Michigan vs. Michigan State Feb. 12 Free Pick
In-state rivals headline a top-10 matchup tipping off at 9 p.m. on ESPN when #4 Michigan takes on #8 Michigan State. The home Spartans look to take sole possession of first place in the Big 10 as Indiana is idle tomorrow. Both squads are 9-2 with the Wolverines just a game behind each at 8-3. This game is being opened up with Michigan listed as one point favorites on the road in East Lansing.
Michigan is in the midst of the brutal road that is the Big-10 conference. In their last three, the Wolverines have lost at Indiana, won in overtime against Ohio State and then lost on Saturday in another overtime game at Wisconsin in a wild game that featured a half-court buzzer beater by the Badgers to send the game to overtime. This game may be as tough as any Michigan plays this season to take on Tom Izzo and a Michigan State squad on the road that has lost one of their last ten games (the only loss coming at Indiana).
For the visitors to be able to win this game they will have to dominate the perimeter with a backcourt that is arguably the best in the country. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. pose a tough matchup for any backcourt with their outside shooting ability and penetration. Burke, only a Sophomore, has been the only player in the Big-10 to score at least 15 points in every conference game this season. Hardaway has also found a reliable three-point stroke – he’s 8 for 12 in his last two. The Wolverines will need him and Burke to have above-average games in this one simply because of the experience, physicality and prestige of the Spartans’ bigs.
After a bit of a slow start to this season, Michigan State is beginning to show the country why they are a legitimate title contender when March rolls around. Tom Izzo has his team finding its stride mid-way through conference play, which is no surprise by now. Junior Keith Appling teams up with Freshman Gary Harris in the backcourt to form one of the more underrated guard combos in the nation. They should be able to keep up with Burke and Hardaway to at least make them earn everything they get. The frontline is where Sparty separates themselves from most other teams in the nation. Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are 510 lbs. of nastiness and will look to exploit the younger and more finesse frontline of Michigan. Brendan Dawson is an athletic forward who can create from just about anywhere on the floor. Its a pretty scary bunch for the home side.
The Spartans are undefeated at the Breslin Center and will look to keep it that way in front of what should be a wild atmosphere during Rivalry Week. The key to this one is the matchup of the front lines. Michigan’s bigs have the ability to step back and hit three-pointers but the Spartans’ front court love to bang and crash the offensive glass. In front of their home crowd, expect Michigan State to control the tempo and to get a little more from their second unit. It seems as if the wrong team is favored here. Should be a close one but look for the home ‘dogs to win outright and take sole possession of first place in the best conference in the country.
Free Pick: Michigan State +1