Michigan State v Indiana

Indiana vs. Michigan State: B1G’s latest Game of the Century

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Based on the way that this year’s schedule has played put, the Big Ten Game of the Century has become a weekly occurrence.

First, it was Indiana hosting Michigan State. Then, it was Indiana hosting Michigan. Then Michigan visited East Lansing. And on Tuesday night, No. 1 Indiana will make their return visit to East Lansing, as the No. 4 Spartans look to exact revenge for a nail-biting loss back in January while taking over sole possession of first-place in the Big Ten.

The latter part of that sentence is what makes this battle so important. With just five games left in the Big Ten schedule, Michigan State and Indiana are currently tied for first place in league play with a two-game lead on both Michigan and Wisconsin. And while that’s anything but an insurmountable lead at this point — MSU still has to visit Michigan and Ohio State while hosting Wisconsin, while IU is on the road at Minnesota and Michigan with a return visit from the Buckeyes coming up — it certainly puts them in the driver’s seat with the finish line fast approaching.

So who wins tonight?

Well, much of that will depend on the health of the players in the back court. MSU’s backup point guard Travis Trice is still battling concussion symptoms and has missed the past four games. Gary Harris has a bum shoulder and a back that won’t stop spasming. Victor Oladipo left Saturday’s game against Purdue with a sprained ankle. Both Oladipo and Harris are expected to play.

But if Oladipo’s ankle is bothering him, it could create some problems on the defensive end of the floor. Will be be as effective defensively? Will it cut into his quickness or his explosiveness? As much as Oladipo as developed his all-around game, the main reason’s he’s so effective is that he’s an unbelievable athlete and on-ball defender.

Keith Appling spent much of the first game in foul trouble, logging just 19 minutes and turning the ball over four times without an assist before fouling out with just three points. The reason that the Spartans were able to keep things close, besides Harris playing arguably his best game of the season, was that their front court manhandled IU’s. Adreian Payne finished with 18 points and nine boards. Branden Dawson had 12 points, eight boards and four steals. Derrick Nix had eight points, grabbed four offensive rebounds and handed out six assists from his spot on the block. Combined, they held Cody Zeller to just nine points and seven boards.

Zeller’s been playing much more aggressive basketball of late, although the same can be said of Appling, which means that two teams that we have projected as No. 1 seeds in the tournament are squaring off tonight as they are peaking in late-February.

Is it 7:00 p.m. ET yet?

Oh, and it gets better.

We still have two more Games of the Century. At least. Both Michigan State (on March 2nd) and Indiana (on March 10th, the final day of the regular season) still have to pay a visit to Ann Arbor this season.

And that doesn’t even account for the Big Ten tournament, where two of those three should end up meeting in the semifinals.

It’s too bad this sport is so irrevocably broken.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: