It’s an in-state Big Ten showdown. This is one of the most meaningful games left on the schedule for the talent, but ultimately disappointing Wolverines, while Tom Izzo and the Spartans still have a bit of work to do to establish themselves in the conference and also looking ahead to an at-large bid for March Madness.
Michigan State enters the game on a high after picking up a hugely important at home against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Valentines Day. The team’s leading scorer, Denzel Valentine, won the game with a late three finishing with 17 points overall. This isn’t the typical Spartans’ team, but they are led by a couple of strong, experienced guards in Valentine and Travis Trice.
Considering the fact that they don’t have a reliable front court presence besides Branden Dawson (who is “only 6-foot-6), Michigan State are a very strong rebounding team, but Izzo has been forced to juggle his front-court options about all season long as he looks for the right combinations of players.
Michigan enters the game on a four-game losing streak and their schedule doesn’t get any easier. After the game against the Spartans, John Beilen’s team play host to the Buckeyes before travelling to face the Maryland Terrapins. This team will have to tackle that stretch without star player Caris LeVert, who is out for the season with a foot injury. The Wolverines are 2-5 without him.
In fairness to Michigan, three of those losses have come in overtime. They’ll match up with small ball style basketball playing as many as four guards at one time in Beilen’s sets. Junior Spike Albrecht has been a player who has stepped it up offensively in LeVert’s absence. He’s averaging 13.3 points per game against a season average of just 6.2.
Betting Preview: Michigan State (-4) at Michigan
Games between these two teams are almost always close and they played out something of an overtime thriller on February 1. Expect an energetic and feisty affair between two teams that will badly want a win, the Wolverines to end their losing run, the Spartans to establish themselves more firmly in the Big Ten.
It just feels like Michigan State are starting to work things out. Izzo coached teams invariably play their best basketball in March and there were shades of that in the win over Ohio State. A 4-point spread against the road team is something of a tease as a betting line, but it’s one worth taking in this circumstance.
The Pick: Michigan State (-4) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 25-19