Eastern Michigan looks to upset the Spartans with their first victory since 1987 against No. 15 Michigan State.
TV schedule: Saturday, December 21, 7:00 pm ET. BTN
Arena: Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State enters this game coming off three victories with the latest win being a 77-72 victory in Big Ten play over Northwestern on the road to start conference play undefeated 2-0. Eastern Michigan (9-1) has won their last three games as well. In the Eagles last game, they defeated Northeastern 60-55.
Michigan State has not looked like the No. 1 preseason ranked team this season due to multiple reasons. However, the Spartans have overcome multiple injuries, the tragic passing of a loved one off the court, and denial of immidiate playing time to a key transfer. However, Michigan State is still ranked in the top 15 and in sole possession of 1st place in the Big Ten.
Michigan State (8-3, 2-0 Big Ten) received some very disappointing news as it was known to the media on Thursday that Joshua Langford who have been dealing with injuries and has not played in over a year, had another surgery on his left foot and will not play for the Spartans this season.
Michigan State on top of Langford being out with injuries have been without the services of true freshmen Rocket Watts who has started the majority of games this season at the shooting guard position and power forward Julius Marble who has played in only two games this month due to an injury.
Just prior to the start of the season, Michigan State looked like a No.1 team with tremendous depth and optimistic about the possibility of Marquette transfer Joey Hauser playing this season. Cassius Winston was ready to lead this team to a national championship as he looked to be named player of the year when all was said and done. Then late October through mid November brought unfortunate and devastating news to the Spartans.
Langford in the third week on October it was announced that he had reinjuired his left foot just two weeks from the beginning of his senior and last season at Michigan State. Cassius Winston lost his brother Zachary in early November and he has played through the emotional pain that he has been enduring since losing his brother who he was extremely close to. Then came word that the Spartans would not be getting the response from the NCAA that they had hoped for. Tom Izzo was livid when news broke that the NCAA denied Hauser immediate eligibility and the Spartans were giving some more bad news.
The Spartans like many teams across the country in college basketball have dealt with minor injuries like mentioned before with Watts, who has missed the past three games with a stress reaction in his left leg. He could possibly play against the Eagles but more likely to play next week against Western Michigan. Also player like Thomas Kithier who broke his nose in November and wore a protective mask until recently. However, throughout the ups and downs the Spartans still look like a team that can win their third Big Ten title in three years and go back to the Final Four for their second straight time.
In today’s match up, the Spartans will be facing a difficult 2/3 zone defense, as Eagle head coach Rob Murphy since being at the helm of the Eastern Michigan program brought over his defensive scheme from when he was an assistant coach at Syracuse.
At 9-1, the Eagles are off to its best start in school history and are looking to defeat and upset their in state foe.
Eastern Michigan last defeated Michigan State in 1987, but the Eagles have confidence with having won 9 out of the 10 games that they have played this season going into the Breslin Center with an opportunity to upset the Spartans.
Michigan State at home has played very well this season with the exception of one game. This will only be their 5th home game of the season. Most power 5 conference schedule easier teams prior to conference play and it seemed the Spartans had some of those home games scheduled for this season. However, they play a 9-1 team today and their two previous “easier” non-conference opponents actually are not as bad as one may have thought.
Charleston Southern went to Missouri and the Buccaneers beyond some solid three-point shooting beat the Tigers 68-60. Even Binghamton beat Boston who had defeated South Carolina this season. Binghamton has beaten teams like Army as well and the Bearcats have an opportunity to compete and win their conference. In otherwords, there is a reason that the Spartans have the most difficult strength of schedule in the nation.
Michigan State will have to shoot well from the outside especially beyond th three point arch. The Eagles 2-3 zone should slow down the Spartans offense but Michigan States tough minded packline man to man defense should limit the production of the Easten Michigan guards