Michigan basketball to play MSU in Big Ten tourney finale

The last time Michigan basketball won the Big Ten Tournament was in the tourney’s inaugural season back in 1998. That win was vacated due to NCAA sanctions. The last time Michigan State won it was just two years ago, which was their 3rd Big Ten Tourney title in the event’s 17-year history. The last time Michigan played Michigan State in the BTT was….never. That streak is over.

As predicted in my tournament preview (click here), the Wolverines and Spartans will square off for the 3rd time this season on Sunday afternoon. This highly anticipated title bout will tip at 3:30 eastern and be televised on CBS.

The Wolverines have knocked the Spartans off twice already this season, winning 80-75 back in late January at the Breslin Center and again in Ann Arbor three weeks ago by a final count of 79-70.

Jordan Morgan Michigan

Jordan Morgan

Michigan’s path

The Wolverines, after winning the Big Ten’s regular season title, have played a pair of nail-biters to get themselves to Sunday. A Jordan Morgan tip-in gave them a 64-63 win on Friday over Illinois. In the semis they were able to hold off a 2nd half charge from the Ohio State Buckeyes and came out on top with a 72-69 victory.

Some bracket experts think that a win on Sunday could elevate Michigan all the way to a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament. It has been my feeling all along that they are a 2-seed regardless of what happened in the Big Ten Tourney and I maintain that position. If nothing else, their run this weekend could very well mean that they’re a 2-seed playing close to home, which is an obvious advantage.

Michigan State’s path

The Spartans opened on Friday against Northwestern and drilled them in convincing fashion, 67-51. The 2 v. 3 seed matchup on Saturday against Wisconsin promised to be a thriller, but Michigan State had other ideas. Gary Harris and friends controlled the game from beginning to end, derailing the Grinch’s, I mean Bo Ryan’s, Badgers by a final score of 83-75.

Tom Izzo’s main mission in Indy was to get his team back to playing cohesive basketball and keeping them healthy. Mission accomplished. This run, with or without a win on Sunday, has given the Spartans some badly needed momentum heading into March Madness. The talent on this squad remains top-shelf and some of the mental cobwebs have seemingly been cleared out of their collective heads. Fans of Michigan State can fill out their NCAA tournament brackets with a lot more confidence now.

I anticipate Michigan State ending up as a 4 or 5 seed in the big dance with the upside of a 3 seed if they can win on Sunday.

Prediction

Well, I got us this far. On Tuesday I published an overall tournament preview, predicting this exact matchup, and also forecasting Michigan’s first legitimate BTT championship. Nothing has happened to make me change my opinion.

Michigan has already beaten these Spartans twice in 2014 and have won six of the last eight in the rivalry. You know Tom Izzo wants to put a stop to this unsettling trend in a bad way. But obviously, John Beilein has other plans.

The Wolverines have been more consistent than any other team in the Big Ten all season long. They play together, they play for each other, and they play always expecting to ‘win the game’. A special run through the Big Ten will be capped off with the always difficult task of beating the same team three times in a single season.

Michigan prevails, 79-73.

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  • robert white

    This should be loads of fun. Michigan is probably the better team, but I do not think they can beat the Spartans 3 times in one year. MSU 74 U of M 73

  • Meral Kazan

    LEVERT, you are the very important X-FACTOR OFFENSIVELY & DEFENSIVELY (Jim Jackson talked about how in the 2 meetings against Michigan State you averaged 20 points and in general had an excellent statline against Michigan State!!!! DEFEND THEIR SCREEN-ACTION (THEY LIKE TO SCREEN THEIR OPPONENTS TO DEATH) AND YOU WILL WIN THE GAME!!!! Carpe Diem, Michigan!!!! Carpe Diem, Wolverines!!!! C-A-R-P-E D-I-E-M

    Also “The Fix is In”
    What I mean be this is the hypocracy and double-standards of engagement by Interviewer Rick Pizzo toward John Beilein and how he acted and talked to Tom Izzo. He said to Izzo (and note that he did NOT say this to Beilein!) “We’ll talk to you next time [i.e. see you next time {and Izzo had a smile}]” This is no accident at all! This was a cryptic message to Izzo (conveyed by Rick Pizzo, via Jim Delaney & Co.) that this is in the bag, so to speak, for Izzo and that we are going to do all we can to rig this in your favor for you! I would not be surprised to see the gross despicable, deplorable, reprehenisble insulting foul descrepancy that was from the Breslin Center away game against Michigan State but X’s a 1000! If this isn’t proof of a bias, rig-job, favoritism angle by the BigTen and especially the Ref.’s and Jim Delaney (front office) than I don’t know what is. Everyone please convey this directly or indirectly to the team! This is ultra-important given the stakes today and it is ultra-important for Beilein to work the Ref.’s (preemptively and reactively) and especially to fight for his team like he has never done before and like their is no tomorrow. Also, the team needs to be emotionally and spiritually and physically tough right out of the gate (and have an even keel for the entire game [not get too high, but not get too low -- either] at all times). This is what Wisconsin didn’t do in the first half. Also Robert white, Remember Michigan State beat Wisconsin 4 times in one season (1999-00 [twice regular season, once in the Big Ten tournament, once in the NCAA Tournament); Indiana beat Michigan 3 times in one season (1975-76 [twice in the regular season and once in the NCAA tournament]); Ohio State had beaten Michigan three times in one season multiptle times (2001-02, 2006-07, 2010-11 [twice in the regular season and once in the BigTen Tournament]); we have beaten Minnesota 3 times in one season (2006-07 [twice in the regular season and once in the BigTen Tournament]). Bottom line, Robert White, it can be done (Michigan State is not invincible!)!