Draymond Green has had the ‘eye of the tiger’ all week. A lot is riding on this game for MSU’s leader, most notably his legacy as a Spartan great.
Green enters Sunday’s game with a 3-3 record against Michigan in his career. Obviously a loss would give him a sub-.500 record against his biggest rival, and losses in his final four chances against them (barring a meeting in the Big Ten tournament). Those losses are more important, because Draymond has played a more prominent role as an upperclassmen. Knowing his competitive nature and how much he cares about his legacy, a knee injury isn’t going to get in the way of him playing his hard and effectively.
U of M is has been trading wins and losses since January 1st, going 5-5 without winning or losing two consecutive games. They are coming off a home win over Indiana where Trey Burke led the team in scoring. Burke, a freshman point guard, has been very impressive this season; he was the best player on the floor when these two teams met in Ann Arbor.
Jon Horford is still out for U of M, which leaves the Wolverines a little thin inside. In their first matchup, MSU did not do enough to exploit their size advantage. Draymond Green may be a little hobbled in this game, which will make it even harder for him to fight for good position on the block. Zack Novak will probably guard him; he is not a big guy, but has the heart of a lion and will give Green all he can handle.
Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t shoot well against Indiana; Victor Oladipo of IU is a very good defender. Hardaway played well in his previous two games, and seems to be getting his stroke back. Branden Dawson was one of MSU’s few bright spots against Illinois. He will likely guard Hardaway in the early stages of the game, and needs to step up.
Keith Appling struggled mightily against Illinois; if Day-Day can’t get it going because of injury, App needs to dial it up. He struggled to keep Burke out of the paint in meeting #1; the team defense must be better on Burke in this one, and that starts with Appling. Hopefully his confidence is not an issue after a brutal game.
Brandon Wood looked straight up scared in Ann Arbor, and played a horrid game. Austin Thornton will start in his place on Sunday, a move Izzo clearly made to give Wood a kick in the pants. MSU is a much better team when Wood is aggressive and looking or his shot, and Izzo is trying to send him a message. He seems to play better at home so we will see what happens on Sunday.
Remember how MSU fans would count the number of days it had been since U of M beat them in football or basketball? Well, if U of M wins this one, MSU fans can expect to have that tactic thrown back in their face. It would mean four straight losses to the Wolverines, and a sour note for MSU’s seniors to end this rivalry on.
Dawson’s confidence is soaring right now, Wood is much more comfortable in the Breslin Center, and State’s fans will be going crazy tomorrow afternoon. Draymond Green and the rest of the Spartans will be out for blood. State will come out hungry tomorrow and I expect them to win somewhat comfortably. However, at least one of Green or Appling needs to shoulder the offensive load; given Green’s injury situation and Appling’s slump, that could be an issue.
My prediction – MSU 75 U of M 64