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3/4 Big Ten Preview: State of Michigan Showdown

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

There’s another Big Ten double header tonight, with a showdown between Michigan and Michigan State being the highlight of the night.

Game of the Night

Michigan State Spartans at #2 Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET ESPN

Michigan State has went from ranked to not even in the consideration of the NCAA Tournament back to looking like they’re in the big dance. Just yesterday Joe Lunardi of ESPN put Tom Izzo’s program back as one of the last four in, just ahead of Xavier for the last spot in the field. That is interesting because the Spartans are set to play Michigan in back-to-back games this week, so one has to wonder how the committee will approach the Spartans if they lose twice to the third best team in the country.

If the Spartans lose both games they’ll dip to 14-12 (8-12) and will likely need a run in the Big Ten Tournament to make it to the dance. But...if they can split the series against Michigan a win over the Wolverines would likely solidify their tourney resume. The Spartans have been on a solid run as of late, going 4-1 with wins over Illinois and Ohio State, as well as two wins over the fading Hoosiers. Now it’s time for Izzo’s squad to put up or shut up against their rival.

Michigan got absolutely blasted last time out by Illinois. That’s even more eye popping when you realize it was a home game and the Illini are currently without Ayo Dosunmu. Maybe the Wolverines just finally had a dud or maybe it was the Wolverines trying to cram in as many games as they can after a COVID-19 delay a month ago. Either way, Juwan Howard will need his team more focused tonight against a Spartans team playing for their postseason lives. Luckily for Michigan fans, they get the first outing at home.

In the loss to Illinois Michigan just couldn’t shoot the ball, making 34.7% of their field goals and only shooting 2 of 7 from three. That was uncharacteristic for a Wolverines offense that has been highly efficient all season. With basically the entire starting five no showing last time out, look for a better performance from Michigan. Or at least expect Isaiah Livers, Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner to not shoot 4 of 24 from the field again.

If the Spartans want a shot at an upset tonight they’ll need another big performance from Aaron Henry. The junior has led the Spartans in scoring in five of the past six games, with Michigan State winning all five of those games. They finally seemed to find some offensive rhythm, something that had been missing in the several weeks following their return from a COVID-19 related pause of activities.

Tom Izzo’s team is peaking at the right time and has a pretty solid chance of making it to the NCAA Tournament, something that seemed highly unlikely just a few weeks ago. I think Michigan State will win one of these two games, just not this one. Michigan bounces back and wins the first of the series.

Pick: Michigan

The Rest

Nebraska Cornhuskers at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET BTN

The late game tonight is a bit of a dude, with Iowa set to host Nebraska on BTN. The Hawkeyes are the fifth ranked team in the nation and bounced back nicely from their dude at Michigan by beating Ohio State on the road by 16. At 12-6 Iowa is currently in a tie for third in the Big Ten with Purdue (they win the tiebreaker), so a loss would be problematic as three teams are a half game within each of other for the last two double byes in the Big Ten Tournament. That being said, it is Nebraska.

Nebraska recently lost leading scorer Teddy Allen, who dropped 41 against Penn State. Allen only played ten minutes in the win against Minnesota and then announced his departure from the program before the game against Rutgers. Naturally the Cornhuskers had their best game, beating Rutgers by 21.

The Cornhuskers aren’t a particularly good team and a win at Iowa would be the upset of the year in the Big Ten. Iowa has far too many offensive weapons and the Cornhuskers are too sloppy to hang around for an upset. Luka Garza will likely dominate once again and this one should be over by half time. Iowa big.

Pick: Iowa