Michigan Basketball: Michigan State preview

The Michigan Wolverines (14-4, 6-0) take on the Michigan State Spartans (18-1, 7-0) Saturday night at the Jack Breslin Center in East Lansing. The game features two top 25 teams, both of whom are undefeated in Big Ten play. The winner of this game not only gets ultimate bragging rights (until the second meeting between these two teams on February 23rd) but also puts themselves in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten at about the halfway point in the conference season. Needless to say, this is a very high-stakes game for both teams. Oh yeah, and College GameDay is going to be there. Let’s see how the two teams compare.

The Backcourt

Michigan State is led by sophomore Gary Harris. Harris leads the Spartans in scoring, putting up over 18 points a game, while adding almost 5 rebounds and 3 assists every contest. Senior Keith Appling is having his best year statistically for the Spartans. Appling is currently third on the team in scoring, putting up a little under 16 points a game while dishing out almost 5 assists and grabbing 4 rebounds. These two together are quite a tandem, and with the injuries in the frontcourt for the Spartans (I’ll get to that in a second) these two are really going to have to bring their A-game.

Michigan basketball is led by a prolific scorer in Nik “he’s not just a three point shooter” Stauskas. Stauskas’s confidence has been skyrocketing as of late, and for good reason. His three deadly three point shot against Wisconsin a couple of games ago was enough

michigan basketball

Nik Stauskas (Photo credit: Tony Ding, AP)

to give any Wolverine fan chills. Stauskas is averaging almost 19 points a game, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

Point guard for Michigan is ran by a couple of young players. Derrick Walton Jr. has been starting for the Wolverines, but after missing practice earlier in the week due to illness, and sophomore Spike Albrecht filled in valiantly. Both players have been very solid for Michigan thus far, and combined they average 12 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds.

The Frontcourt

Michigan State is currently having some injury issues with their big men. Branden Dawson is going to be out for several weeks after breaking his hand during a film session. Adreian Payne is doubtful for tomorrow’s game after missing MSU’s last contest with an injury. If both of these players end up being out, the Spartans lose a lot of production. Combined these two average 26 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 assists. Michigan State will need some other players to step up.

So who will be asked to answer the call for MSU? Denzel Valentine will need to bring his A-game. Valentine has averaged 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists this year. Not bad numbers at all. The guys who have been spelling Payne and Dawson, Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminski, and Alex Gauna will really need to take a step forward if the Spartans want to win this game.

Michigan is going to need a big game out of Glenn Robinson III. Robinson has shown that he is borderline unstoppable when he gets aggressive and attacks the rim. Robinson has been averaging 14 points and 5 rebounds a game this season. Caris LeVert has Glenn Robinson IIIbeen playing very well this season. His length at 6’6 and shooting ability have made him dangerous for opposing defenses.

Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford have provided the Wolverines with a dynamic one-two punch at the five position. Combined these two players average 10 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block per game. These two have a chance to have big games against the depleted Spartan frontcourt.

How will it play out?

This is going to be a tough game for both teams. Both squads are coming in red hot. The Spartans are at home, but they have had some tough luck with injuries lately. The Wolverines have been steadily improving since the loss of star Mitch McGary, and a win in East Lansing will establish them among some of the nation’s best. However, at the end of the day, I think being at home gives the Spartans the edge.

Michigan State 74 Michigan 68