Michigan State Basketball: 3 benchmarks to prepare for the NCAA Tournament

Iowa v Michigan State
Iowa v Michigan State / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages
2 of 4

1. Out-rebound Northwestern and Indiana

Forget trying to out-rebound Purdue. Zach Edey went for 70 points and 30 rebounds in two games against the Spartans last season and there's no indication that the center position, that gave up those numbers, is better than last year. The only ways The Spartans win at Mackey for the first time since 2014 is if Edey gets in foul trouble early, which has never happened and will not happen for the rest of his collegiate career or they let Edey get as many buckets as he wants and shut down everyone else. Either way, it's safe to chalk this one up as a loss and there's no shame in that. No one wins at Purdue just like Purdue doesn't win when it matters.

Northwestern is a different story. The Wildcats' leading rebounder is a 6-foot-6 guard and the Spartans out-rebounded them in their first meeting, albeit a loss but mainly because of 13 turnovers. Northwestern is dead-last in the Big Ten in rebounding to grabbing more boards than them is a minimum ask.

The real indictment will be if they don't outrebound the Wildcats because it means they wanted it more, which should never happen against a Tom Izzo team, but then again, a lot of things that wouldn't happen under a standard Izzo team have happened a lot this year.

The Indiana game will be much more interesting. The Hoosiers' leading rebounder, Kel'el Ware is an Oregon transfer that a lot Michigan State fans begged for in the off-season. It's not hard to imagine what this team would look like getting 15 points and nine rebounds from the center position. Indiana is bad basketball team, but wouldn't be just the cherry on top if Ware leads to this team to a win over Michigan State to keep them out of the tournament? I can see it almost too vividly. If the Spartans out-rebound Indiana, it's because they worked harder for it and earned it, which is exactly what you want to see this team do at the end of the season.