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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Spartans meet Hoosiers in contrast of styles

By ESPN Stats & Information

The Big Ten title is on the line as No. 5 Michigan State travels to No. 20 Indiana (7 p.m. ET on ESPN). With a win, the Spartans would claim sole possession of the regular-season title for the first time since the 2008-09 team that eventually lost in the championship game.

It’s also a big game for the Hoosiers, who are looking to become the fourth team in the past 10 years to defeat three AP top-5 teams in the same season. Indiana is 16-1 at home this season, including wins against top-ranked Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State.

Contrast in styles
The game should be a classic matchup between Indiana’s offense and Michigan State’s defense. In Big Ten play this season, the Hoosiers lead the league in points per possession and points per game. On the defensive side, the Spartans lead both of those categories in addition to allowing the lowest field goal percentage.

When the teams met on Dec. 28, the Spartans became the first team this season to hold the Hoosiers under a point per possession. Indiana is 0-5 this season when it has been held below a point per possession.

Green powers Spartans from post
Michigan State’s calling card under Tom Izzo has been its physical play, especially on the offensive glass. Last season’s team strayed from this tradition, barely finishing in the top 100 in the nation in offensive rebounding percent and missing the Final Four for the first time since 2008. This season, the Spartans lead the Big Ten in offensive rebound percentage (39 percent), second-chance points per game (13) and paint points per game (34).

Senior forward Draymond Green leads the Michigan State attack. He is one of five players from power six conferences averaging at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.

Green is also one of the best big men in the country distributing the ball. He has five games this season with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The only players in the previous 15 years who can claim at least four such games are Evan Turner (six in 2009-10), Tim Duncan (five in 1996-97) and Carmelo Anthony (four in 2002-03).

Zeller leads Hoosier turnaround
After three straight 20-loss seasons, Indiana has performed one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation this year. The Hoosiers 10-win increase over last season is the most among power six conference teams and one of seven double-digit improvements in the nation. With one more win, Indiana will match the largest win increase in school history, an 11-game improvement from 18-11 in 1989-90 to 29-5 in 1990-91.

He might be overshadowed by National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis, but Cody Zeller is having a great freshman campaign. He leads the Big Ten and is fourth in the nation in field goal percentage and ranks in the top 15 among power six conference freshmen in points and rebounds per game. His current field goal percentage ranks fifth among freshmen since 2000.

Jeremy Lundblad, Toby Petitpas and David Kiarsis contributed to this post