One school has a pair of NCAA Tournament Championships and eight Final Four appearances.  Its season got off to a 0-2 start and appeared heading towards a rare bad campaign.  The other has five NCAA titles along with eight Final Four trips, fell on hard times in recent years and seemed to be on the way back after a 15-1 start.

Their fortunes this season have since taken different turns.  Michigan State, who started 0-2, has since won 24 of 27 and the Spartans are on the verge of the regular season title in the Big Ten.  The Indiana Hoosiers, who were 15-1 in early January, have gone 7-6 since then and need help just to claim fourth place in the conference and a first-round bye in next week's tournament.

The two collide Tuesday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington for an ESPN prime-time broadcast.  Michigan State opened as a 2 point road favorite with 139 for the total.

We all knew better than to write off Tom Izzo and the Spartans after they dropped their first two games back in November.  After all, MSU was facing North Carolina and Duke, who were ranked No. 1 and No. 6 respectively in the two preseason polls.  Both games were played at neutral sites, and the Spartans at least covered the 74-69 defeat to the Blue Devils who were 7.5 point favorites.

Draymond GreenStill, it would've been a stretch to suggest at that time Michigan State would rise all the way to fifth in the latest rankings released Monday. It has definitely been a grind, and in a conference that boasts great defense, the defensive end of the floor is where most of the success reaching this point can be traced.

Crashing the glass on both ends of the court is the trademark for Izzo's troops.  No team grabs more rebounds in Big Ten games than the Spartans, and they're among the better teams in the country at snaring offensive boards overall this season, more than 12 per game.  When you factor in MSU hitting field goals at a 47.6% clip, which ranks 25th nationally, the offensive rebounds are even more impressive.

Michigan State certainly had the defense working in a 58-48 win at Ohio State on Feb. 11.  Eight point underdogs, the Spartans stymied the Buckeyes who made just 14 of 53 field goals, and converted just 2 of 15 from long range.  They have a rematch with Ohio State in East Lansing this Sunday to close the regular season, and some might think the Spartans could be caught looking ahead to that match.  There's really no reason for that, however, since Tuesday's game with the Hoosiers can sew up the conference title.

Just as the Buckeyes will be looking for revenge over Sparty come Sunday, Indiana is out to get even for a setback to MSU in this contest.  The Big Ten opener for both schools saw the Hoosiers enter the Dec. 28 game with an unblemished 12-0 record before the Spartans handed them their first loss, 80-65.  Michigan State was 6 point chalk in the game, and picked up its sixth consecutive win vs. Indiana.

The Hoosiers have come out of the funk they entered February in following a 2-5 stretch that started with a home loss to Minnesota.  Tom Crean's crew has won five of their last six, going 3-2 ATS in the stretch with one of the games (vs. NC Central) failing to make the college basketball betting board.  Indiana just avenged that loss to the Golden Gophers with a 69-50 victory at Minnesota on Sunday as a 2 point road dog.  The Jan. 12 defeat at home to Minnesota remains the Hoosiers' only home loss of the season.

While Indiana is 16-1 at home, all five of Michigan State's losses have come away from East Lansing.  Three of those setbacks (at Northwestern, Michigan and Illinois) came on the Big Ten schedule.

Taking a Chance: The top 4 teams from the regular season will get a bye in the first round of next week's Big Ten Tournament in IndianapolisIndiana needs to win both games this week (MSU on Tuesday and Purdue on Sunday), plus get some help to get into fourth.  That gives the Hoosiers plenty to play for since fifth place will most likely mean a second round matchup against either these same Spartans or the Buckeyes.

The Dec. 28 clash between these two jumped the 141 point total despite Indiana going more than six minutes without scoring in the second half. That makes it very tempting to jump on the OVER in this one, which is set two points lower than the first meeting.  I'll go the other way, however, and take Michigan State in a close, physical game that sees neither club reach 70.  My free picks are Spartans -2 and UNDER 139.