INDIANAPOLIS - This is the day that that Branden Dawson has been waiting for.
The two times MSU and Michigan faced off in the regular season, the Wolverines won, and Dawson didn’t see the court.
Now, the two teams will meet for the first time ever at a neutral location and in the Big Ten tournament.
“I'm very excited to be given a chance just to play against these guys,” Dawson said. “Just sitting out watching those two games, I felt like I could have helped out a lot. I’m definitely excited, just to be out here playing with my teammates again, and we're looking forward to it.”
In both meetings this season, the Spartans looked a little flat and lacked the enthusiasm to close out the game.
Keith Appling was quick to say what Dawson can bring to the table against the Wolverines today.
“Energy,” Appling said.”His rebounding abilities. He’s hitting that midrange jumper now. He’s going to be a tough guard for them. He can guard 1-5, so he’s going to be the difference maker.”
No doubt the unanimous choice for Big Ten player of the year, Nik Stauskas is the biggest guy that MSU will need to keep at bay.
Stauskas torched the Spartans in both games this season, scoring 19 and 25 points, respectively.
Stauskas, along with Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton are four of the top ten in three-point field goal percentage. Stauskas is also No. 2 in three-pointers made, while Irvin and LeVert at ninth and tenth.
“We’ve got to try and contain their three-point shooting,” Appling said. “They’ve got a lot of different guys that can shoot the ball, so we’ve got to look to get a high hand up.”
The last time head coach tom Izzo brought his team to Indianapolis, it was for the Big Ten football championship when MSU beat Ohio State.
He said he likes being in championship environments, and even went to the Super Bowl in New York City this year just to feel what it was like.
Today, he plays for a championship of his own against one of his most hated, yet respected rivals.
“Both coaches have respect for one another,” Izzo said. “I'm not going to get into whether we like them or they like us or whatever because I always get asked that. But there's a respectful rivalry now because both teams are good and both teams are playing for a lot.”