Across enemy lines: Q & A with The State News
Editor’s Note: This week, our staff chatted with Casey Harrison, a men’s basketball reporter for The State News from Michigan State.
The Daily Illini: How has having such a young roster affected this year’s team?
Casey Harrison: This team really couldn’t compete early on against the top-heavy schedule. They’ve been learning though, and with the end of the season coming up they’ve been turning things on. The team is really buying into what Tom Izzo has been preaching to them all year.
DI: As the season has gone on, how has the team improved as these young players have gotten more play time?
CH: The thing that has improved the most is probably the sheer pace of play. Izzo kept mentioning how the team had to get its conditioning up, and that was a really big thing especially since they’ve been short-handed.
DI: Michigan State has hovered around the NCAA Tournament bubble for most of the season, do you think they will be in or out on Selection Sunday?
CH: If you asked me two weeks ago, I would have said there is no chance Michigan State gets in. I honestly thought they were going to the NIT. They’re getting hot at exactly the right time, and I think they’re definitely a lock for the tournament.
DI: From an outsider’s point of view, what does Illinois have to do make the NCAA Tournament, or is a Big Ten Tournament title the team’s only chance?
CH: I think if they can get to 20 wins on the season, that should get them to the tournament. I think that getting past that 20-win threshold is kind of the standard for getting in.
DI: What is the major key for Michigan State to leave Champaign with a win?
CH: I think it all comes down to three-point defense. Especially with a team like Illinois, who shoots almost 35 percent from deep, I think that’s a big thing.
DI: Illinois has found some momentum in the back half of the Big Ten schedule, does that worry Michigan State ahead of the matchup?
CH: Yeah, I think that is a fair thing to look at. Michigan State is a pretty average team, and they are actually below average on the road. They’re a team that definitely has trouble against good home teams.
DI: How do the Spartans shut down Malcolm Hill, who will be playing his final game at home for the Illini?
CH: If I had to put a guy on him, I would start off with Josh Langford. But should Hill get on a roll, I could see him being the guy to carry it all the way for Illinois.