Spartans at Wolverines
February 23, 2014
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Michigan State (22-5 SU, 15-10 ATS) at Michigan (18-7 SU, 12-10 ATS)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Michigan -1
No. 13 Michigan State will look to continue its hot shooting on Sunday as it travels to Ann Arbor to take on No. 20 Michigan in a game that could determine the Big Ten regular season title.
These two teams squared off in East Lansing earlier in the season on Jan. 25, with the Wolverines emerging with the 80-75 upset victory, to improve to 5-2 SU (4-3 ATS) in the past seven meetings of this in-state rivalry. However, the Spartans' second leading scorer, PF Adreian Payne was out due to injury in the game. Michigan did a terrific job shooting the ball from deep in that matchup, connecting on 11-of-19 from behind the three-point line. Michigan SG Nik Stauskas finished the game with 19 points, connecting on 5-of-6 attempts from deep. SG Gary Harris did everything he could do to keep the Spartans in the game, tallying 27 points (9-of-16 FG, 4-of-6 threes) and five rebounds.
Michigan State is coming off a 94-79 victory over Purdue on Thursday night to improve to 16-10 ATS overall, 10-4 ATS in Big Ten play and a perfect 8-0 ATS on the road. The Spartans were on fire from the outside, hitting a school record 17 three-pointers. Once again, it was Harris who led the way, scoring 25 points while hitting six threes.
Michigan (12-10-1 ATS overall) will be looking to bounce back from a 75-62 home loss to No. 21 Wisconsin in its most recent game last Sunday. The Wolverines compiled only five assists on 20 baskets and could not slow down the Badgers' offense, as Wisconsin turned the ball over only two times. SG Caris LeVert had a big game on the offensive end, finishing with 25 points (5-of-6 threes) and six rebounds.
As is the case with any Tom Izzo team, Michigan State has been strong on the boards this season, ranking 46th in the nation in rebounding with 38.0 RPG. This is also a very smart and unselfish club, with an outstanding 26 assists on its 30 made shots in the romp over Purdue, and it now ranks sixth in the country in assists with 17.5 APG. The problem with the Spartans offensively is that at times they have looked incredible (87.0 PPG in past three wins), but other times have struggled (56.3 PPG in past three losses).
Defensively, MSU ranks among the top-60 Division I teams in scoring defense (65.3 PPG, 56th), steals (7.4 SPG, 53rd) and blocks (4.8 BPG, 55th). There are plenty of weapons on this team to where it should not struggle scoring the ball.
While SG Gary Harris (17.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.8 APG) was the star of the night against Purdue, PF Adreian Payne (16.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG) is playing some terrific basketball now that he's fully healthy. He played just 22 minutes in Thursday's blowout, but still finished with 23 points (4-of-8 threes) and four rebounds.
His great long-range shooting (44% threes) forces opposing big men to play defense on the perimeter, opening up driving lanes for players like Harris and PG Keith Appling (13.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.5 APG). Appling did not have a big game scoring against the Boilermakers (just one point), but he did a great job of running the team and finding the open shooters with nine assists. Appling is the key for this team and especially in this contest, as he will be matched up against Derrick Walton Jr., the freshman point guard of the Wolverines.
While SGs Nik Stauskas (16.7 PPG, 44% threes, 3.5 APG) and Caris LeVert (13.0 PPG, 40% threes, 4.5 RPG) are the best scorers on the team, the Wolverines are going to go as freshman PG Derrick Walton Jr. takes them (8.4 PPG, 39% threes, 2.9 APG). In the loss to the Badgers last Sunday, Walton went scoreless with just one assist in 33 minutes. In the first matchup against the Spartans last month, he finished with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in what was the best game of his career. For a freshman to do that at Michigan State is very impressive, and it shows the potential that Walton Jr. has.
Another guy that needs to step up for Michigan is PF Glenn Robinson III (12.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG). He is an exciting player when he is out in the open and attacking the rim, but in this game he must be a factor on the boards, as Robinson secured just one rebound in 26 meetings versus MSU last month. In that Jan. 25 meeting, the Wolverines were able to win the rebounding battle 35-29, but that was without Payne playing for the Spartans.
Michigan currently ranks 274th in the nation on the glass (32.9 RPG), but is one of the best shooting teams in the nation (47.9% FG, 25th in Div. I), while scoring 75.0 points per game (82nd in nation). If Michigan is able to win the rebounding battle again, then the Wolverines have a great chance of pulling off a rare season sweep over the Spartans.
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