Tonight’s MSU-Michigan game is as big as it gets in terms of the rivalry.
The Wolverines and Spartans are squaring off as top 10 teams for the first time ever. It also is the first game between two 20 win teams this season.
The contest will play a significant role in the Big Ten race and in the NCAA Tournament picture. But for which team is a win more vital for tonight?
MSU is 9-2 in the Big Ten and tied for the lead with Indiana. Michigan is 8-3 and tied with Wisconsin for third in the conference.
The Spartans are at home, and protecting home court is something that the top teams in the Big Ten have been able to do. Indiana and MSU are the only teams in the top five of the Big Ten that have earned a road win over one of the leading contenders to this point. The Hoosiers beat Ohio State on the road on Sunday, while the Spartans won at Wisconsin last month.
A MSU win pushes Michigan two games off the pace in the conference and puts a big dent in the Wolverines’ title hopes.
“The main thing is we have to take advantage of our home games,” MSU guard Keith Appling said. “We want to try to win each and every home game so if we do that we feel like we’ll have a real good chance to be able to compete for that championship.”
For Michigan to win a conference title today’s game is big because this its the last opportunity to gain a road win over the Big Ten’s top contenders. The Wolverines; three losses this season have been on the road against Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin already. And the Wolverines are coming off an overtime loss to the Badgers on Saturday.
But with Michigan having a more favorable schedule the remainder of the season, does that make today even more of a must-win for MSU? The Spartans still have road games at Ohio State and Michigan and also have games against the Badgers and Indiana looming. Michigan has all its remaining big games at home.
Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for both Michigan and MSU.
Saturday – At Nebraska
Feb. 19 – Indiana
Feb. 24 – At Ohio State
March 3 – At Michigan
March 7- Wisconsin
March 10 – Northwestern
Sunday – Penn State
Feb. 24 – Illinois
Feb. 27 – At Penn State
March 3 – MSU
March 6 – At Purdue
March 10 – Indiana
Share your thoughts here and if you haven’t given your prediction on the other thread you can do that here as well.
And here is some of our other coverage for tonight’s game
Graham Couch: U-M comparisons to MSU are premature
Looking at the eight other meetings featuring U-M and MSU as ranked teams
Grand Ledge’s Jon Horford is back healthy for Michigan, will be needed tonight
Michigan-MSU rivalry for once features two elite teams
ELITE MATCHUP AT POINT: Tonight’s matchup features two of the 12 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award (nation’s top point guard) in Appling and Michigan sophomore Trey Burke.
“I don’t really too much get into one-on-one matchups,” Appling said. “Basketball is a team sport. I’m gonna try to do whatever I can to make sure we have the best opportunity to win the game.”
When asked if he was better than Burke, Appling wasn’t biting on Monday.
“Trey Burke is a good player,” Appling said. “I try not to compare myself to others. I just want to be the best that I can be.”
Here’s a look at both guards numbers this season
Appling (6-1, 190 pounds) – 14.1 points/game, 4.1 asts/gm, 43.2 FG%, 36.8 3-pt FG% 76.0 FT%, 33.4 minutes per game
Burke (6-0, 190 pounds) - 18.2 points/game, 7.1 asts/game, 48.1 FG%, 37.1 3-pt FG%, 77.1 FT%, 34.7 minutes per game
IZZO VS. MICHIGAN: Tom Izzo is 19-11 against Michigan. Here’s how he’s fared against Wolverine coaches.
Steve Fisher – 0-4
Brian Ellerbe – 7-1
Tommy Amaker – 7-3
John Beilein – 5-3