The 2010-2011 season hasn't quite turned out to be what Michigan and Michigan State fans had been hoping for, but when the Wolverines and Spartans clash tonight at 7:00 P.M. inside the Breslin Center, both teams will have a chance to get their seasons moving back in the right direction with a win over a rival.
Michigan State (12-7, 4-3) is unranked for the the first time this season after opening up No. 2 in the polls. The Spartans have lost their last two games to Illinois and Purdue, both ranked opponents. Last time out, the Boilermakers imposed their will on the Spartans at Mackey, outrebounding them and outshooting them by about 14%. Since that loss, Tom Izzo has dismissed Korie Lucious from the team, so there's plenty of turmoil in Lansing right now.
Michigan (11-9, 1-6) continued its string of miserable losses over the weekend when the Wolverines fell to Minnesota 69-64 at home. The team has now lost its last six games and seven of the last eight. With 1-7 Iowa coming up as well as Penn State, the victim of Michigan's only conference win, the Wolverines might get some opportunities soon, but they'd surely like to get a win over the Spartans out of the way first.
When Michigan Has The Ball
- Michigan hit 12 threes against Minnesota but needed 35 shots to do so. That's no very efficient offense. The Wolverines need to start looking for other shots, or they're going to end possessions with no points at all more than half the time.
- For Michigan State, the key will be picking one of Zack Novak, Tim Hardaway Jr. or Darius Morris to stop. Those at Michigan's three big scorers and teams have had success holding the Wolverine offense down when they've keyed on one of those guys and taken him out of the offense. Look for the Spartans to lock down on one, too.
- Sparty needs to get with the program defensively. Both Illnois and Purdue averaged 50% or better from the field against the Spartans and that's never a recipe for victory, no matter how efficient your offense is. The Wolverines aren't nearly as dangerous offensively as either of the two teams the Spartans just lost to, but poor defense will narrow that gap in a hurry.
When Michigan State Has The Ball
Draymond Green, Delvon Roe and Derrick Nix need to take a bigger burden on their shoulders with Lucious off the team. Michigan State's guard play will be considerably weaker without Lucious, so the forwards need to go to work against their smaller Michigan counterparts.
- If you're Michigan, pressure the Michigan State guards. Their depth has taken a hit and they're more prone to having their energy zapped by the end if they're forced to run around a bunch on offense and defense. Wear them down, and there should be some open looks by the end of the game.
For much of the season, observers have passed off Michigan State's struggles to its brutal schedule. Lose to a 1-6 Michigan State team, and that excuse is gone for Tom Izzo and the Spartans. They need this game to avoid slipping onto the bubble and into jeopardy of not making the NCAA Tournament.