By: Dan Leach
#4 Michigan (21-3, 8-3 B10) at #8 Michigan State (20-4, 9-2 B10) -Line Michigan -1.5
As if the first of two ultra-important in-state B10 tilts needed to get any bigger, it has. Michigan is coming off the heartbreaking loss on the road to Wisconsin over the weekend and Michigan State’s tremendously improved play since the conference season started has put them into a tie for first place. Tuesday nights tilt might end of being the most important B10 game of the year. It also is the first time in forever that both teams are ranked in the top ten in the country coming into the game. Breslin will be rocking and this will feel like a game in late March and could end up being just as important as one.
Here are my three keys for each team to win the game.
1-Breslin Bump- Michigan has played in a lot of hostile environments so far this season, but this will by far be the loudest. The Spartans need to feed off the crowd and take advantage if Michigan’s freshman get rattled. Gary Harris and Keith Appling have been battling injuries, but both seem to be getting past them. They need to keep the offense up-tempo if Michigan gets shaky.
2-Offensive Boards- This is something that State always does well and if the offensive rebounding advantage is wide, getting the Spartans multiple offensive chances, which could be the difference. Brandon Dawson and Derrick Nix have been good on the offensive boards and will need to be even bigger in this game.
3-Tom Izzo Factor- Izzo has been doing this for a long time in the B10 and has coached in many big time conference games like this one. He also has the respect of the officials. You always know the home team is going to get a couple extra calls to go their way, but Izzo is a master at working officials and getting his team a few more calls will be huge.
1-Freshman Have To Play Big- GR3 has seemed to go away at times for Michigan and Nik Stauskas seems to have hit a wall as well. Mitch McGary has to play huge as he has been, but also finish offensive chances stronger at times which was an issue against Wisconsin. Max Bielfeldt could end up being a big factor in this one as well and needs to play solid minutes when he is on the court.
2 Interior Defense- The absence of Jordan Morgan has been huge for Michigan. If he isn’t able to go McGary, Max Bielfeldt, and Jon Horford have to step up. Dawson, Payne and Nix can make things very difficult in the post and Michigan has allowed to many easy baskets in the post in their losses. If they can reestablish the inside defensive presence they have had when at their best this season, that will give them a big advantage.
3-Best Backcourt In The Country Has to Play That Way- There is no denying that Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr have been tremendous for the Wolverines this year and rarely turn the ball over. There have been timers like in the Wisconsin game that they have seemed stagnant in offensive sets at times and that can’t happen against the Spartans.
Prediction- Michigan 71 Michigan State 67 – This is going to be a lot of fun and the atmosphere is going to be electric. State will miss Trice, who likely will not be able to go, but will fight till the end and I think Harris is going to have a monster game. I think this game will be close throughout, but in the end the guard play of Michigan and the inside presence of Mitch McGary will be the difference.