Michigan State has won 18 straight regular season Big 10 games while Nebraska is in the midst of a 20 consecutive home game win streak. “I don’t think there’s another game like this in the country this week,” Husker head coach Tim Miles said. “It’s a pretty remarkable run from both teams, and one of them is going to end.”
Miles is well aware his squad will have an uphill battle trying to preserve their streak against the sixth ranked Spartans. “I feel like an underdog, so we’ll be fine with the underdog mentality,” he said.
Indiana may technically still be considered a blue blood program, but Michigan State fits that bill and then some. In his 24th season as head coach, Tom Izzo has his Michigan State team rolling. The reigning conference regular season champions are 15-2 this year, with their only losses coming by four points to Louisville and Kansas in the first game of the season.
The Spartans roster boasts a pair of offensive threats, who are both juniors. Cassius Winston, one of the Big 10’s best guards, averages 17.6 points and 7.4 assists per game. Nick Ward, a forward, scores 16.6 points and pulls down 6.9 rebounds a night. Although Michigan State could be without one of their best scoring threats, Joshua Langford, who is averaging 15 points per game, the Spartans can more than make up for that loss of production, as they’re easily the conference’s best defensive teams and one of the best defensive units in the country.
Michigan State ranks in the top 10 in Division 1 NCAA basketball in three different defensive statistical categories – rebounding margin, blocked shots per game, and field goal percentage defense.
“They’re a terrific team,” Miles said. “Tom Izzo is a hall of fame coach. (He’s) legendary for getting his teams to play with such great aggressiveness and physicality.”
The Huskers will need to avoid getting clobbered like they did last season in their lone matchup against the Spartans, losing by nearly 30 points in East Lansing. “You (have) to learn from that type of stuff,” junior forward Isaiah Roby said. “Ultimately, their style of play is the same. Our style of play is different than what it was last year. Everybody’s role was different.”
Roby wasn’t alone in wanting to differentiate this season from the last. Miles said that the team spoke to him, and that “the first thing they requested was that ‘last year’s tape does not exist. Don’t show us last year’s game.’” As to whether he will allow that, “is yet to be determined,” Miles said.
A review probably wouldn’t be necessary. That movie has likely been playing in the team’s mind for a while now. In the immediate aftermath of their win against a top 25 Indiana team in Assembly Hall, Miles already had his attention shifted to the Spartans. Speaking to Kent Pavelka of the Husker Sports Network post-game, Miles said about the game that “something’s got to give.”
(Photo by Kenny Larabee)