While much has been made about Indiana's resurgent campaign, keeping things going could prove difficult for the undefeated Hoosiers.
With the status of three contributors unclear for its daunting Big Ten opener, No. 13 Indiana looks to avoid a 17th consecutive loss in East Lansing on Wednesday night against 16th-ranked Michigan State.After going a conference-worst 28-66 over the previous three seasons, Indiana begins Big Ten play as the league's lone unbeaten at 12-0 -- its best start since going a perfect 32-0 in 1975-76.The Hoosiers, whose only single-digit victory came 73-72 over then-No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10, are tied for the Division I lead in 3-point percentage (45.9) and among the nation's top 10 in scoring (84.8 points per game).Coach Tom Crean's team carries plenty of momentum into conference play, but continuing its winning streak won't be easy.Indiana, which faces No. 2 Ohio State and No. 18 Michigan following this contest, hasn't prevailed at the Breslin Center since a 62-56 win Feb. 28, 1991. The Hoosiers, though, did take the then-No. 25 Spartans down to the wire during an 84-83 overtime loss there Jan. 30."It's a strong conference as always and we're excited to get this thing going," guard Jordan Hulls said. "We got a lot of tasks at hand and a lot of hard (games) coming up, so we just gotta be mentally prepared."As if Wednesday's matchup didn't present enough of a challenge, the Hoosiers could be at less than full strength with starting guard Verdell Jones III (hip flexor) and reserves Will Sheehey (leg) and Derek Elston (broken nose) all uncertain to play. The trio is averaging a combined 25.0 points.Michigan State (11-2) opened its season with back-to-back losses to then-No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 6 Duke, but has since won 11 straight by an average of 22.2 points. The Spartans last won 12 in a row during a 12-0 start in 2000-01.Tom Izzo's team found itself in a bit of trouble and down by three at the break before pulling away in Thursday's 90-81 win over Lehigh."This win will help us grow up," senior Austin Thornton, who scored 11 points while starting in place of Draymond Green, told the school's official website."Indiana's going to come in here 12-0 and you know they'll be fired up. We're going to have to be ready. I would like to be able to say we're going to have some blowout wins, but the Big Ten is going to be very tough and very deep."Green, who kept himself out of Thursday's starting lineup after showing up late for a meeting, should be back in it against the Hoosiers. Green is averaging a team-high 15.5 points and a Big Ten-best 9.8 rebounds.He forms an intriguing interior matchup with Indiana freshman phenom Cody Zeller. The 6-foot-11 forward is recording team bests in scoring (15.1 ppg), rebounding (7.3) and field goal percentage (66.3).Hoosiers forward Christian Watford, averaging 15.5 points over his last four games, scored a season-high 22 during Thursday's 89-47 rout of Maryland-Baltimore County. Senior guard Matt Roth had a season-best 14 points in 18 minutes off the bench and could be a factor in this one, especially if Jones is out."I think the way that they are playing, the way that these guys are working, leads me to believe, leads all of us to believe inside of our program, that there's a lot of progress that can still be made," Crean said."Where we want to go as a team, where we want to go as a program is still a long ways out there, but the way that they're working gives us a chance to continue to move towards that."