EAST LANSING, Mich. — What a weekend it was in the college basketball world.
This past week, 15 of the top 25 teams in the AP rankings that were released on January 1st fell, causing quite the shakeup in the polls this week. There was a lot of movement, especially at the top, as the Villanova Wildcats reclaimed the top spot while the West Virginia Mountaineers climbed to the highest ranking in school history at number two.
On the heels of the exciting week we just had, fans are hoping for more of the same this week. On Wednesday, the Michigan State Spartans take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and the Green and White are looking to bounce back after falling as the top-ranked team in the nation on Sunday afternoon.
Inside the Breslin Center, the Spartans will look to complete the season sweep of the Scarlet Knights, while Rutgers will look to deliver another loss to the high-powered Spartans.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of Wednesday night’s match-up between the host Spartans and visiting Scarlet Knights.
Last Time Out
In their last outing, Rutgers took on the Wisconsin Badgers on their home floor, and the Scarlet Knights were looking to put an end to their three-game losing streak. After a blowout loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, they went out and picked up a much-needed win over the Badgers, 64-60.
Guard Corey Sanders led the Scarlet Knights with 23 points, on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor. He was a perfect 2-of-2 from three point range, but was just 1-of-4 from the free throw line. Forward Deshawn Freeman added 15 points and four rebounds in the win.
As for Michigan State, the Spartans weren’t as successful in their last outing against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Michigan State entered Sunday’s tilt as the top-ranked team in the country, and were looking to extend their 14-game winning streak. The Buckeyes had other plans, and took it to the Spartans right from the opening tip. Ohio State picked up their eighth win against the AP top-ranked team as an unranked team themselves in school history with an 80-64 win over the Green and White.
The starting five for the Spartans accounted for 60 of the team’s 64 points in the loss. Guards Joshua Langford and Miles Bridges recorded a team-high 17 points apiece, while Cassius Winston chipped in with 12 points. It was the Spartans’ first loss since the 2017 Champions Classic.
Rutgers and Michigan State met back on December 5th, 2017, in the second Big Ten game for both teams during the 2017-18 season. Due to the conference tournament moving up a week and relocating, teams were scheduled a pair of Big Ten contests during the month of December to accommodate the changes.
The game took place in Piscataway, NJ, and was a lot closer than most people would have expected. The Spartans and Scarlet Knights were tied up at 26-all after the first half, but Michigan State would pull ahead in the second frame to take home a 62-52 win.
Bridges led the way for the Spartans, posting a game-high 21 points to go along with five rebounds, while freshman sensation Jaren Jackson, Jr. recorded 11 points and a monstrous eight blocks. Freeman had 13 points and nine rebounds for Rutgers, while Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi had 11 points apiece.
Players to Watch
Rutgers – Corey Sanders
When one talks about Rutgers, the conversation starts with junior guard Corey Sanders. The native of Lakeland, FL has been a star from day one with the Scarlet Knights, and that’s no different this season. Sanders leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest. Earlier this season against Michigan State, Sanders was held to just six points on 2-of-15 shooting from the floor. That was tied for his lowest offensive output of the season, as he also put up just six point in a win over the East Carolina Pirates on November 24th. Sanders will be looking to build off of his 23-point performance against Wisconsin in Rutgers’ last time out. Against the Spartans’ talented back court, he will be in tough once again on Wednesday. But, as he has shown over his career, Sanders has the abilities to score in bunches and lead Rutgers to some tough wins.
Michigan State – Matt McQuaid
On Wednesday, guard Matt McQuaid will look to give the Spartans a boost off the bench against Rutgers. In terms of reserves this season for Michigan State, the junior from Duncanville, TX has been the most productive for head coach Tom Izzo. McQuaid is averaging 7.1 points per game this season, which is tops among all of the bench players for the Spartans. He is also averaging 20.6 minutes per night, and has appeared in all 17 games. Against the Buckeyes, production from the Spartans’ bench was seemingly non-existent. They accounted for a total of four points, and McQuaid scored two of them. Michigan State would like to see a bigger contribution from the role players, and that starts with McQuaid. He has the shooting ability to get hot and carry the offense, and will look to post a big game against Rutgers in a game that could very well get out of hand in favour of the Spartans.
On the heels of their first loss in close to two months, Michigan State will be looking to get back on the right track on Wednesday, and that’s bad news for Rutgers. The Spartans still boast one of the nation’s top scoring offenses, posting an average of 86.5 points per game. They are third in the country in terms of rebounds per game (43.4) and first in assists (21.8).
The Scarlet Knights will have their hands full, but they do have one of the nation’s top scoring defenses that could keep them in the game. They rank ninth in the NCAA, allowing 60.9 points per game. Their offense doesn’t have the talent to go shot-for-shot with the Spartans, but hopefully their defense can get some stops and keep things close.
Michigan State will come out hungry, determined to put the loss against the Buckeyes far behind them. As the case has been for most of the season, the game will be close in the first half before the Spartans pile it on and pull away in the second frame for a big win.
Michigan State – 81
– T. Bennett