#8 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (20-4, 9-2) v. #4 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (21-3, 8-3 )
THE BRESLIN CENTER, EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2013 @ 9:00 PM EST
If there wasn’t already enough excitement surrounding this game just for the mere fact that it’s Michigan State – Michigan, there are some historic firsts for this game. Tonight marks the first time ever that these two teams meet both ranked in the AP Top 10. Tonight marks the first time this season that two 20 win teams will face off. Tonight is also the first time for this rivalry in a long time that each fan base doesn’t stand on either side of the football/ basketball debate. For the first time in a long time, both Michigan State and Michigan are able to stand on equal footing in both.
Right away, what stands out to me about this game is the trending play of each team. Michigan State over the past month is trending upwards. Wins against Ohio State, at Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, at Purdue and a moral victory at Indiana. Players like Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Gary Harris are catching fire becoming big time scorers for Tom Izzo’s squad. Michigan on the other hand, has dropped two out of their last three games (both losses have come at away venues) and Wolverine fans are noting that players like Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas have regressed in recent play.
So the question that gets answered tonight, does the upward trend for MSU and the downward slide for UofM continue? Or does UofM right the ship and get back to first place standings?
Keys to Victory:
- There’s an App for that. Keith Appling and Trey Burke is the main attraction in this one. Burke is easily the best point guard in the country and in my mind a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Keith Appling is one of the premiere on-ball defenders in the league. Burke leads the Wolverines in scoring averaging 18.2 points per game as well as assists with 7.1. If Keith can keep Burke under both these marks, I like the Spartans’ in this one.
- Limit turnovers to under 15. Early losses this season to UCONN and Miami were the result of an abundance of turnovers. In conference play, the Spartans have gotten much better at securing the ball and are averaging 11.5 turnovers in recent Big Ten play. MSU has recorded 14 or fewer turnovers in nine of eleven Big Ten games, winning all nine. This is especially important due to a player like Trey Burke who has one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the country. Simply put, Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over much, so a huge disparity in turnovers could be exactly what Michigan needs to pull out the win in East Lansing. Don’t let it happen.
- Perimeter defense. MSU prides itself on being a balanced offensive attack, averaging just about 50-50 on point in the paint and point out of the paint. The hiccup here is that our offensive strength is also our defensive strength. I like our chances when we play a team that plays the same style we do, but with a team like Michigan who spends a lot on the perimeter, we seem to have some trouble. Remember Miami? Remember Illinois? Remember Indiana? Tim Hardaway in the past few games has caught fire from beyond the arc and paired with guys like Burke and Stauskas, the three ball could really kill us. Appling, Harris, Valentine, Dawson, and especially Payne need to be quick on the perimeter tonight.
Prediction: It will rocking and my guess (with absolutely no basis for predicting this) is that things are going to get chippy. Hopefully the Big Ten’s trend of having the refs favor the home team still is in effect and MSU catches a few breaks here and there. MSU is 14-0 at home this season including a 4-0 mark on Tuesdays. The numbers don’t lie. MSU 72, UofM 68.