Michigan Basketball: Wolverines head to East Lansing Short-Handed

Michigan basketball rolls into East Lansing today, hoping to avenge last seasons’ drubbing at the hands of Michigan State.

Michigan State owned Michigan basketball last season.  The two teams met at the end of last season with the Spartans winning all three meetings en route to a final-four appearance. The Spartans who enter the day a perfect 3-0 in Big Ten play this season has aspirations of yet another Big Ten title in 2020.

The premier match-up to focus in on today is nothing other than the pair of point guards.  It’s sure to be must-see tv; it will be a fierce battle between Zavier Simson’s ferocious defense and Cassius Winston’s stellar offense off of the dribble.  The two senior guards are the engine that drives their respected teams.

Last season Winston took Simpson to school, averaging a whopping 21 points and nearly 9 assists during the three-game sweep.  He will be the best talent on the hardwood today, but perhaps Zavier Simpson, who’s had 6 days off to think about this, elevates himself and is prepared for the challenge.

Not setting up the excuses already, but it’s something to note entering the day.  Michigan basketball’s junior standout Isaiah Livers is not expected to play today.  Livers suffered a groin injury after converting a dunk is deemed questionable. Still, head coach Juwan Howard says Liver’s is out indefinitely, with the hopes of having him return later during the season.

Livers had been shooting an impressive 50% from beyond the arc this season.  He’s been averaging 13.6 points per game for the Wolverines.  Michigan has plenty of other scoring options, and they will play a significant role today if Michigan has any chance of beating the Spartans today.

The 12th ranked Wolverines will lean on center John Teske today, who leads Michigan with 14.4 PPG and 8.4 boards.  Michigan State is spectacular defending the three-point line, which leaves Howard to dial up plenty of looks for Teske inside.  I expect Teske needs to post a double-double today for Michigan to succeed; the 7’1 footer will need to account for 20-points.

Eli Brooks and Franz Wagner will need to score in the double digits to keep Michigan on pace with the Spartans.  With Zavier Simpson locked in on Winston, Michigan needs others to step up in Livers’ absence.

The Wolverines don’t matchup well down low against the ball-hawking Spartans lengthy big men. Xavier Tillman is a monster on the boards, as he averages 9.7 rebounds/game.  He also scores 13.5 PPG, he and Teske will be battling down low all day.  Does the issue then become who will be able to neutralize Aaron Henry or Gabe Brown?  The answer is no one.

Tom Izzo teams generally dominate the boards; this team is no exception.  Michigan needs to find a way to crash the boards and limit State’s second chances.

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Juwan Howard as a player never lost to Tom Izzo’s Spartans; he’s been excited for this all week.  Surely he’s spent extra time planning for this game.  It will be exciting to see what he’s got in store this afternoon.