Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
In perhaps the preview of the Big Ten Championship, #20 Purdue (11-6, 22-8) travels to East Lansing to cap off the regular season against #8 Michigan State (14-3, 24-5). Purdue handed Michigan State a huge loss at Mackey Arena earlier in the conference season. Michigan State is no doubt holding a bit of a vendetta, that being their first road loss of the season, and will be looking to avoid the sweep. Purdue will want to claim second place in the conference in the regular season, a loss would result in a tie with Illinois, and the Illini swept the Boilers.
Purdue is led in scoring by E’Twaun Moore, the lanky guard. Moore is also among the team leaders in rebounds, assists and steals. The undisputed leaders of this team are sophomore forward Robbie Hummel and senior wingman Chris Kramer. When Hummel doesn’t play, Purdue is 2-3. Not only is his performance missed, but the energy he brings to the game. Kramer’s offensive stats are pedestrian at best, only scoring five points a game, but he leads the Big Ten in steals a game. He is a scrappy player who leads by example, and is one of the reasons why Purdue goes after every loose ball; his hustle is contagious. One Boiler who has really progressed with the season is JaJuan Johnson. He has been brilliant at times, and has developed into the Big Ten’s leading shot blocker. Another tall guard, Keaton Grant, provides more versatile scoring, from inside and out. With all the height in Purdue’s starting lineup (Kramer is the shortest player at 6-3), Purdue does the majority of its scoring on the inside, but most all of their players can shoot as well. Coming off the bench for Purdue is sparkplug Lewis Jackson, the team leader in assists. The freshman is only 5-9, but is incredibly quick and can slice through the lane as well as pop the outside shot. Nemanja Calasan also comes off the bench; the big man scores inside and out, typical of Boiler bigs. Marcus Green is a slightly bigger version of E’Twaun Moore, he provides some good rebounding off the bench.
Kalin Lucas has emerged as a favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. With Raymar Morgan’s health becoming an issue, he stepped up as the leader of this team, and now leads them in points and assists. Usually having one point guard of Lucas’ caliber is sufficient, but his backup, Travis Walton, is also an extremely talented player. Walton leads the team in assist/turnover ratio, and logs the second most minutes of any Spartan despite coming off the bench. Korie Lucious, the third stringer, has had a double digit assist game this season, and looks to be being groomed as Kalin Lucas’ future replacement. In the frontcourt, Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton do damage down low. Suton is among the conference’s leaders in rebounding, and Morgan is recovering from injuries and sickness; he has scored 28 points in his last two games. Freshman Delvon Roe is really emerging as a capable scorer. He has been a great rebounder all year, but now is really improving his scoring prowess. Marquise Gray only gets about ten minutes a game, but hauls down a few rebounds and drains about 60% of his shots. Gray, Roe and Draymond Green provide great frontcourt depth off the bench. Durrell Summers, a starter, is a wingman. He is the team’s leading three point scorer, but is utilized more on the offensive end than the defensive, as his rebounding, steals and blocks aren’t stellar for a wing. Chris Allen is often categorized as a spot up jump shooter; this is not entirely true. Allen’s offensive game relies on the three pointer, but it isn’t limited to it. He can also get into the lane on occasion, and score in other ways.
Michigan State will avoid a sweep here. They are still somewhat in the running for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, so this game has meaning. Although they already claimed the Big Ten regular season title, a win here would give a nice boost to their resume, as well as provide momentum going into the conference tourney.
Winner: Michigan State Margin: 5-8 points
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About Blake Hofstad
An avid sports fan, you can nearly always find Blake Hofstad playing, watching, writing or just talking sports. His favorite team is the Wisconsin Badgers, and he is a huge Big Ten and Missouri Valley fan. The two things he hates about college basketball are Duke and the love Duke gets from most media members. You can find more of Blake's work on Onlinesportsfanatic.com.