College Basketball Pick
The battle for Michigan once again has some relevance after the Wolverines had a down year in 2015. This time around, Michigan is sitting with a better Conference record than MSU even without its best player most of the way. Michigan State, already with Four Conference losses, is still believed to be the better team on a national level.
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This will be the only time these teams play in the regular season, so there should be plenty motivation to win this one in addition to it being a rivalry. Michigan is playing at home, but also hosted Indiana on Tuesday in a 13-point loss, while MSU got a bye during the week and last played in a blowout Sunday.
The Wolverines haven’t gotten much respect on a national level, mainly because they were blown out in all of their big non-Conference Games. The same can be said for Conference play, although a win over Maryland could go a long way to improving their Tournament seeding. A win here would help a bunch, especially after losing to the Hoosiers. Before last year, Michigan had won Four straight Games in Ann Arbor in this meeting and would like to start another streak.
Michigan State has had an interesting season, opening the campaign undefeated in non-Conference play and vaulting to the No. 1 spot in the polls. And then the Spartans lost Denzel Valentine for a couple weeks and that led to a 3-4 start in Big Ten play. However, since beating Maryland a couple weeks ago, they have been rolling, hitting a ridiculous 33 threes in their last two wins. With Purdue and Indiana up next on their Schedule, they’ll need to win at least two of those Games to have a chance at a No. 1 seed for the big Tournament.
The possible return of Caris LeVert for Michigan could change a lot of things, but it still has to be said that he’s been out for almost a month and even if he plays, won’t be his normal self. That shouldn’t be a huge deal for this Wolverine team that has played great team ball in LeVert’s absence. Their advantage in this Game lies with transfer Duncan Robinson, who usually presents a matchup problem for most opposition. Robinson is a 6-8 stretch-Four that is shooting 50% from deep. He’s become a fine option in this offense and what has pushed the Wolverines over the edge as of late.
Michigan State has a number of ways to defend him, but that’s not to say they have a good way. They’ll likely start with freshman Deyonta Davis on him and then Gavin SChilling or Kenny Goins. The problem is that none of those guys are as athletic as Robinson and may have trouble defending on the perimeter. The Spartans could also turn to Javon Bess or Marvin Clark if that doesn’t work out, so Tom Izzo has some options, it just depends if any of them will work.
Elsewhere, Denzel Valentine will likely match up with Zak Irvin on both ends. After being the team’s main man a season ago, Irvin has looked better in a lesser role, but this Game he’ll have the task of stopping Valentine (at least when Michigan plays man). If LeVert plays, that would leave Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris on both LeVert and Walton, and that advantage goes to the Wolverines.
It also has to be said that State has the advantage in the frontcOurt, most notably Matt Costello who is averaging a double-double in Conference Games. The Wolverines don’t have a hands down big man they turn to and that’s usually their undoing against bigger teams.
Ticket prices are juiced up for this Game for good reason. The Crisler Center will be rocking, but a lot of it may depend on LeVert for the Wolverines. Without him, they won’t have a noticeable edge on the perimeter, as LeVert is a lengthy defender. He would give the MSU shooters plenty of issues, most notably Forbes, who is as streaky as they come. When Forbes struggles, so do the Spartans and if LeVert is there to defend him, that’d be a big difference.
Predicted Score- Michigan State 75 Michigan 70