To say that it has been a woeful past month for the Michigan State Spartans basketball team would be an understatement. Since their Jan. 25 matchup at home against their bitter rival Michigan Wolverines, the Spartans are 4-6. Because of this disappointing 10-game stretch, they lost their chance at a conference title with the Wolverines clinching it outright on Tuesday. The No. 22 Spartans need to bounce back tonight as they take on the No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes.
The two teams last met in Iowa on Jan. 28 where the Spartans won in overtime without two of their key players in Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Both Payne and Dawson are back with the team, making them completely healthy for just the second time since they played the Ohio State Buckeyes on Jan. 7.
Keith Appling will be of huge importance for the Spartans tonight, as he looks to rebound from a recent four game stretch in which he has averaged just 3.5 PPG. Appling had missed the three previous games before this stretch with a wrist injury from which, judging from his recent play, he has not fully returned to form. In order for the Spartans to be successful tonight, they need his scoring ability and leadership.
Another key for Michigan State tonight will be to shut down Roy Devyn Marble who fared well against the Spartans the last time they faced off, scoring 21 points. He has also been on a tear lately, averaging 21.5 PPG over his last four. Gary Harris will more than likely draw the assignment on Marble tonight.
In order to gain some momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament next weekend, the Spartans must win their next two games and tonight is the first step. They have also seen their NCAA Tournament stock fall dramatically, as ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi currently projects them as a No. 4 seed.
Look for Michigan State to come out with a chip on their shoulder as they take on Iowa at home tonight.