EAST LANSING — It’s the matchup tonight that’s the easiest story line: the point guards, Keith Appling vs. Trey Burke.
It should be entertaining to watch and, like several other matchups, if one decidedly gets the best of the other, it’ll help to determine tonight’s long-awaited Michigan State-Michigan showdown at Breslin Center.
For Appling, however, this individual position battle is less about him than it is for Burke. Michigan needs Burke’s scoring and shooting. But it’s not MSU’s best matchup. And, in a sport that has a ton to do with identifying and exploiting mismatches, the Spartans need the ball in the hands of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, and then Branden Dawson and Gary Harris.
All of them, offensively, have better one-on-one matchups. And whether they win them has a ton to do with Appling and his decisions.
If Burke scores 20 and hits four 3-pointers and Appling finishes with 10 while missing 70 percent of his shots, but MSU wins, no one can say he’s been outplayed.
His role in this game is different than it is for Burke.
Several times this season, Appling has needed to take over games — and it could happen tonight again late in the game — but for most of this evening, this shouldn’t be one of those instances.
Appling has been patient running the offense, calm in big moments and wicked on the drive throughout most of this Big Ten season.
He can’t get caught up in trying to be anything more tonight. That’s not how MSU wins.
Join me tonight before the game for a live chat at 8 p.m. at Greenandwhite.com.