Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State basketball's opponent. This weekend State News beat writer Sara Tidwell spoke with Caleb Coffman of the Indiana Daily Student ahead of Saturday's game between Indiana and MSU.
After waving the white flag of surrender and leaving the court with seconds left on the clock at Purdue, Michigan State men's basketball has put it in park in Bloomington to take on Indiana at noon on Saturday.
The Spartans enter the matchup at 4-9 in conference play and 10-9 overall.
This weekend State News sports reporter Sara Tidwell spoke with Caleb Coffman of the Indiana Daily Student ahead of the Spartans' matchup with the Hoosiers.
Q: The original game between MSU and IU was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in late January. How has the IU program been dealing with the virus? Will they have any players sitting out Saturday afternoon?
A: So far this season, IU has avoided any issues due to COVID-19 (knock on wood). During the preseason, the program stopped activity for 14 days in Sept., but since the season began IU hasn’t reported any positive tests or had to pause workouts.
Q: With an overall record of 12-9, what are Indiana's strong suits? Weaknesses? How are they looking with the regular season coming to a close soon?
A: IU’s been a team that plays at the level of its competition. They’ve knocked off Iowa twice, taken Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida State to overtime, but also have lost to Northwestern and Rutgers. The Hoosiers are best on the defensive end with two outstanding defensive guards in sophomore Armaan Franklin and junior Rob Phinisee, and junior Race Thompson has been an anchor in the paint.
Where IU most often falls short is on offense. They aren’t a particularly good shooting team and if sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis is having an off-night, the Hoosiers are in trouble. Slow starts, turnovers and rebounding have plagued IU all season, and in its losses, those are three clear areas you can point to as problems.
As they head into the final stretch of the season, IU should be a tournament team as long as they don’t have any embarrassing losses and continue to play the top teams in the conference tight and maybe steal a game. They’ve shown all season that they can play with almost anyone in the country, but have also shown that they can lose to almost anyone as well.
Q: Who are Indiana's team leaders and how much are they relied on in play action? Who else is emerging into the spotlight that could cause problems for the Spartans?
A: IU’s team revolves around sophomore forward (Trayce) Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers look to feed Jackson-Davis on the majority of their possessions and rely on him to provide a large portion of the offense. He’s nearly averaging 20 and 10, and if IU is going to compete with top-tier competition, he has to play at a high level.
Outside of Jackson-Davis, Franklin has stepped up as IU’s second most impactful player. Franklin has been one of the most improved players in the Big Ten this season and has become the Hoosiers’ primary driver from the guard position. If the game is close late in the game, the ball will likely be in his hands, and he’s shown multiple times this season to be able to make the big shot.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: I have IU winning 74-67. Despite a blowout loss to the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers have shown a lot of improvement in their last five games and look to finally be getting comfortable on the offensive end. IU is starting to get more production for its role players and bench, which was a problem early in the season, and appear to be slowly piecing together what could be a winning formula.
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