The Wolverines came into the Breslin Events Center in January and beat Michigan State 80-75, proving to the state of Michigan that there is more than one team that can play. Michigan State has been up and down their last two games, losing a bad game at home against Nebraska before thrashing Purdue on the road and hitting 17 3's. When healthy, both teams are arguably two of the top 10 or 15 teams in the country, and should make for an excellent game on Sunday. Let's break down the teams.
Players to Watch:
Nik Stauskas- As we've said all season, Stauskas is the catalyst for the Wolverines. He has been terrific at times, including a massive game against Michigan State last time, but has been far too inconsistent to keep the Wolverines in the top-10. He will need to have a big game again on Saturday, being able to stretch the defense with his shot but also getting his teammates involved. While Derrick Walton is the true point guard, Stauskas often handles the playmaking duties, and is crucial in getting guys like Zak Irvin and Glenn Robinson III involved. Stauskas will need to have about 15-20 points and 5 assists for the Wolverines to have a shot at winning this game.
Jordan Morgan/Jon Horford- While the duo had a decent game against Wisconsin (8 points, 11 rebounds), they were completely destroyed defensively. Frank Kaminsky lit them up, going for 25 points and 11 rebounds of his own. On Sunday, they have a similar type of player but an even tougher matchup in Adreain Payne (as listed below). Payne is the type of versatile scorer that can give both big men real trouble. This is the type of game where having a player like Mitch McGary would have been a tremendous help, but McGary has been out. I will be interested to see if the Wolverines will double down on Payne below the free throw line, as someone like Matt Costello is not much of an offensive threat. Morgan and Horford will need to go for a combined double-double for the Wolverines to be in this game, and I think the two upperclassmen will be able to step up for Michigan.
Adreian Payne. The one guy who will make biggest difference compared to the first meeting will be Payne. He missed the first game due to an ankle injury. And he appears to be a match-up nightmare for a Wolverine squad that has had troubles with big guys (see Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin). Payne will be asked to be an big offensive contributor. I expect Izzo to force feed him the ball until Michigan can prove they can slow him down.
Michigan State Perspective by Tim Beck
Michigan State needs the victory Sunday if they want to win the B1G regular season title. They still need to play Iowa and @Ohio State. They don't want to be a game behind the Wolverines entering the last three games.
The Spartans are coming into Ann Arbor seeking revenge. Shorthanded, they were downed by the Wolverines in East Lansing, and now they look to return the favor. The first match we didn't see Adreian Payne and Michigan State is hoping that he will solve some of the problems they had. Now Keith Appling is nursing a wrist injury. His shot has been very ineffective since hurting it earlier this season. Make no mistake, Appling will play in this game, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him suddenly find his shot. Travis Trice has filled in nicely in Appling's absence.
In the first meeting, with the help of the home crowd, MSU was able to shake Michigan's confidence. The defensive intensity allowed the Spartans to gain an advantage. That advantage was maintained for most of the game, but down the stretch the Wolverines stepped up and took command. Michigan State needs to be lights out on offense, feed the rock consistently to Payne, and play commanding defense once again. With Payne, Michigan State should own the glass and if they shoot the 3 like they did against Purdue they should find themselves in a prime position to win the game.
Michigan Perspective by Josh Stern (@jmstern23)
Michigan desperately needs this game. They were flat out embarrassed in the first half of the Wisconsin game last week, and despite a late charge, Frank Kaminsky and co. came into Crisler and smacked the Wolverines in the mouth. They need a signature win at home, and there would be no better time to do it than against your instate rival. While I did not watch the first half of the Michigan State-Purdue game, I am fully aware of the shooters that they have. Their injuries have definitely set them back, but Tom Izzo seems to have them playing great basketball as of late. I think the Wolverines will be able to eke this one out, as John Beilein will have his guys ready after a hard week of practice.
The Maize Rage will be loud and rowdy. Michigan will be jacked up playing their biggest basketball rival. Michigan State will play with a chip on their shoulders. I see the Wolverines getting hot, and playing good enough defense to take down the Spartans.
Michigan 74, Michigan State 66.