Match-up: Michigan (14-4) @ #4 Michigan State (16-2)
Date: Saturday, January 13th 2018
Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
Line: Michigan State (-9.5)
The Michigan Wolverines travel to East Lansing on Saturday afternoon to take on the 4th ranked Michigan State Spartans. Michigan is coming off of a very tough loss on Tuesday night against 5th ranked Purdue.
The Wolverines saw 2 calls go against them in the last 6 seconds that prevented Michigan from having a shot to win. Meanwhile, Michigan State is playing their worst basketball of the season. The Spartans got blown out last weekend against Ohio State and almost lost to Rutgers at home in their last game.
A lot is on the line in this early conference season match-up. It’s an important game for Michigan because they don’t want to drop two in a row. A path to a Big Ten championship gets pretty thin if the Wolverines start off conference play 3-3.
On the other side, this game is critical for the Spartans so they can shake off their recent bad play. They would also fall 2 games behind Purdue and Ohio State early on in the conference standings if they were to lose to the Wolverines.
The last time these two teams met, Michigan dominated Michigan State and cruised to a 29 point win. I would imagine that Michigan State hasn’t forgot about that game and that should provide some extra motivation to the Spartans.
Despite the recent struggles, this is one of the best teams in the country. They are 16-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten. Sparty ranks in the top 20 in the country in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and points allowed. They honestly do everything well.
Michigan State has 2 very good win over North Carolina and Notre Dame and their only 2 losses are to Duke and Ohio State. They have played some good teams but overall their schedule has been weak. Their strength of schedule currently ranks as the 80th best in the country.
3 key players for MSU
Every game I list 3 key players for Michigan’s opponent. Choosing only 3 players to highlight for Michigan State is nearly impossible because they are so talented at every position. With that being said, I will pick the 3 players for Michigan State that I think will be the biggest factor in this match-up.
Miles Bridges- You can’t talk about the Spartans without talking about their best player, Miles Bridges.
Miles is a special player. He is one of the most versatile players I have ever seen in college hoops. He can shoot it, drive it, rebound, pass, and defend all at an elite level. There is a reason he is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Bridges is having a great sophomore season. He’s averaging 16.5 PPG and almost 8 rebounds per game. The only major criticism that I have for him is that he has not played great against the tough teams they have played. He’s shooting just 40% from the field in Michigan State’s 4 toughest games this season.
He’s also coming off of a bad game against Rutgers in which he scored 11 points on just 3-10 shooting.
Cassius Winston- The 2nd key player in this game for Michigan State is 6’0 starting PG Cassius Winston.
There are two things you need to know about Winston. This guy is an elite shooter and he is a phenomenal passer. Over half of his attempted shots come from deep which can be alarming for some players. However, it’s not too alarming for Winston considering he is shooting almost 53% (!!!!) from deep this season. He’s also shooting 91% from the foul line. Winston has turned himself into one of the best shooters in the conference.
The second thing that I mentioned is that he is a phenomenal passer. Winston averages 7.2 APG which is tops in the Big Ten. Yes, it helps having a great team around you but when I watch him play, he always makes a couple of jaw dropping passes. How Zavier Simpson deals with Winston could be a crucial match-up in this game.
Jaren Jackson Jr.- The last key player that I will highlight in this preview is 6’11 true freshman Jaren Jackson Jr.
The first year player is already becoming a force and slowly becoming one of the top players in the conference. He was my 3rd key player because I think he could be the x-factor in this game.
Jackson is a high level rebounder with a developing offensive skill set. He’s taken 50 threes this season and connected on 44% of those, so we know he’s a good shooter. But his inside game is developing and will continue to get better as the season progresses.
Jackson is a projected one-and-done player and a top 10 pick. I think Michigan will give Isaiah Livers his first career start in this game and it will be his job to shut Jackson down. That is not an easy task and we will see if Livers is up for the challenge.
Style of Play
As I said in the Purdue Preview; most good teams don’t have an exact style of play. Michigan State is no different. They can run or slow it down depending on their opponent and tempo of the game.
One thing is always the case though with a Tom Izzo coached team, they will play hard and they will play defense with a high intensity.
Keys to the game
- Win the turnover and 3 point battle. This is a huge key in this game. Michigan will not beat Sparty on the road unless they play a clean game and hit some threes.
- Contain Miles Bridges. Pretty obvious right? Miles Bridges will get his points. That’s ok. Michigan just needs to make him take tough shots. If Bridges gets 18 points but shoots under 50%, that’s huge for Michigan. You don’t need to shut him down, you just need to contain him.
- Win the Livers/Jackson match-up. If Isaiah Livers can knock down a couple of shots and play good defense against Jackson, Michigan should have a great shot in this game. However, if the atmosphere and the moment is too big for Livers and Michigan needs to play Duncan more, it could be a long game for the Wolverines.
- Charles Matthews needs to have a big game on both ends of the floor. His defense against Bridges will be crucial and Michigan needs him to have an efficient offensive game.
- The seniors need to step up when it matters. MAAR and Duncan cannot have bad games like they have had in some of Michigan’s biggest games this year. This tweet explains what I’m talking about.
Compiled some alarming stats this morning. In Michigan’s 4 losses this season, this is how the seniors have played:
8 PPG 11/38 shooting (29%) 2/18 from 3 (11%)
3.25 PPG 4/20 shooting (20%) 3/15 from 3 (20%)
— MSZ Wolverines (@MSZ_Wolverines) January 10, 2018
- The last time Michigan came into East Lansing and walked out with a win was in the 2013/14 season. If you don’t remember that game, It’s when Stauskas hit a dagger three late in the game and then blew kisses to the crowd at the Breslin Center after the game.
- Michigan freshman Isaiah Livers has been on a tear as of late. I expect him to get the start in this game.
Isaiah Livers’ last 3 games:
14-17 shooting (82%)
7-8 from three (87.5%)
— MSZ Wolverines (@MSZ_Wolverines) January 10, 2018
- Looks like Moe Wagner is a game time decision against Michigan State. If he is unable to go, that is a huge blow to Michigan’s chances at pulling off the upset.
John Beilein says that Moe Wagner is a game-time decision for tomorrow's game at MSU. Said he's 'not at liberty to say' if it's unrelated to previous ankle injury.
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) January 12, 2018
This could be the toughest and most intense game that Michigan will play all season long. Michigan State is a great team and the Breslin Center is not an easy place to win.
With that being said, John Beilein will have his guys ready and this will be a great game. In the last 14 meetings between these two teams, they are 7-7 against each other. It’s been a long time since the Wolverines won in East Lansing and I think they break the streak on Saturday.
Michigan State has struggled in their last 2 games and I think it will continue against Michigan.
Prediction: Michigan 69 Michigan State 66
Our guest prediction for this game comes from one of everyone’s favorite Michigan Twitter accounts, Barstool Blue. They predict that “Livers will be exactly what we expect him to be and Matthews will prove that he’s one of the most talented players in the conference, both offensively and defensively.”
Prediction: 79-74 Michigan
Make sure to follow Barstool Blue on Twitter.
Noah Starr- 83-68 MSU
Seth Berry- 75-70 MSU
Josh Swerdloff- 82-68 MSU
Evan Lynch- 77-68 MSU
Brennan Ellis- 78-73 Michigan
Josh Abeare- 74-73 MSU
Andrew Shadler- 78-71 MSU
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