Michigan State Spartans vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Pick

Michigan State Spartans (20-4) +4, 135 O/U at Indiana Hoosiers
(20-4) -4, 135 O/U, Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana, 9 PM

With their head coach Kelvin Sampson waist deep in a recruiting
scandal the 13th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers cannot afford to get
distracted when the 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans come to
Assembly Hall for a huge Big 10 Conference game Saturday night on ESPN.

Sampson and Indiana were informed on Wednesday that the basketball
program faces what the NCAA terms major violations. The news
clearly took its toll quickly, as the Hoosiers went out and slept
walked through the first half of what turned out to be a 68-66 loss
to Wisconsin. The loss ended a mini three-game winning streak for the
Hoosiers and cast doubt as to what will happen the rest of the season
for the storied program in the basketball-crazy state.

Meanwhile a day earlier the Spartans were upset by the Big 10s
surprise team this season, Purdue, by a score of 60-54. It was the
second straight road loss for Michigan State, who dropped an even
more surprising 85-76 loss at Penn State last week as 9-point favorites.

Despite the turmoil, most offshore sportsbooks opened the game with
Indiana as 4-point favorites, with a 135-point total. The Hoosiers
are also a strong favorite on the moneyline at most books, listed at
-180 with Michigan State as a +162.

With the firing of Sampson and potential NCAA tournament sanctions
looming in the future, its now more than certain that Indianas
super freshman Eric Gordon will leave at seasons end for the NBA.
Gordon (21.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg) is the outside portion of the Hoosiers
outstanding inside-outside offensive tandem, with forward D.J. White
(17.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg) being the inside portion.

Last time out versus Wisconsin, Gordon and White combined for 40 of
the Hoosiers 66 points (Gordon 2, White 17). Although Gordon did have
some problems with accuracy, going 7-for-17 from the floor in the loss.

Michigan State will need senior guard Drew Neitzel to play up to his
expectations on offense if the Spartans are going to win at Assembly
Hall. Neitzel, who averages 13.7 points and 4.5 assists per game,
scored just six points in the loss at Purdue and six in the loss at
Penn State as well.

Luckily for Neitzel the Spartans are loaded with quality depth, as
Kalin Lucas (20 points vs. Purdue) and Raymar Morgan (12 points vs.
Purdue; 15.7 ppg on season) are more than capable of scoring in
bunches off the drive and on open looks at the hoop.

Defensively these two are very similar. Both allow around 60 points
per game (Michigan State 62.3, Indiana 62.7) with similar defensive
shooting percentages as well (both around 40 % from floor, 33 % from
3-pt). If this becomes a typical Big 10 game full of defense and
fouls, it would tend to favor the Spartans as they have more depth on
the bench.

The last two years each team has defended its home floor well, as
they have split the season series winning in their home gym each time
out. Though the Spartans havent won or covered at Assembly Hall for
five years, Indiana hasnt done it at Michigan State either. In other
words, the home team is 10-1 ATS in the last 11 head-to-head meetings.

And neither team is exactly making sports bettors rich this season
anyway. Indiana is 10-10-1 ATS so far this season, while Michigan
State is only 8-10-2 ATS in 2007-08. Their respective recent
histories are bad too, as Michigan State has failed to cover in three
straight and four of their last five overall, while Indiana has only
covered twice in their last six games overall.

Betting the over/under on these teams is also a money drain, as the
Spartans are just 10-10 versus the total while Indiana is 10-11.

Badgers Pick: This one is going to be worth watching just to see
how the home crowd at Assembly Hall treats Coach Sampson. There were
several boos from the crowd in Wednesdays game versus Wisconsin, and
now that more details have emerged, I can only expect more for him
this time around. If Indiana was a veteran team, I say it wouldnt
make much difference but theyre not. They are basically freshmen
and sophomores, who will likely have a hard time dealing with the
circus. I hate to kick a team when they are down, but I have to here.
Take Michigan State plus the points. It might even be worth a
moneyline bet on the Spartans as well (at +162).