The stakes grew even more for this Game after Purdue lost on Tuesday, as the winner will get at least a share of the Big Ten title. The winner could also be in play for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, though that would require a run in the Big Ten Tourney. Either way, this is going to be a huge Game between in-state rivals, also on senior night for the Spartans.
Michigan would like to return the favor after Michigan State won the first meeting 77-70, almost too easily, a couple weeks ago. MSU pulled away with five minutes to go and the Scorewas only closer because of a couple late threes by Jordan Poole. Still, by no means did the Spartans dominate that Game as they didn’t make a three in the second half. Both teams were hot in the first and couldn’t miss and then MSU’s consistency shined through in the second, while Michigan went into an offensive lull.
There are some injury concerns to keep in mind before betting. Charles Matthews sprained his ankle in the first meeting and is unlikely to play, though his absence hasn’t changed many things for the Wolverines, who won at Maryland last Sunday and destroyed Nebraska before that. Nick Ward and Joshua LAngford are still out for MSU, but a small injury that can’t be overlooked is Kyle Ahrens, who has a bad back. His absence would mean a few different lineups for the Spartans, including more time for freshmen Gabe Brown and Foster Loyer. While Michigan hasn’t lost a step without Matthews, MSU’s depth is arguably worse without Ahrens, who averages 19.8 minutes per Game.
For the matchups, Cassius Winston won the first Game dropping 27 points with eight assists, going 7-for-10 inside the arc. Zavier Simpson could do a better job on Winston defensively, but that’s a hard thing to bet on. And even then, Simpson had one of his better offensive Games in the first meeting with 19 points and that didn’t matter. He hasn’t made a three since that loss when MSU purposely left him wide open behind the arc. since he shoots below 30% for his career, that’ll likely be the strategy again.
To win, the Wolverines need a little more out of everyone else. Jon Teske was dominant in the first few minutes and then didn’t do much the rest of the Game. He has a size advantage against Xavier Tillman and Kenny Goins, and that has to be used. As for Ignas Brazdeikis, he needs to pick up his defense because while he can Scoreon most players, he also let Goins open a few too many times last Game as he scored 16 points. Then there’s Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, who similar to Matthews, didn’t do much in that first meeting. Poole had 15 points, but most of those came in the final minutes when the Game was out of reach. With Livers getting more time, he’s actually been better for Michigan because he’s the team’s best shooter at 43.8% from three. That adds another dimension to the offense because Matthews often shied away from shooting threes.
On the other end, it’s all about Winston, who is the main sOurce of offense for the Spartans without Ward on the cOurt. If he’s limited at all, Michigan gets an advantage, though its defense had some issues in that first Game. Xavier Tillman had a lot of easy looks, while Goins managed to take nine threes because the Wolverines couldn’t defend the ball screen. But for the Spartans to win again, Matt McQuaid will need to keep his shooting going and Aaron Henry has to be a factor. Put those all together and not many can beat Michigan State, especially on its home cOurt.
However, Michigan is looking for revenge and with both teams dealing with injuries, there could be a young guy that makes his name known in this rivalry. Everything falls to Winston for the Spartans and while that’s often been a good thing, it’s harder to bet on against a good defensive guard like Simpson. That said, trusting a point guard that can’t shoot in Simpson is equally as difficult to trust.
Our Pick – Michigan +3.5