Prediction: Wolverine win, close MSU victory lead reporters' predictions
State News basketball reporters Zach Smith and Matt Sheehan share their predictions for tonight’s game.
Is this a big game tonight? Yes. Is the Izzone going to be loud? You bet.
But will that be enough to propel the Spartans towards the win? No chance.
Michigan has found its groove ever since losing Mitch McGary, and guard Nik Stauskas is playing out of his mind.
The interesting thing to watch will be the battle between Stauskas and sophomore guard Gary Harris, who sits at No. 2 in the conference in scoring, just behind Stauskas.
Without senior forward Adreian Payne and junior forward Branden Dawson, the top two rebounders for MSU, it’s going to be hard to contain the Wolverines on the boards, and that will be MSU’s undoing.
Sure, Harris and senior guard Keith Appling can score, but can they carry a limping Spartan team past one of the hottest teams in the country? I don’t think so.
I know all three members of ESPN’s College GameDay, including U-M grad Jalen Rose, picked the Spartans to come out on top, but MSU is missing too many pieces.
Yes, this game is big, but it doesn’t matter in the long run. Last year, MSU rolled in East Lansing, yet the Wolverines were the ones in the national title game.
Appling and Payne were named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, while Stauskas was left off, and he’s going to have a season-defining game to throw his hat in the ring.
This one’s going to get ugly.
Michigan: 75 MSU: 63
If you asked me two weeks ago what would happen in tonight’s rivalry game, I would tell you “same thing as last year.”
However, with the Spartans’ two leading rebounders, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne out, it might not be a 23-point victory.
Not only is the absence of two starters going against MSU, but Michigan is suddenly one of the hottest shooting teams in the nation, knocking down 48.7 percent of its shots.
So will there be another beatdown in this year’s episode of the rivalry? No way — MSU will be fortunate to just come out on top. Lucky enough for Tom Izzo and his Spartans, they are playing in front of one of the best home courts in the nation.
Typically the Spartans have kicked off games looking lifeless, only to be revived in the second half to stay unbeaten in the Big Ten. Even Izzo said his team might be running out of luck soon if they keep up the dull effort to start the game.
But, and I don’t have to tell you this, this game is completely different. MSU will come out guns blazing and the Wolverines will be rattled playing in the most hostile atmosphere they have seen this season.
Of course home court advantage isn’t the only factor — cooling down Canada’s gift to Michigan and leading Big Ten scorer, Nik Stauskus, will undoubtedly be crucial. Yes, Dawson won’t be there to stick on him like a wet T-shirt, but Harris will be just as good as a replacement.
Michigan will keep this game close by using their advantage in the paint. With Payne out, Matt Costello, Alex Gauna and Gavin Schilling will have to try to replace the NBA prospect, and Michigan’s Jordan Morgan will make that a tough task.
Morgan’s defense prowess was highlighted down the stretch in their win against Iowa, and the trio replacing Payne is already having a tough enough time scoring as it is.
But fear not, Spartan fans, it isn’t all bad news down low. MSU averages six more rebounds than the Wolverines, who average the nation’s 239th-best rebounding figure — 33.4 boards per game.
Nonetheless, the white-out home crowd will pump the adrenaline through MSU and Harris will contain, not stop, Stauskus from going bonkers at Breslin.
MSU: 73 U-M: 70