Who: Northwestern Wildcats (15-12, 6-8 in the Big Ten)
Where: Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
When: Saturday at 2 p.m.
TV/Radio: FOX/94.9 WMMQ-FM (Lansing)
Line: MSU —8
The end of the regular season is drawing closer and the Wildcats are the lone conference team the Spartans have yet to see.
With just three games left on the schedule, it might be hard for No. 2 men's basketball (25-3, 13-2) to refrain from looking ahead to the Big Ten Tournament.
But despite how difficult it may be to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand, especially for a team with such lofty aspirations, that’s exactly what the Spartans plan to do against the Wildcats on Saturday.
“I think this is a big week for us because Northwestern is the one team that I think has, I want to say nine guys back, seven out of nine guys back,” head coach Tom Izzo said after the team’s practice Thursday.
Despite having an experience-filled group, Northwestern hasn’t had as good of a season as Wildcats fans might have expected up to this point. With four games left on their schedule and tournament play yet to begin, the Wildcats already have the same amount of losses as they did all of last year.
After struggling to start off conference play, the Wildcats have garnered a 4-3 record in their last seven contests, including a nine-point home win over No. 22 University of Michigan, but the team will go into Saturday on a two-game skid, after it lost to Maryland and Rutgers on the road.
Northwestern still wields one of the most experienced starting units in the Big Ten, led by senior two-guard Scottie Lindsey, who leads the Wildcats in scoring and averages better than 14 points per contest.
“There’s going to be a lot of energy, they’re going to play with a lot of heart. It’s a tough team, so we have to figure out a way to just slow them down,” point guard Cassius Winston said.
Senior point guard Bryant McIntosh ranks second in scoring at 12.1 points per game, on a Wildcats team that puts up 69.9 points per outing, about 14 points less than MSU’s 83 points per game average.
Led by sophomore wing Miles Bridges, who averages a team-best 17.3 points, the Spartans will look to avoid having a let down performance against the Wildcats and duplicate what they did in Minneapolis on Tuesday against the Golden Gophers, when MSU won by 30 points.
The Spartans own an 89-31 all time record against Northwestern, and are 9-1 against the Wildcats in the teams’ last 10 meetings.
Michael Duke: MSU 77 Northwestern 62
Casey Harrison: MSU 74 Northwestern 64