The No. 7 Michigan Wolverines will face their in-state rivals, the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans, on Saturday after a victory over Maryland. This matchup is not the first between these two. On February 24, MSU went to Ann Arbor and beat Michigan 77-70.
Both teams are seeking the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten rankings as they currently have an identical Big Ten record. This game means the world for players on each team, so expect an emotional, hard-fought match. Here is a preview, and a prediction for this intense battle.
What: No. 7 Michigan (26-4, 15-4) vs. No. 9 Michigan State (24-6, 15-4)
When: Saturday, March 9, 8:00 PM ET on ESPN
Where: Breslin Center, East Lancing
Keys to Victory for Michigan
As the distributor on offense, Zavier Simpson has dished 10-plus assists in three of the last four games. The game without 10-assists was against MSU where he only had two. If he can pass the ball similar to his 10-assist nights, then the Wolverines will have a deadly floor general who finds open shots for himself and others.
Scoring off turnovers is one of the ways opposing teams can counter Michigan’s top-notch defense. Therefore, limiting turnovers will secure a Michigan victory. However, when the Wolverines do get sloppy with the ball, other teams can ignite a comeback or grow their lead.
On the offensive side, Jordan Poole needs to be the spark for Michigan. With Charles Matthews listed as questionable, Ignas “Iggy” Brazdeikis must be in peak shape as he is the Wolverines’ leading scorer, averaging 14.8 points-per-game. These players on offense will absorb the workload and should each score around 15-points to guarantee a Michigan win.
Keys to Victory for MSU
The Michigan State Spartans are at a very similar level to Michigan. After all, they did defeat them on the road. Thus, they will not require a career night from a star player to beat these Wolverines. Instead, MSU needs solid defensive play from everyone and the bench players to hit open jumpers.
MSU’s standout player is junior guard Cassius Winston who leads the Spartans in scoring with 18.8 points-per-game and assists with 7.4 assists-per-game. Furthermore, with Nick Ward listed as doubtful and Kyle Ahrens as questionable, Winston will not have his dependable forwards available. Therefore, the ball will be in hands for longer than usual.
Additionally, senior Matt McQuaid has stepped up to the plate. He has been a knock-down three-point shooter and reliable from the free throw line. On the defensive side, he is arguably MSU’s premier defender and can lock up almost any Michigan player.
All in all, this game will be intense from start to finish. MSU will stay close with the Wolverines for a majority of the battle. However, Michigan’s road win versus Maryland will give them the reassurance that they can win at East Lancing. Thus, the Maize and Blue will be locked in and focus themselves on outlasting the Spartans.
Final Score: Michigan 68 – MSU 62
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