The Michigan Wolverines are headed to East Lansing to take on their in-state rival Spartans in a battle to clinch at least a tie of the Big 10 regular season championship. This is going to be one of the best atmospheres of the year and you can catch this game on ESPN at 8 EST tonight. I expect both teams to be fully bought into this game and well-prepared for this matchup. John Beilein and Tom Izzo are both great coaches that have constantly produced top 10 teams often without top 10 talent. With these two squaring off just 2 weeks ago, I think we will see two teams ready for everything and I think the game planning will be key.
Izzo and Crew Get Home Court
When these two teams met in Ann Arbor two weeks ago, we saw the Spartans get a massive road win over the Wolverines by 7 points. Michigan State guard Cassius Winston led all scorers with 27 points on just 13 shot attempts. Winston was able to sink 13 of 14 shots from the line, which really helped the Spartan offense stay in a rhythm. The only big difference in personnel that is in question is the status of Michigan’s Charles Matthews. Matthews has been missing for a few games and will be a game-time decision.
The only positive portion of this news is that Matthews only had 4 points and 1 assist in the last matchup over 28 minutes, meaning that it shouldn’t have a drastic impact on the rematch. Another notable thing about the first game was the lack of turnovers from both teams. The two teams combined for only 15 turnovers, 9 for Michigan and 6 for Michigan State. I think that we will see similar results in this game. The key for Michigan is that the Spartans cannot shoot 50% from the field in this game if they want to come out with a win. The Wolverines have prided themselves on defense all year and if the Spartans get to the line as much as they did last game, they will have to really lock in defensively to win this game.
Wolverines Seeking Third Straight
Michigan comes into this game off of two solid wins over Nebraska and Maryland. Maryland is a nice test for this team going down the stretch and the Wolverines went into their house and won a close game. The more high intensity games down the stretch, the better off a team will be heading into the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament in the next few weeks. Michigan started off the year blowing everyone out, but we have seen them play in a lot of close games in conference play. This is often due to their lack of real star power, but they have done well to close out these close games without a clear go-to guy.
The Spartans traveled to Indiana from Ann Arbor and they lost a nail-biter by 1 point. This was definitely a momentum killer for Michigan State after they had pulled off a great road win over their rival. The Spartans were able to get back on track by blowing out a bad Nebraska team at home to come into this game feeling good about themselves.
What a Battle
This should be one of the best games of the year in college basketball with what is at stake. The Wolverines are looking to avoid the season series sweep and get a better seeding in the Big Ten tournament. Both of these teams are live to even possibly jump into 1 seed conversations if they can run the table and watch some chaos around the country. A one-seed in the conference tournament would likely allow the team to avoid a top 15 matchup in the semifinals, which is a really big advantage. I think that the Wolverines keep this game close throughout and have a chance to win this game at the end. I think the -3.5 line in favor of the Spartans is fair, but I will take the points with the Wolverines in what I see as basically a toss-up.