No. 15 Michigan St. tries to avoid Big Ten logjam vs. Northwestern

NCAA Basketball
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

There’s a chance there will be a 14-way tie for first place in the Big Ten by late Wednesday night.

Of course, if that were to happen that would mean No. 15 Michigan State would be the latest conference team to lose on the road as it heads to Northwestern.

As the Spartans (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten) get set to head to Evanston for an 8 p.m. tipoff, not a single team has won a conference road game. It’s the second straight season the Big Ten has played a pair of conference games before the end of the year and the other 12 teams are all 1-1.

That includes a few shockers, like No. 5 Ohio State losing at Minnesota and No. 7 Maryland coming an amazing final minute from Anthony Cowan from losing twice.

So, needless to say, Michigan State is leery of its trip to Northwestern (5-4, 0-1) after it opened Big Ten play on Dec. 8 with a win at home over Rutgers.

“Just look at what’s gone on in the Big Ten,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters. “We always talk about hard it is to win on the road.”

But it seems especially hard this season. Sure, it’s only two games into a 20-game schedule, but it’s still difficult to explain — though Izzo gave it a shot.

“I think the league is really good, but I think we’ve added some more good coaches,” Izzo said. “Take (Nebraska’s) Fred Hoiberg. He did an unbelievable job at Iowa State and he’s an NBA coach. … I think that that’s one thing and I think there is more parity. And I think that it’s harder for players to stay focused on the task that they have, and if you don’t take someone seriously, you’re going to get beat.”

Michigan State has already played on the road this season, beating Seton Hall in mid-November when the Pirates were healthy and ranked in the top 15 in the nation. After a handful of neutral-site games the Spartans are still trying to shoot the ball with consistency as they dive back into conference play.

“You don’t get many off-days in this league right now,” Izzo said. “There used to be three or four teams where you said you can’t afford to play bad against this team and still win, but if you could just play good or decent (you’d win). Now it’s, you better be playing your 90-percent A game or you’re probably not winning because I think more people believe they can beat you.”

As for the Wildcats, this will be a chance to get their first conference win after beating Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Sunday. Getting the victory over a Michigan State team it hasn’t beaten since 2012 will be a challenge.

“It’s daunting anytime you play those guys,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “To me, they’re the standard for showing up every night, having toughness and playing well at home and on the road. Anytime you play a program like that, you know going into that game that you’re going to have to be the toughest you’ve been.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.