#8 Spartans and #16 Boilermakers Tonight Shaping Up To Be Old School Basketball Epic Battle

Denzel Valentine vs Purdue 2015.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard
Denzel Valentine vs Purdue 2015. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard

Breslin Center

East Lansing, MI

The #8 Michigan State Spartans 20-4 (7-4) take on #16 Purdue 19-5 (7-4) go at each other tonight. It will have a similar feel to the NCAA tournament for MSU. Having played a “small” team that lives on the perimeter with UM on Sunday the Spartans have a quick turnaround with the big inside presence on the Boilermakers.

Izzo mentioned the NCAA tournament feel of these quick turnaround games. “We’ve got a quick turnaround here. It is going to be unique and interesting because it is kind of the exact opposite. A team like Michigan that has four perimeter guys that are shooting threes from everywhere and you have a team like Purdue that has two of the biggest guys not only in the league, but in the country. They pound it in a lot and get the ball inside. It is complete opposite prep. It is interesting and fun and you get to see what it will be like in the NCAA tournament when you play different teams.”

But that isn’t an excuse. Whereas Michigan right now is not a good team, the Boilers are and they have the respect of the Spartans future Hall of Fame head coach.

Izzo said of the Boilers that, “Purdue has been playing very well; they were shooting the ball well early and then probably not shooting it as well the last couple of games. Between (Isaac) Haas and (Caleb) Swanigan and (A.J) Hammons that is three monsters in there. They also can go small; they have the ability to do that. They are going to present some challenges and I am sure they will be out on our shooters. We are looking forward to going down there for a big game on the road. See what we can do and how fast we can bounce back. Looking forward to seeing how our players respond.”

Spartan fans will be well aware of at least one Boilermaker. Caleb Swanigan the star Boiler true freshman center was once a Michigan State commitment. He flipped to the Boilermakers and Izzo addressed it.

“When that thing all went down, it was strange. It was a little bit of a, you know, it just wasn’t, I was pretty honest with you guys from the beginning when I didn’t think we’d get him and then all of a sudden we get him and this and that. And so we’re learning in football, I don’t know how strange it is, people are changing every day. There were never any hard feelings. The night he de-committed, I talked to Matt Painter that night. I called him. I said, ‘Hey, don’t worry. I hear rumors that you guys are in there.’ I’m not worried that they did something wrong or that. I look at it like it worked out great for him. He’s doing well. But it worked out great for us, too. Who knows who would have played together and who wouldn’t have played together but DD’s been phenomenal here and the other guys, and he’s been good down there. A good deal is when it’s a good deal for both parties. And if it’s been a good deal for him and he’s happy, I know it’s been a good deal for us where we’re at and we’re happy. Seriously, there will be no, ‘Let’s go beat Purdue because of Biggie.’ We want to beat Purdue because we want to beat Purdue. And for Matt and I we were pretty open about it with each other. I saw him the last night we were out recruiting. We were both at his game. I think at that team he thought he had no shot and I thought I had a little shot. And then it flip-flopped. Everything is cool and everything is good. I pull for him, I really do. It doesn’t bother me one bit. So I don’t know how it would have ended up if they would have both been here. But I definitely like where I see our guy going and that’s the one I coach every day.”

One little known fact is that Swanigan is close friend with Spartan star freshman center Deyonta “DD” Davis. Tonight those two (if they can avoid foul trouble) those two will be going head to head.

Izzo elaborated on their close relationship, “It’ll be good. Different kinds of players. One’s more physical. One’s got length. I think they are averaging almost the same. I think Biggie’s averaging 7-8. He’s averaging more rebounds. DD’s averaging more blocks and he’s a little different player in some ways, but it should be a great matchup. Two guys that played AAU and are friends. Now, they’re going to battle each other for two hours. I think it will be a good matchup. I’m looking forward to it.”

For those who like old school basketball tonight could bring back a lot of memories if the referees let them play. Spartan captain and center Matt Costello can’t wait for tonight’s tip off. “It’s really exciting. You don’t get that opportunity that much in college basketball anymore, where it’s all perimeter-laden and you have such good guards. But Purdue is a big man team. And so we’ve got to play well if we want any chance of winning, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

Boilermaker senior A.J. Hammons and sophomore big man Isaac Haas are forgotten by many with the emergence of Swanigan, but they have Costello’s attention, in a big way.

The Spartans big man said of Hammons and Hass that, ““I think they’re pretty similar to how they were last year. They’ve both gotten better in the post, more confident and more consistent. But I realize I’m smaller and I lose about 30 pounds to both of them, so I’m not gonna win in a wrestling match. So I have to figure out different ways to beat them, and it helps having Gavin and DD, who both have their strengths, that we can combat them. It’s gonna be a battle, it’s gonna be fun to watch if you like old-school basketball. We’re gonna be throwing punches, so it’s gonna be fun.”

If that doesn’t get you excited for tonight, nothing will. This game tips off at 7PM and you can see it on ESPN.