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Michigan State

College Hoops



Unfortunately for basketball fans, this is the only time these teams meet this season. That’s not good news for Michigan because home court is everything in this matchup. We saw that last year when the Wolverines won 86-57 at Crisler, but lost 70-62 at Breslin. That’s the first problem coming into this game. It doesn’t help that Michigan lost on a tough call on Tuesday against Purdue, while Michigan State probably isn’t happy after needing overtime against Rutgers.

The Spartans lost last weekend, but have been dominant at home highlighted by close to 30-point wins against both Nebraska and Maryland (Rutgers excluded). Michigan has improved since the early season and already has wins at Texas and Iowa, but this is a different animal. There are clear problems for the Wolverines in addition to this being on the road.

The first thing may be deciding what lineup to use against the frontline of Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward. Simply put, the only guy that may be able to stop Ward is Jon Teske and he usually comes off the bench. If Moritz Wagner is tasked with Ward, that could be a back-and-forth matchup on both ends, but then there will be a definite problem between Duncan Robinson and MSU’s Jackson. The freshman has the length to deal with Robinson on the defensive end and also the ability to post up a smaller Robinson on the other. Because of that, there’s a good chance the Wolverines will turn to some kind of zone in order to defend the Spartans.

To keep up on the scoreboard, Michigan will need either Wagner to get past his injury or someone like Charles Matthews to have a good game. While Matthews has had some big games, he’s also been inconsistent in Big Ten play and that was seen in his 16 minutes of action against Illinois last weekend. Unfortunately for him, he’ll likely be matched up with Miles Bridges, which presents problems on both sides of the ball. On one end, Matthews has to defend Michigan State’s best player and on the other, Bridges has a size advantage that could be hard to deal with.

Michigan has played well over the last month, but inconsistency and inexperience in some of its better players could shine in this one. Starting point guard Zavier Simpson will have the task of dealing with Cassius Winston, while Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman gets Josh Langford.

The Spartans are playing at home and have a skill advantage at almost every spot on the floor including on the bench where a guy like Gavin Schilling can help on Wagner if Jackson gets into foul trouble. To keep this game competitive, the Wolverines will need to force turnovers, which is one of MSU’s biggest weaknesses. If they can do that and limit offensive boards, this game could be closer than some think. But if Michigan State is hitting shots and Wagner can’t win his matchup against Jackson or Ward, this will be a tough game for Michigan to deal with.

If MSU plays like it did on Wednesday against Rutgers, Michigan has a very real chance of pulling off the upset, but expecting another uninspiring performance may be a stretch. The Wolverines are 2-2 ATS in road games this season and the Spartans are 8-3 ATS at home.

Our Pick - Michigan St -9.5

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