College Basketball Pick
It feels like these teams just met and they did. Back on Jan. 29, Michigan State won what was mostly an ugly Game 70-62 in East LAnsing. Neither team played all that well, but the Spartans led most of the way and pulled in front for good with about 15 minutes to go in the second half. Now in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines would like to return the favor.
That could be made possible because no one really played well in that first Game outside of Derrick Walton. Leading scorer Zak Irvin was a no-show as he dealt with the flu en route to zero points in 36 minutes of action. DJ Wilson wasn’t much better, failing to make his mark and finishing with eight points. Walton had 24 points, but was only 2-of-9 from deep and needed 14 free throws to get there. The question for Michigan comes on the other end of the floor as the Wolverines have been one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten this season. But, there have been times where they play well and those usually come at home. Michigan was playing well at home, but losing to Ohio State on Saturday has the team struggling with confidence.
To win this Game, the Wolverines will need to find a way to stop Miles Bridges, who has been dominant in recent Games and had a double-double in the first meeting. Nick Ward also couldn’t be stopped, although he dealt with foul trouble, still had 13 points in 16 minutes. The key will be getting production from everyone else outside of Walton. Irvin and Wilson need to pick up the slack, but Moritz Wagner is also one of those guys that can exploit matchups on the offensive end. When Wagner is on, no one on this Michigan State team can match up with him as Ward isn’t flexible enough and Kenny Goins is too small.
The Spartans are coming off a nice win at Nebraska that was probably one of their better performances all season with the help of 11 made threes. If those threes fall again in this Game, MSU gets the edge. However, Michigan’s defense limited most of the easy looks last Game and a reason why the Spartans attempted just 11 from long range. The Wolverines managed just 7-of-26 from three and one has to think that number will be better at home. Whether that’s Walton hitting a better percentage or Duncan Robinson off the bench, they have the shooters.
Michigan State continues to have depth advantage over most opponents outside of down low. Unfortunately for Michigan, that’s one area it struggles in. While Bridges and Ward have been the most consistent, guys like Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis, Cassius Winston, Josh LAngford and Matt McQuaid have all had solid Games at one point or another. In that first meeting, McQuaid was the one hitting big shots with three from long range.
ACCording to the numbers, Michigan’s offense is the most efficient in the conference, but that clearly didn’t show up in the first Game, also with 13 turnovers. Will Bridges, Ward and Winston be too much for this team again, or will Michigan figure out a way to stop them? At home, all signs point to an improved performance from the Wolverines and a little revenge from last week’s Game. Then again, if they play like they did Saturday, this could easily be another home loss.
Our Pick – Michigan by 2