While the Super Bowl will get most of the coverage Sunday, there are games outside of the big game that are on the schedule. One of which is Michigan State (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) hosting instate rival Michigan (13-8, 6-3 Big Ten) Sunday afternoon in East Lansing, MI at 1 p.m.
It is true, this game does not have the same appeal as it has in years past, as both teams have underachieved this season. However, it’s still worth watching before turning your attention to the Super Bowl.
For both teams, it’s like looking in a mirror, both have had a roller coaster of a season and have lacked the consistency fans have grown accustomed to and have dealt with their fair share of injuries. What makes this game interesting is, both teams are desperate for a win as their tournament hopes hang in the balance.
Just 2-2 in their last four games, Michigan State has been led primarily by guards Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice.
It was revealed that Trice has a rib that keeps popping out from an injury that he suffered earlier this week in practice. As the team’s leading scorer, Trice, isn’t going to miss one of the most anticipated games of the year.
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“I’m still breathing, so I can’t complain.” Trice said, according to Mlive.com. “Going into this game, it doesn’t matter if you have a broken leg, I’m going to fight through and just try to get the win.”
We will have to wait and see if the injury will slow Trice down but, in case it does, the Spartans will need big games from Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson.
It does not help that Denzel Valentine has shot just 25% from three in his last five games. Teammates have not lost any confidence in him and are sure he will bounce back.
For Michigan, this season has been no picnic, losing four straight to Eastern Michigan, SMU Mustangs, Arizona and the NJIT Highlanders. Since that time, the Wolverines have somewhat bounced back but still struggle with consistency like the Spartans.
They too have been bitten by the injury bug, as the Wolverines have lost leading scorer Carl LeVert for the season and have to look to others to fill the void and keep their season afloat.
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A player to watch for Michigan State is forward Branden Dawson who is averaging 12.7 points and 12.2 rebounds in his last four contest. Including grabbing 18 rebounds in the 71-51 win against Rutgers.
A player to watch for the Michigan Wolverines is sophomore guard/forward Zack Irvin. Irvin is averaging 10.5 points, rebounds and nearly two assist in his last four contest.
The team is 3-1 in their last four contest.
Neither team has a clear advantage. From their record to the way that have played this season, it tough to determine a winner, even with Michigan losing LeVert.
The winner of this game will keep their tournament hopes alive, while the other has to hope and wish they catch a break. Sunday’s game is the first of two meetings between the two. They will meet again on February 17 in Ann Arbor.
With everything being said, Michigan State defends their home court, 64-58.
Fun fact: Their last six meetings have been decided by a total of 32 points, each team has won three games during that span.