First place in the Big Ten Conference is up for grabs on Saturday night when the Michigan State Spartans host the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan state beat their rival by a score of 77-70 earlier this season and would love a series sweep. Both the Spartans and Wolverines have bigger dreams in March, but a Big Ten regular-season title would be a nice prize.
Michigan State looked dead in the water after losing three straight games in February, but they have bounced back by winning six of their last seven games. The Spartans are 15-4 in the conference and 24-6 overall. Michigan has won four of the last five games to stay on pace with the Spartans with a 15-4 Big Ten record, and are 26-4 overall. Michigan State is -4.0 over Michigan in this game.
Spartans Still Missing Ward
Michigan State has dealt with adversity all season long, but none bigger than losing star center, Nick Ward. Ward was averaging 15.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game before his injury, and his absence will be felt in this game. Forward Kenny Goins has stepped up in a huge way for the Spartans, pouring in a career-high 24 points in their latest victory over Maryland. Head coach Tom Izzo still has a ton of talent inside even without Ward on the floor.
The Spartans offense has been rolling all season long thanks to point guard Cassius Winston. Winston is averaging 18.8 points and 7.6 assists per game to lead the Spartans and is one of the best shooters in the country. Izzo wants his team to play a fast, up-tempo style game, and the Spartans are averaging 79.9 points per night. Look for Michigan State to try to score before Michigan can set their defense.
Michigan Defense Bailing Out Offense
Michigan head coach John Beilein is known for having great offensive teams, but the 2018-19 Wolverines aren’t one of them. The Wolverines are averaging just over 70 points per game this season, and they don’t have a ton of scoring depth. What Michigan does extremely well though, is play terrific defense. Michigan is allowing just over 58 points per game this season, making them the third best defensive team in the country. The Wolverines will have their hands full against an explosive Michigan State team.
Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has been great for the Wolverines on offense, leading the team with 14.8 points this season. Michigan also has a trio of terrific guards in Xavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews, but they don’t have much of a bench. The Wolverines are shooting just 35 percent from the three-point line this season, but they are capable of getting hot at any time. Michigan is going to have to score to keep up with Michigan State.
Michigan State Sweeps In-State Rival
Michigan State is always one of the most dangerous teams in March, and they look like a team poised to make another deep run. The Michigan Wolverines are able to defend at a high level, but they don’t have the depth to keep up with the Spartans. Look for the veterans of Michigan State to find a way to pull away from the Wolverines and win the Big Ten Conference. Bet Michigan State -4.0 over Michigan on Saturday night.