively in transition. We just have to be smart, especially on the offensive end, because he plays the passing lanes. We just got to try and contain him and stop him from doing some of the things he does best.
Tonight’s game matches up two of the best in the Big Ten and could decide who wins the regular-season title.
Indiana (23-3, 11-2) and Michigan State (22-4, 11-2) are tied for first in the conference, and if the Hoosiers win, they would have essentially a two-game lead on the Spartans for the top seed in the Big Ten tournament with four games left.
The game could also determine which of these teams ends up with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
And to add to the hype, former Michigan State star Magic Johnson is scheduled to work the ESPN broadcast along side Mike Tirico and Dick Vitale.
Crean said he will not bring up all of the things at stake tonight to his team.
They know it is a big game, said Crean, who was an assistant at Michigan State from 1995 to 1999. They know the stakes. They get all of that. The moment we start spending too much time on that is the moment we get away from what’s most important, which is our improvement.
Indiana is 1-18 in Michigan State’s Breslin Center, the site for the first ever top-five showdown in East Lansing, Mich., and has lost 17 in a row there. The Hoosiers’ only win at Breslin was 62-56 on Feb. 28, 1991.
Michigan State has won five straight since losing to Indiana. The Spartans are led by junior guard Keith Appling (14.1 points per game), Harris (12.9) and sophomore forward Branden Dawson (10.6).
Their team is good, and they’ve been good for a long time, Crean said. To look at what they’re doing now and say, Wow, they’re doing such a good job,’ would discredit what they did in November, December and January.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he knows his team is in for a challenge against an Indiana squad that has four starters averaging double figures in scoring. Cody Zeller leads the way with 16.6 points per game followed by Oladipo (13.8), Christian Watford (13.2) and Jordan Hulls (10.7). IU’s Will Sheehey averages 10.2 points off the bench.
It’s kind of an amazing matchup, you know, made for TV, Izzo said. They’ve been the premier team in this league, I think, the whole season. I think the one thing they have over us and Michigan, right now, is they have tremendous depth. They can bring in so many different athletes off the bench, and I think that is a big plus for Tom’s team.