Michigan State travels to Indiana Sunday in a battle of two top-15 teams. This is just yet another match-up of elite teams in the Big Ten this season, because there are so many of them. In a game with two good rebounding teams, the battle in the post should be the game-changer, so let’s check it out.
The big battle in this game should be in the post. That is where Big Ten games are won and lost, and both of these teams have very good big men. Cody Zeller of Indiana and Adreian Payne from Michigan State are two of the best defensive big men in the country. Zeller has an 81.4 defensive rating (a measure of how many points allowed per 100 possessions), while Payne is right there with an 81.5 DRtg. Both players clog up the lane and make it very difficult for opposing perimeter players to score inside.
Both Zeller and Payne are also their team’s best rebounders, by a lot. Zeller gets 19.6% of rebounds while he is on the floor, including 12.4% of offensive rebounds. That means on approximately one out of eight shots missed by Indiana, Zeller will get the offensive rebound. Payne, who gets 18.3% of rebounds, is a better defensive rebounder. He gets a whopping 25.9% of defensive boards. So, when Indiana has the ball and a shot goes up, it will be very interesting to watch who is able to secure the rebound.
The difference-maker in this rebounding battle could be the secondary rebounders for each team. Michigan State’s Branden Dawson and Derrick Nix both average over 6.5 rebounds a game. For Indiana, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford bring down 6 and 6.7 boards a game, respectively.
The other x-factor in the rebounding aspect is how much Indiana can get out and run. When Michigan State played Minnesota, the faster forwards, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe ran the floor and beat Payne and Nix many times in fast breaks. Zeller is very adept at running in fast breaks and could change the game that way.
In what should be a close game, every extra possession counts. Payne is one of the best defensive rebounders in the country, but Zeller is one of the best offensive rebounders. Whoever wins this battle could make the difference in if their team wins.