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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, February 10, 2018 1:00 am

Purdue-Michigan State matchups

Guards

For the purposes of this analysis, the Spartans' Miles Bridges will be classified as a guard, even though he's more of hybrid who can play both inside and outside. The 6-foot-7 Bridges is one of the best players in the nation, averaging 17.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. He's extremely quick off the dribble but is also big enough to bully smaller defenders down low. Spartans point guard Cassius Winston is adept at pushing the pace, while Matt McQuaid has hit 8 of his last 12 3-pointers over a three-game stretch. Taken together, this group is one of the only ones in the country that has an edge on Purdue's guards. Carsen Edwards is coming off a career-high 28 points against Ohio State and could tip this matchup toward Purdue with another huge game.

Edge: Michigan State

Forwards

One of the key matchups in this game will be Vincent Edwards guarding Michigan State big man Nick Ward. Edwards did a good job (with plenty of help) on Big Ten leading scorer Keita Bates-Diop, holding him to “just” 18 points. He'll have much less help guarding Ward, who had 17 points in 12 minutes against Iowa on Tuesday, because much of the Purdue defense will be focused on stopping Bridges. The 6-8, 245-pound Ward has 20 pounds on Edwards, and it will be a challenge for the Purdue forward to keep Ward from overpowering him in the post. If Edwards can win this one-on-one battle, Purdue's chances of winning the game increase significantly.

Edge: Michigan State

Centers

Purdue's Isaac Haas faces a fresh challenge in Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. The 6-11, 242-pound freshman from Carmel has length and athleticism that could bother the usually unflappable 7-2 senior down low. Still, Jackson is slightly built compared to some other big men the 290-pound Haas has faced this season, and the Boilermakers' center should be able to gain post position with relative ease. From there, it will be a matter of using solid footwork and post maneuvers to avoid Jackson's long arms and get shots up. Count on Haas winning this battle.

Edge: Purdue 

Coaching

Matt Painter is in his 13th season as Purdue's head coach and is arguably the front-runner for Big Ten Coach of the Year. He has done a tremendous job of getting his team to play together and with purpose. The loss to Ohio State is not really on him, as a few bad bounces and an inability to secure a rebound late were the main culprits. Still, Painter struggled to adjust his strategy as Ohio State shut down Haas in the second half and the Buckeyes came back. Besides, it's hard to pick against Tom Izzo in a coaching matchup.

Edge: Michigan State

Intangibles

Michigan State has played a series of close games in a row, coming back to win after facing second-half deficits against Maryland, Penn State and Iowa, and staving off a late comeback effort from Indiana. After winning so many close games in a row, the Spartans can be expected to have confidence if this game is tight late. Purdue, meanwhile, is coming off a crushing defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes. Having a team-record winning streak end so abruptly is bound to leave a hangover. 

Edge: Michigan State

Prediction: Michigan State 73, Purdue 66

– Dylan Sinn, The Journal Gazette

dsinn@jg.net