IU v Michigan State Preview: By The Numbers

After dispatching the Nittany Lions, Indiana now turns its sights to the 13th-ranked Michigan State Spartans, the second of three Big Ten teams remaining with only one conference loss (the Michigan Wolverines being the third).

The Spartans have won six straight, including recent victories against Ohio State and Wisconsin, and they are arguably the Hoosiers toughest opponent to date.

Last season, the schools split the season series, each game turning into 15 point blowouts by the home team.

In the first game, Indiana actually held a nine point lead with a little over eleven minutes to go, and then collapsed as the Spartans and Keith Appling, who set a career high with 25 points, finished the game on a 37-11 run.

At Assembly Hall, however; it was a different story. Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers were ready. So was Draymond Green, who torched Indiana for 29 points in what ended up being the second highest scoring game of his college career; but despite Green’s heroics, the Hoosiers were able to pull away with ease as they held every other Spartan to eight points or less.

This season, Green is seeing limited minutes as a rookie for the Golden State Warriors, but Appling has returned for his junior year to lead the team in scoring (14.4 PPG), and assists (4.3 APG). Additional threats for the Hoosiers include a pair of Indiana natives: freshman phenom Gary Harris and sophomore Branden Dawson, who are averaging 12.3 and 10.5 PPG, respectively.

In this preview, I’ll compare Dean Oliver’s ‘Four Factors for Basketball Success‘, which are: Effective field goal percentage (eFG%), Turnover percentage (TO%), offensive rebounding percentage (OR%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Many statisticians feel that these four basic statistical components are some of the most effective in determining what wins games. In the very least, these ratings highlight four key aspects of the game: shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws.

In the tables below, I’ll compare the Four Factors for each team to help make some predictions ahead of Sunday’s game.


INDIANA (home) 58.96% 19.47% 41.91% 35.43%
MICHIGAN STATE (away) 47.42% 20.12% 34.40% 18.57%
MICHIGAN STATE (all games) 50.69% 21.28% 35.40% 26.76%


Surprisingly, the Hoosiers came out on top in all four categories, even when we looked at Michigan State’s overall averages, and not just their away games.

Indiana does have inflated numbers at Assembly Hall, but I thought the Spartans would be able to best them in at least one of the four categories.

Compared to the Spartans on the road, Indiana’s effective field goal percentage is more than 10% higher – a staggering margin that clearly shows Indiana’s ability to shoot the ball at home. The Hoosiers turn the ball over at roughly the same clip, but they show prowess on the offensive glass, gathering rebounds at a 7.5% better rate. Lastly, the Hoosiers show why their the the nation’s leading school in free throws made, getting to the free throw line nearly twice as often.

Ken Pomeroy has Indiana at 10.5 point favorites; Statistically, I’m starting to understand why he had the spread as large as he did. Recent play by both teams might suggest a tighter spread, but Indiana is typically dominant at home.

After the game, we’ll revisit each of our four components to see which team came out on top, and whether or not it had any impact on their performance or success. I expect the Hoosiers to be in a dogfight on Sunday, but one that they’ll ultimately win.

My Prediction: Indiana 78, Michigan State 70


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