Get your mittens ready for the Big 10 Championship Game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans. The two arch rivals were the two top teams in the Big 10 throughout the season, and now they will be squaring off with the Big 10 Championship on the line. These two teams have had the run of things lately, combining to win four of the last five Big 10 Tournament titles, and they will be out to add another trophy to their mantle on Sunday afternoon.
Michigan State got a big boost a few days ago. The Spartans had been without one of their best players for a few weeks, but Nick Ward was cleared in time for the Big 10 Tournament, and that has given this team a spark. Ward’s presence makes the frontcourt one of the best in the country. Unfortunately, Michigan is still without Joshua Langford. Langford injured his ankle back in January, and he has been declared out for the season since that time.
The Wolverines have no players on their injury report.
This is as close as it gets. Michigan State is a one-point favorite heading into its third game with Michigan this season, and the Spartans are looking to move to 3-0 against the Wolverines. The over/under in Sunday’s game is 134.5.
What’s at Stake?
This is an incredibly important game for both teams. A No. 1 seed is likely up for grabs after Gonzaga, Virginia, and Kentucky all fell short in their conference tournaments, and the winner here is probably going to end up on the No. 1 line. Right now, both teams are slotted in as No. 2 seeds according to Joe Lunardi, but the Big 10 has been so strong this year that the winner should end up as a No. 1.
Michigan has won the last two Big 10 Conference Tournaments, and they would love to make it three in a row. The Wolverines rode a conference title all the way to the National Championship Game last year, and they would love a repeat performance.
The Spartans have been the best team in the Big 10 all season long, but injuries have derailed them. They were the last Big 10 team to win a national championship, yet the fact that they have only won once under Tom Izzo is something of a sore spot.
This is the third time these teams have met this season. Michigan State won both of the prior meetings rather handily. The Spartans bested the Wolverines 77-70 in Ann Arbor on February 24, and they beat them 75-63 in East Lansing last weekend.
Michigan boasts the best defense in the country according to Ken Pomeroy, and the Wolverines are going to rely on their defense in this game and throughout the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t had much luck stopping the Spartans, even with Nick Ward injured.
The Spartans have one of the most efficient offenses in the country. Even with Langford injured, Michigan State has been able to score points with relative ease, and that’s something few teams can do. Their top four scorers are all shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the three-point line, and they are hitting 49 percent of their field goals as a team. Michigan State doesn’t turn the ball over, and that really helps as Michigan is a team that thrives off of turnovers.
For the Wolverines to pull off the upset here, they need to have a solid performance from Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikas. Matthews is the team’s leader, but Brazdeikis is probably the player with the highest upside on Michigan. Brazdeikis has done a lot of fine-tuning on the defensive end, and he is someone that can constantlygrab his own shot.
This line should be a few points higher. It is hard to beat a team three times in a season, but Michigan State should get the respect they deserve from the oddsmakers. I’ll take my chances with the Spartans to make it three straight with Nick Ward playing a big part.