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Michigan State

College Basketball Pick


There was a time when this matchup was a battle of top-25 teams and that was only a couple years ago, but this season it's a bit different. Michigan and Michigan State are both fighting for bids for the NCAA tournament and the loser of this game will be left with close to must-win situations in each of their next games.

While things haven't been great for the Wolverines this season with plenty of fans calling for John Beilein's head, this is still a team worthy of NCAA aspirations. While it hasn't fully showed up in their record, they have improved as of late, battling at Wisconsin and handling an Illinois team they had lost to by 16 points only a week prior. But getting wins on the road is still something this team hasn't done, despite that Wisconsin game and going to overtime at Iowa. Playing in East Lansing, home of their in-state rival, will be another tough contest.

But things have been even worse on the other side of the court with Michigan State losing four of its last five games and three straight. Two of those losses include Penn State and Ohio State, while Purdue overpowered the Spartans at home on Tuesday. But against mediocre competition in conference play, this team has won convincing games with Northwestern and Minnesota on that list.

The main player to watch in this game has to be freshman Miles Bridges, who looks more like an NBA lottery pick by the day, dropping 33 points in the Purdue loss. Michigan has the size to match up with him, but does it have the talent? Zak Irvin could be asked to guard Bridges, but DJ Wilson should start the game on him. Wilson has had a bit of a revival this season and has been a difference maker in key Big Ten wins as of late. His job will be to keep Bridges from going off, while also keeping him active on the defensive end. Wilson also has a three-inch height advantage, which could come in handy on the perimeter.

Another important matchup will be down low with Nick Ward against Moritz Wagner. Ward has fallen off a bit the last couple games, but should see a heavy dosage in this game against a weaker Wagner. Ward has shown he can work in the paint against anyone and Wagner will have his hands full. However, Ward will be asked to guard Wagner beyond the arc, which is something he's not able to do at the moment.

So then the questions become who has the advantage in the backcourt? Michigan's Derrick Walton Jr. is probably the best player of the bunch only because he's the most consistent. Michigan State's guards have been nothing but unreliable in conference play between Tum Tum Nairn, Cassius Winston and Eron Harris. But another edge the Wolverines have is with Irvin, their leading scorer. Irvin will likely be matched with smaller players like Joshua Langford and Alvin Ellis III all game and that could be another issue for the home team.

Michigan may have those advantages, but coming into this game expecting to stop Bridges will be difficult due to how well he just played Tuesday night. Coming off three losses, and in East Lansing, the Spartans will be hungry.

Our Pick - Michigan St by 5

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