Let's hope the nighttime is the right time for the Michigan State Spartans.
By the time the No.8 nationally-ranked Spartans tip off against the Iowa Hawkeyes at 9 p.m. tonight, Michigan and three other teams will have played two games in the Big Ten basketball tournament. Michigan State (24-7) may be the No. 3 seed in the tournament, but don't expect the Hawkeyes to roll over and concede the game.
Izzo and MSU Are Tough to Beat in Tournaments
The problem for Iowa is Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo makes sure his teams are ready for critical basketball games in March and April. Games in November through February are just preparation for the games that really count toward conference and national tournament championships.
The Spartans under Izzo's leadership have won more than 75% of their games in March and April. In addition to their post-season success, Michigan State feels they missed their opportunity to claim at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title by splitting with Indiana and Michigan and losing twice to Ohio State.
Starting point guard Keith Appling is looking for another shot at beating Ohio State and Indiana for the tournament title and a favorable No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Who Can Figure Out Iowa?
Iowa (21-11) comes into the Friday night lights game as the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament. They beat Northwestern, 73-59, in Thursday's final game and lost by three points at home to the Spartans on January 10th.
The Hawkeyes entered the Big Ten tournament as one of the NCAA tournament's "bubble" teams. A strong performance against conference teams would improve their chances of being in the 68-team national tournament.
The season started well for Iowa as they entered Big Ten play with an 11-2 record. They quickly sunk to the bottom of the conference with consecutive losses to Indiana, Michigan and MSU.
The Hawkeyes rebounded with a 7-2 record during the second half of the Big Ten schedule. They are also the type of team that frustrates the Spartans, because Iowa will hang around and keep the game close with the hope that their opponents will make the critical mistakes that will decide the outcome of the game.
Easy Isn't in the Spartans' Vocabulary
Don't expect a blowout win for the Spartans. Guard Gary Harris and forward Adreian Payne's consistent play should offset the slumps being experienced by forwards Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson.
Keep an eye on Spartan junior guard Keith Appling. If he commits four or fewer turnovers, drives the lane to disrupt the Iowa defense and regains his scoring touch, Michigan State will convincingly win the game and have an opportunity to redeem themselves against Ohio State on Saturday.