Sluggish Sparty Will Snap Out of Funk with Rival Michigan In Town

Matthew Jordan

Friday, January 12, 2018 2:28 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 2:28 PM UTC

Sadly, blood rivals Michigan and No. 4 Michigan State are scheduled to meet just once this season, and they tip off from East Lansing at noon on Saturday.

Michigan Wolverines at No. 4 Michigan State SpartansFree NCAAB Pick: SpartansBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Perhaps I should just stick to Big Ten previews, as earlier this week I looked at the Minnesota-Northwestern game at SBR NCAAB picks, and my headline read: “Time to Fade Minnesota, Starting Wednesday at Northwestern”. I recommended the Wildcats as 4.5-point home favorites, and they slaughtered the short-handed Gophers 83-60. You are welcome!

This UM-MSU matchup from East Lansing has a noon ET tipoff Saturday and is nationally televised on Fox. Teams in the Big Ten don’t play every other conference opponent twice. That’s understandable because there are 14 teams in the conference and you can’t have 26 conference games or that would leave only a handful non-conference matchups where Power 5 teams make all their money. That said, it’s absurd that in-state rivals like Michigan and Michigan State aren’t playing twice this season barring a meeting in the Big Ten (or NCAA) Tournament.

Last season, these two played twice in just over a week. Sparty won at home 70-62 behind 15 points and 13 rebounds from star Miles Bridges, 16 points from Cassius Winston and 13 from Nick Ward. All are now sophomores and remain among the team’s best players (especially Bridges). Michigan was held to 34 percent shooting. In Ann Arbor, Michigan ended a five-game losing streak in the series with an 86-57 blowout. It equaled the Wolverines’ most lopsided win in the series since 1948. The game was over at halftime as Michigan shot 75 percent before intermission and led 55-29.

The favorite has covered four straight in this series on the NCAAB oddsboard.

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We know how @MilesBridges01 feels about this weekend.#BeatMichigan#GoGreenWearWhite pic.twitter.com/NlqtMgtCZW

— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) January 12, 2018
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Sparty Not Playing Like Title Contender

Michigan State (16-2 SU, 4-1 Big Ten, 11-7 ATS) might be hitting the midseason wall. The Spartans played terribly last Sunday in an 80-64 loss at Ohio State to fall from No. 1 in the polls. They might have actually played worse Wednesday at home in beating a putrid Rutgers team 76-72 in overtime. Sophomore guard Joshua Langford broke a 67-all tie with a 3-pointer in OT, and Winston hit six free throws in the final 30 seconds. Ward led MSU with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season.

Maybe Sparty, which blew a late eight-point lead in regulation was looking ahead to this game. Bridges, a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, didn’t even score against Rutgers until there was 7:43 left in regulation and had just 11 points. He was 3-for-10 from the field with three turnovers. That was MSU’s first close game since losing against Duke on Nov. 14, and the Spartans looked a bit tight.

"We've played two games where we haven't played as well. You know, that's one of the problems with playing good," Coach Tom Izzo said after the Rutgers game. "Maybe everybody got a little fat and sassy, as far as they think it's going to be that way."

Michigan (14-4 SU, 3-2 Big Ten, 9-6-1 ATS) surely would get into the Top 25 with an upset here. No team has a tougher schedule this week as the Wolverines hosted No. 5 Purdue on Tuesday and lost 70-69 on a late free throw. A possession call with six seconds left originally went Michigan’s way, but after a lengthy review the called was overturned. That led to the winning free throw. A Charles Matthews desperation shot from about 40 feet looked like it might go in but hit the rim.

As with pretty much all Wolverines teams under John Beilein, this is an undersized group that generally lives on the perimeter and is killed down low. A higher percentage of the Wolverines' points allowed has come from inside the paint than for any other team in Division I and they are terrible on the boards (271st national). MSU, which has covered 20 of its past 26 at home, will have a huge size advantage and that will be why it will cover on the NCAAB picks.

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