Later today one of the best rivalry games in all of college basketball takes place as the #3 Michigan State Spartans host #21 Michigan Wolverines at the Breslin Center. The Spartans are 7-0 in the Big Ten while Michigan is 6-0, the only undefeated teams remaining in Big Ten conference play.
So all of this sounds like this game could have a great influence on the rest of the season, but will it really? The Spartans are without Adrian Payne and Brandon Dawson, a combined 26.2 points and 16.4 rebounds a game, while Michigan is still without last year’s star Mitch McGary.
The biggest benefit of these players being unable to play is the chance for other players to develop with extended minutes. For Michigan it is Nik Stauskas, who has taken over the Wolverine attack to make it more efficient that even last season. Michigan State will hope little used-players like Kenny Kaminski and Matt Costello can pick up some of the slack from Payne and Dawson.
So will the winner of this game actually get some sort of advantage or mental edge out of the win, outside of the boost in the Big Ten standings? I don’t think either team will look the same come March as they do now, so the match up at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on February 23 will be a more telling sign of things to come.
For a prediction on this game, I think the Spartans will be able to pull out a close victory. Michigan has played really well this season in Big Ten play, but a win over #3 Wisconsin and #10 Iowa earlier this week may leave this team drained. I’m predicting a slow start for Michigan and the Spartans coming out to a big lead early on. The Wolverines will adjust coming out of the second half, but it will be too little too late, 72-68, Spartans.