Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines
On Jan. 13, the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans will take on the unranked Michigan Wolverines in East Lansing, Michigan, and the rivalry is as alive as ever. After an at-the-time unranked Michigan State team beat No. 7 Michigan during football season at The Big House, the basketball game is expected to bring the same excitement.
Last season, the Spartans and Wolverines met twice, each winning their home game. Last year, the Spartans took the East Lansing with a score of 70-62, while the Wolverines ran away in Ann Arbor with a final score of 86-57.
This rivalry has been close in matchups since both teams have been in the Big Ten (1949-1950), with Michigan State taking the 64-60 edge. However, last year was an outlier as the games between these two teams average a 1.3 point differential in favor of the Spartans.
The major stat to watch out for in this game is Michigan’s field goal percentage. The Spartans are No. 1 in the country when it comes to keeping their opponent’s field goal percentage low, holding them to 34.6 percent.
The Wolverines will have to start strong and shoot well from the beginning in order to keep this game close, especially considering the Spartans are coming off a loss against Ohio State and a thrilling overtime game against Rutgers.
The second-year transfer from Kentucky, Charles Matthews, is the leading scorer for the Wolverines, averaging 15.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Zavier Simpson has returned to the starting lineup and is coming off a 15-point game against Purdue.
Miles Bridges leads the Spartans with 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston were key in the team’s win over Rutgers, so one can expect their contributions will be even more important in a game against Michigan.
Path to Win
The Spartans are going to have to come out aggressive considering they have had some issues the past few games. Bridges will have to be the leader not necessarily in scoring, but in creating opportunities for his teammates. Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. will also have to control the boards to keep the Wolverines from second-chance points.
If Michigan can dominate the boards and keep the Spartans from succeeding in transition, they can keep the game close. Like last season, Michigan State continues to struggle with taking care of the ball, averaging 14 turnovers per game. If the Wolverines win, it will be because they force turnovers and do not allow the Spartans any easy baskets.
Although Michigan State beats Michigan in the statistics, this is a big rivalry game and the Wolverines are coming off a 69-70 loss at home against No. 5 Purdue. On Saturday, both of these teams are expected to come out with aggression, but the edge has to go to the Spartans.
Final score prediction: Michigan State – 77, Michigan – 65
All statistics are from basketball-reference.com and ESPN.com and are accurate as of Jan. 11, 2018.
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