staff, January 4, 2014

Assembly Hall will host two of the best point guards in the Big Ten Saturday, as Keith Appling leads his fourth-ranked Michigan State Spartans (12-1, 1-0) into Bloomington against Yogi Ferrell and the Indiana Hoosiers (10-4, 0-1).

[ MORE: Week in review: Who's up and down in the Big Ten? ]

This marks the third head-to-head meeting all-time between the two point guards, with Ferrell and the Hoosiers winning both games last season. Ferrell averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 assists, compared to averages of just 4.5 points and one assist by Appling, who led the Spartans in scoring last season. Appling also struggled mightily from the field in those meetings, shooting under 17 percent (2-12 FG).

Keith Appling vs. Yogi Ferrell
This season
15.8 17.7
49.6% 45.4%
3pt FG%
46.9% 44.4%
Ast/TO ratio
2.6 1.4

However, both players have been among the backcourt elite in the Big Ten in the early stages of this season, mainly scoring the ball. Ferrell has been the Hoosiers go-to player and leads the team with 17.7 points per game, which also ranks fourth in the conference. Appling is third in scoring on Michigan State at 15.8 points per game, but has increased his scoring average by over two points from last season.

Looking deeper into the numbers, both guards create their scoring opportunities in different ways.

Transition Scoring

Appling has powered Michigan State?s transition game this season. According to Synergy Sports, Appling's 69 points in transition this season ranks first in the Big Ten. In fact, 33.5 percent of the senior guard?s total plays this season have come in transition, compared to just 18.8 percent by Ferrell.

Michigan State has certainly benefited from Appling?s up-tempo style of play as the Spartans' 316 team transition points rank second in the Big Ten, trailing only Iowa?s 326 entering Friday.

Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler

Running the pick-and-roll in the half court is where Ferrell has been significantly better this season. His 1.04 points per play in the pick-and-roll ranks first in the Big Ten among players with at least 40 such plays. The sophomore guard has already scored 88 points running the pick-and-roll this season, already more than the 56 he had total in 36 games all of last season.

On the other hand, Appling averages just 0.60 points per play as the pick-and-roll ball handler this season and is shooting 30 percent on such plays. That has been a step back for Appling, who averaged 0.80 points per play on 39 percent shooting as the pick-and-roll ball handler last season.

Ball Handling

Perhaps the most important aspect of a point guard?s game is ball handling, an area where Appling has the advantage this season. Appling has taken care of the ball better, recording an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Iowa guard Mike Gesell (3.1).

Of his total plays, Appling has recorded a turnover percentage of 11.9 (percentage of total plays a turnover is committed). For comparison, Ferrell turns the ball over on 16.3 percent of his total plays. Ferrell?s 41 turnovers is the second most this season, behind Penn State?s Tim Frazier?s 42. Those ball-handling issues have been a primary factor in the Hoosiers ranking last in the conference in turnover margin this season (-2.93) and total turnovers (230) this season.

About Ernest Tolden Ernest Tolden is a Studio Researcher for Big Ten Network and a blogger who covers Big Ten football and men?s basketball for Ernest is a native of Chicago, Illinois. Follow our BTN stats team on Twitter via @BTNStatsGuys.