Sunday will be a matchup of Big Ten heavyweights when the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans (22-5, 13-3 in the Big Ten) travel to the Crisler Center to take on the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (24-3, 13-3 in the Big Ten.
For the Spartans, they come into this game having won four games in a row, including a 71-60 win over Rutgers on Wednesday. That isn’t to say all is going well, though. They are currently dealing with several injuries as Joshua Langford is out for the season, Nick Ward has been sidelined with a fractured hand, and Kyle Ahrens is questionable for Sunday’s game. For the Wolverines, they have won have won two in a row since being upset by unranked Pen State last week. One of those two wins, though, was an impressive 65-52 win over No. 24 Maryland last Saturday. These two teams, tied with Purdue atop the Big Ten rankings, will square off Sunday with tipoff scheduled for 3:45 pm ET.
In this contest, the Michigan Wolverines come in as 4.5-point favorites playing at home. The over/under for this game is set at 131.5 points.
By The Numbers
Defensively, Michigan has been one of the best teams in the country in holding down opposing offenses. They currently rank 3rd in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 57.7 points per game. They are especially effective when it comes to distributing the ball on offense and creating mistakes on defense as their assist to turnover ratio is at 1.44, good for 11th overall. For Michigan State, their defense is pretty decent as well. They currently rank tied for 46th in the nation, allowing an average of 65.8 points per game to opponents.
Offensively, it is Michigan State who comes in as the stronger team. They are currently ranked 33rd in the nation, averaging 80.6 points per game. With that in mind, though, they have averaged less than 70 points in their last few games as they have battled through injuries. For Michigan, they are currently averaging a much more modest 70.3 points per game, good for 247th in the nation.
Undermanned Spartans Looking To Shock Wolverines
Luckily for Michigan State, it looks like star Nick Ward will be able to return by the time the tournament gets kicked off next month, but that doesn’t help them as they battle down to the wire for a conference championship. Still, Tom Izzo has talent on his team and will hope that some of that talent can step up to fill the shoes of Ward, Ahrens and Joshua Langford.
Leading the way offensively for the Spartans is Cassius Winston. The junior guard is averaging 18.9 points on 46.5% shooting from the field. He is also averaging 43.4% from behind the arc and 82% from the free throw line. In addition to his scoring, he is also averaging 3 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
With Ward and Langford out, there is no other Spartan who has averaged double-digit points this season. The next scoring options are Matt McQuaid (8.8 points, 3 rebounds, 2.4 assists), Xavier Tillman (8.7 points, 7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks) and Kenny Goins (7.2 points, 9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks). To win, all three of these players are going to have to have big games.
Michigan Looking To Solidify Their Spot Atop Conference
With Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue tied atop the Big Ten, the Wolverines know that this is a big game, particularly with only a handful left to play. Not only can they knock the Spartans out of the trio, but they can also solidify their spot as one of the best in the nation and continue to pad their resume for tournament seeding.
Leading the way this season for the Wolverines has been the trio of Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews. Brazdeikis has led the way with 14.4 points on 45.7% shooting, while also pulling down 5.1 boards per game. For Poole, he has averaged 13.1 points on 45.2% shooting. He is also averaging 3.3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal per game. Lastly, Matthews has averaged 13.1 points on 44.4% shooting, while also averaging 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Rounding out the top five for Michigan has been center Jon Teske (9.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks) and guard Zavier Simpson (8.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.5 steals per game).
Michigan Takes Round One
I already felt Michigan State was going to have a tough time with the Wolverines on the road, but without Nick Ward and possibly without Kyle Ahrens, the Wolverines are roing to be able to throw the house at Cassius Winston defensively. For Michigan State to stand a chance, they are really going to need players like Matt McQuaid to rise to the occasion, but it will still be a tall task for the Spartans. It may be another story in a couple weeks when they matchup again at Michigan State, but for this matchup, my money is on Michigan despite laying 4.5 points.