College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary
Injuries can be the great equalizer in sports, turning a race that looks to be all but over into a contested sprint to the finish line. Michigan State can attest to that, with point guard Kalin Lucas (ankle) going down against Wisconsin and being unable to play at Illinois in a second consecutive loss on Saturday night. Tuesday's matchup is in East Lansing but none easier, especially if Lucas is unable to go. Matt Painter's Purdue Boilermakers suddenly find themselves with a chance to move to 8-3 in Big Ten play while handing the Spartans their third conference loss, which would mean that four teams (Illinois visits Wisconsin) would end the night with three losses.
Purdue's won five straight, most recently squeaking out a three-point decision at rival Indiana, and their depth's received a boost in the form of point guard Lewis Jackson returning from injury. With Jackson out (he's played just under 14 minutes per game in three games) the Boilers lacked a true point guard to initiate their offense. And as he rounds into form a team that features the versatile Robbie Hummel and big man JaJuan Johnson becomes that much better. Add a defensive star in Chris Kramer (who likely will draw Lucas should the All-American play) and youngsters gaining experience and you've got a team that still should be considered as a Final Four possibility.
Michigan State will need consistent games from Chris Allen and Durrell Summers on Tuesday if they're to take care of Purdue with out without Lucas. Keep an eye on the rebounding numbers; if Purdue can't keep Draymond Green and company off the boards while also keeping Johnson out of foul trouble it's going to be a long night for the visitors. Also of importance in the Big Ten is Illinois' trip to Madison; despite beating Michigan State Bruce Weber's team could use a big road victory (Clemson's diminishing the value of that comeback by the game) on their resume. Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee in the first of two huge games for the Volunteers (at Kentucky on Saturday) and a pair of bubble hopefuls currently on the outside looking in get together in Norman (Texas Tech and Oklahoma).
7p ESPN Tennessee at Vanderbilt
7p ESPN2 Georgetown at Providence
7p ESPNU Virginia Commonwealth at George Mason
7p BTN Illinois at Wisconsin
9p ESPN Purdue at Michigan State
9p ESPNU Alabama at Kentucky
10p MTN Colorado St at Air Force
7p Vermont at Boston University
7p Akron at Central Michigan
8p Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Michigan State over Purdue: Definitely a risky pick should Lucas not be able to go or be limited in his return. But it's tough to pick Tom Izzo's team to lose three straight games. This is a tough group who will be able to feed off of the Izzone's energy in holding off the Boilermakers.