Tip: 2 PM @ Madison Square Garden
TV: CBS Sports
Age-old rivals Michigan and Michigan State will face off for the 181st time on Saturday, March 3rd, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament (seven of the team’s meetings have been vacated, so officially this is only the 174th meeting).
Michigan State enters the contest on a 13-game winning streak. Interestingly enough, the Spartans’ last loss came at home to Michigan (72-62) on January 13th. Since then, Sparty has won games over Wisconsin (thrice), Maryland, and Purdue, who is currently ranked #8 in the nation (the Boilermakers are seeded #3 in the Big Ten Tournament).
Michigan, winners of seven straight themselves, will look to carry the momentum they have generated with wins over Iowa and Nebraska into Saturday afternoon’s matchup. The Wolverines have also won both of their previous two meetings with the Spartans including a 72-62 upset victory in East Lansing earlier this season.
Michigan State players are looking forward to the possibility of redemption in the rematch.
“If Michigan wins this game, we end up playing, I definitely won't be disappointed to get another opportunity to go out there,” said Michigan State G Cassius Winston. “And I definitely myself got an opportunity to go out there and play against them. I think I dropped the ball the last game. If we play Michigan, it's going to be a big rival game for the tournament to move on to the championship, but that's the type of game you live for.”
Teammate Miles Bridges echoed Winston’s sentiment. “We'd like to prepare for both teams,” he said. “But if we play Michigan, it will be more of a pride thing as well.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo cautioned against getting caught up in the rivalry.
“You know, the rivalry is the rivalry, but I learned a long time ago that if you get caught up in that -- I don't know who is going to win this game.”
Junior F Moritz Wagner did not seem at all focused on the history between these two teams.
“I'm not trying to focus on [our previous meeting with Michigan State] too much because it doesn't mean tomorrow. We're playing in the semifinals for a Big Ten Championship. And January 13th or whatever it was doesn't mean anything tomorrow.”
Michigan G Duncan Robinson, who has shot 55% from long range since February 10th, including 53.8% from three in Michigan’s two Big Ten Tournament games, said he was looking forward to the game with in-state rival MSU.
“We're just going to enjoy [the win against Nebraska] right now and learn from it. And obviously at the same time [Michigan State is] an in-state rival, we have a lot of pride and we're going to come out and compete. And I'm sure they'll do the same.”
Leading the way for Michigan State will be the aforementioned Bridges (16.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 46.6 FG%) and Winston (12.5 PPG, 6.9 APG, 53.6 FG%, 56.5 3FG%). The Spartans are coming off a 63-60 victory over Wisconsin Thursday afternoon in which Bridges scored 20 and added 9 rebounds, and Winston dropped 17 with 5 assists.
After a shaky second round game against Iowa, the Wolverines knocked off Nebraska 77-58. In the contest against the Cornhuskers, Wagner recorded the first double-double of any player in the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. He will look to replicate his previous performance against Michigan State in which he scored 27 points, nine of which came via the trey.
It is also worth noting that Michigan senior F Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman went 5-5 from beyond the arc in the win against Nebraska after missing his only three attempt against Iowa. If Michigan wants to beat Michigan State, they will need Abdur-Rahkman to continue his sharpshooting (11-19 from three over the past three games). They will also need to stay out of foul trouble, which they managed to do successfully against Nebraska.
The semifinal matchup between the Wolverines and the Spartans is sure to be a nailbiter. So long as Michigan State shakes off their rust from their tournament opener, they should be able to capture this victory.
Prediction: Michigan State wins 65-64