The Spartans head to Ann Arbor to square off against the Wolverines this Sunday at 3:30p on CBS62.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Michigan State at Michigan. It’s finally here — the first of two meetings between the in-state rivals that have looked like the class of the Big Ten for much of this season. While Purdue has joined the Spartans and Wolverines in the title race, the two Michigan State-Michigan games could obviously have a big impact on who finishes first. No. 10 Michigan State (22-5, 13-3) has lost Joshua Langford for the season because of injury problems, and now the Spartans are also without big man Nick Ward, who broke his hand . No. 7 Michigan (23-3, 12-3) is healthier and gets this first matchup at home Sunday.

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 20: Nick Ward #44 and Joshua Langford #1 of the Michigan State Spartans look on during warm ups prior to the game against Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Breslin Center on February 20, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

The showdown between point guards Cassius Winston of Michigan State and Zavier Simpson of Michigan is always worth watching. The Wolverines won both meetings last season.

 

MADISON, WISCONSIN – FEBRUARY 12: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center on February 12, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

 

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – JANUARY 22: Zavier Simpson #3 of the Michigan Wolverines drives to the basket past Eric Curry #24 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second half at Crisler Arena on January 22, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 59-57. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

LOOKING AHEAD: No. 15 Purdue (19-7, 12-3) has what looks to be an easier schedule down the stretch — the Boilermakers don’t have to play Michigan or Michigan State. But Purdue has a road game against Nebraska (15-12, 5-11) this weekend, then hosts Illinois next Wednesday. The Illini (10-16, 6-9) have won five of their last seven.

 

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 19: Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrates after the 48-46 win over the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on February 19, 2019 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Illinois isn’t the only team showing improvement of late. Penn State (10-16, 3-12) is playing much better right now, having won three of its last five games, including a win over Michigan and a 24-point rout of Nebraska . Lamar Stevens handles much of the scoring load for the Nittany Lions, averaging 19.5 points per game. He scored 26 against Michigan and 29 against Nebraska.

 

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – JANUARY 03: Lamar Stevens #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions reacts in the second half while playing the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Arena on January 03, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 68-55. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

 

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Michigan State at Michigan is strength against strength from a statistical standpoint. According to kenpom.com, the Spartans have the top offensive efficiency of any Big Ten team in conference play, while Michigan is No. 1 at the defensive end. … Nebraska is still 42nd in the country in the Pomeroy rankings despite its awful showing in Big Ten play. But the Cornhuskers’ decline has been obvious. In conference play, they’re ninth in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency. And they play Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa to finish the regular season.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 20: Matt McQuaid #20 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates his three-point basket in the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Breslin Center on February 20, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Iowa beat Maryland 86-73 on Sunday to pull even with the eighth-ranked Terrapins (23-3, 12-3) atop the conference. The Hawkeyes (21-5, 12-3) have won five straight and 10 of 11. Rutgers (18-7, 10-4) has lost three of four to fall back a bit.

Iowa’s Megan Gustafson is leading the nation in scoring at 27.4 points per game. She scored 31 in the win over Maryland, surpassing the 2,500 mark for her career. It was her ninth straight game with at least 25 points.

© 2019 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

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