Jess Settles, BTN men's basketball analyst, March 13, 2016
The only time Michigan State and Purdue faced off this season, we witnessed an instant classic as Purdue won the hard-fought overtime thriller, 82-81. Purdue snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Spartans and proved to themselves that they could compete with anyone in the country. Michigan State gets a much wanted revenge game today with the Big Ten Tournament Championship on the line.
Here are three keys to look for in this battle of senior-led teams.
The Hammons Factor
A.J. Hammons scored 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds against Michigan?s thin front line in the semifinal, but it was how he scored that was so impressive. Hammons hit 18-footers, jump hooks, made spin moves, and dunked on the Wolverines. He is playing at an extremely high level at both ends of the court and his play today will be a major storyline for both teams. Purdue?s spacing on offense has been excellent over the last month in part because of the confidence Matt Painter has in his smaller lineup, and also Hammons? ability to draw double teams as well as drag his defender away from the basket.
In Michigan State?s first battle against Hammons, the senior center scored 19 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and intimidated Sparty with eight blocks. Look for Michigan State to be extremely physical with Hammons away from the ball, use calculated digs and double teams, and force him into tough shots. Denzel Valentine will continue to attack the rim, so keep your eye on how this game is officiated as well. As deep as Purdue is at the center position, it?s hard to find a way for Purdue to win if Hammons is in foul trouble.
This is the statistic to keep track of: Michigan State runs as well as anyone in the country and wants a track meet. Purdue isn?t afraid to push the ball when necessary, but they need this to be a half-court game. Purdue?s transition defense must not only stay in front of Valentine and Tum Tum Nairn, but find Bryn Forbes and Aron Harris fading to the corners on the fast break. You could tie turnovers into this category as well because if Purdue is careless with the basketball it will lead to quick dunks at the other end for Michigan State. No one for Purdue can hang their head after a miss. They have to sprint back. Keep your eyes on Matt Costello and Deyonte Davis running the floor against Purdue?s skyline. If they are open by an inch, you know Valentine will find them.
It seems like three-point shooting is the key to everyone?s success these days, and it is critical today for two teams who are both shooting the ball extremely well. Over the last 4 games, Purdue is shooting the 3-ball at a blazing 47 percent. Purdue?s 256 trifectas this season are the second most in school history. Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline, and P.J. Thompson have to make Michigan State?s defense pay when they double team the post. Vince Edwards needs to have a big game shooting the ball and he must score in double figures.
This is Tom Izzo?s best shooting team. The Spartan?s have won 12 of their last 13 games, averaging 82.7 points and shooting 49 percent from the field, including a red-hot 48 percent from three-point range. Bryn Forbes is shooting 53 percent during that time. The Spartans need only five three?s today to break the school record.
More on the tournament:
[display-posts tag="big-ten-mens-tournament" posts_per_page="5"]