The stage is set for the Big Ten tournament championship game. Michigan and Michigan State will square off for a chance to hoist the championship trophy at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Sunday.
By the Numbers
Michigan and Michigan State took slightly different roads to the Big Ten championship. The Wolverines clawed their way to victories against Illinois and Ohio State, winning by a combined four points. They had two very different days shooting. Michigan was 10-30 from three against Illinois and then 12-23 against Ohio State. The Buckeyes hung tight by winning the battle on the boards and getting some extra possessions. Michigan's 10-19 mark from the free throw line certainly helped OSU out as well. Still, the Wolverines got it done down the stretch.
Michigan State won their first two BTT games in semi-blowouts. In the quarterfinals, the Spartans defeated Northwestern 67-51, a game in which MSU led by as many as 24. MSU also led by as many as 21 en route to a 83-75 victory against Wisconsin in the semis. Six Spartans finished in double figures against UW, and Adreian Payne dropped 18 points on 7-10 shooting. The story was really about MSU's defense though, as Wisconsin was held to 22-50 from the field 7-18 from three.
Michigan won both of the regular season matchups between these two. They won 80-75 in the Breslin Center in January and then 79-70 at home Feb. 23. Branden Dawson missed both games and Adreian Payne was out for the former, so Michigan hasn't seen the Spartans at full strength. Now on a neutral site with fully healthy squads, the BTT championship will be a true test of who is king in the Big Ten.
A lot is on the line for both squads. First of all, it's the Big Ten tournament championship. A victory for MSU would be the Spartans' second BTT title in three years and fourth all-time. For Michigan, it would be their only BTT championship since their 1998 title was vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
The result of the game will have big implications on both teams NCAA tournament outlooks. Michigan State went in to their matchup with Wisconsin as a 5 seed in ESPN's bracketology by Joe Lunardi. Beating Michigan and Wisconsin in the same weekend and getting the BTT title would likely vault them up to a 3 seed, making the road to the Final Four much easier.
Michigan became a 1 seed in Lunardi's bracket after defeating Ohio State Saturday. Winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles would secure them a 1 seed and perhaps get them a regional location closer to home.
|Derrick Walton Jr.||G||Keith Appling|
|Caris LeVert||G||Denzel Valentine|
|Nik Stauskas||G||Gary Harris|
|Glenn Robinson III||G/F||Branden Dawson|
|Jordan Morgan||F/C||Adreian Payne|
Jordan Morgan v. Adreian Payne - Payne proved against Wisconsin that he can not be stopped. He can only be contained. The second team All-Big Ten selection had 18 points in just 17 minutes. Wisconsin was able to get him in foul trouble early and limit his time on the floor. Michigan will have to double him at times, and Jordan Morgan will try to attack Payne to get him out of the game again.
Nik Stauskas v. Gary Harris - Debatably the best two players in the conference will be going head-to-head Sunday. The first team All-Big Ten selections have had strong starts in the BTT. Stauskas had 37 points in his two outings and Harris has scored 25 thus far. They are both prolific scorers who can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. Harris and Stauskas will put on a show when the lights are brightest.
Michigan State is looking really good coming in to this one. The Spartans struggled a bit at the end of the regular season, but the way they took care of Wisconsin was impressive. Tom Izzo has everyone healthy once again, and this is the time of year when experience is extremely valuable. However, Michigan took both of the regular season meetings, and the Wolverines have fought through adversity in the first couple rounds of the BTT.
Controlling the boards is going to be essential. Michigan hasn't faced Dawson and Payne in the same game this season. GR3 and Jordan Morgan have to keep them off the boards. Outside that, it will be about who's hot. Both these teams don't turn the ball over much and play solid defense, so hitting shots when it counts will be vital. MSU is healthy and they have the talent and experience to get it done in primetime.
Michigan State 78, Michigan 74