The big showdown is finally here. Despite injuries and inclement weather the state of Michigan is a perfect 13-0 in the B1G. One half is Michigan State, a top 5 team for most of the year that has found ways to win games most recently without Adreian Payne. Tom Izzo has this team in the thick of it yet again, and they would love nothing more than to beat the Wolverines at home. The second half is Michigan, an incredibly young team that is finally starting to gel and come together. The Wolverines have reeled off back to back top-10 wins, and are seeking revenge after the beating that they took last year in East Lansing.
Michigan: After getting through 1/3rd of the B1G season unscaved, I am both shocked and pleasantly surprised at this team with a 14-4 record. The road tests against both Duke and Iowa State prepared this team for a historic win in Madison, and all of the pieces seem to be clicking. The Iowa game was both messy and beautiful at times, but was far from their best game of the season. To beat Michigan State, these players will need to be key:
Nik Stauskas- Playing the role of Trey Burke, it cannot be overstated how important Stauskas is to this team. Against Iowa, he was masterful, finishing with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. His points have come in a variety of ways, but his assists are the most impressive part of his game to me. Bigs like Morgan and Horford do not have enough skill for a complete offensive game, so Stauskas must be creative enough in the lane to put the bigs in a good position to finish. His playmaking ability has been an absolute delight to watch, and Stauskas along with Spike Albrecht combined for 12 assists to allow for each baskets. While I hate putting an exact number on points, Stauskas will likely need to hover around 18 or 20 points for the Wolverines to have a chance in this game.
Glenn Robinson III- Little dog is back! Robinson is averaging 14.8 PPG in his last 5 games while shooting 53% from the floor and taking 12 shots per game. But perhaps the statistic that makes Wolverine fans even happier is that Robinson snagged 9 rebounds against Iowa. He is only averaging 4.6 rebounds per game, and that is a low number considering that Robinson plays most of his minutes at the 4. Robinson's defensive assignment got significantly easier when Branden Dawson punched himself out of Saturday's contest, and it seems that Izzo will look to Kenny Kaminski to fill his void. While Kaminski can shoot, Robinson is both a better athlete and a quicker player, and needs to have a big game at the 4 spot regardless of who Izzo sticks on him. This is a huge statement game for both Robinson and Michigan, and his production could be the difference.
Michigan Perspective by Josh Stern (@jmstern23)
Tom Izzo has tinkered his lineup all year to cope with injuries, and Saturday's game will be no different. He will likely use a lineup of Costello, Harris, Valentine, Appling and Kaminski, with Travis Trice and Alex Gauna playing significant minutes off the bench. I see Morgan and Costello and Robinson guarding Kaminski, with the other guards likely switching much more. Michigan has a significant advantage at the 4 and 5 spots, and it'd say it's likely a draw between the three backcourt spots. If Michigan can hit their shots early and play a little bit more inside out than usual, they could find a ton of success. I truly believed Michigan had the horses to beat Wisconsin, and I think this is the year they beat Michigan State in East Lansing. Michigan wins 67-62, and Stauskas goes for 20. Michigan State is playing for a #1 seed while Michigan is playing to get back in the top 10, and the loss of Payne and Dawson will prove too catastrophic for Michigan State to win this game.
Michigan State Perspective by Jeremy Michael Haynes
Saturday night is a huge game that will either help or hurt the Spartans a lot, and Michigan State is already juggling injuries. Tom Izzo said earlier this week that Adreian Payne's chances of suiting up were slim to none. ESPN is reporting that Payne will miss the game. With Dawson also out, Michigan State can expect to give up size in the post at the very least. Gsry Harris and Keith Appling will need to play tight man coverage against Nik Stauskas, who has blossomed into a star this season, and Derrick Wallton Jr, a promising young freshman. If the Spartans drop this contest it will be their frst conference loss and it would vault their conference rival into the top spot. With a pair of roads wins at Michigan State and Minnesota, two very good teams, Michigan would be in the driver's seat headed towards the Big Ten season's conclusion and would be very tough to displace.