Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines Pick
Michigan State Spartans (22-5 SU, 19-8 ATS vs. Michigan Wolverines (24-3 SU, 15-12 ATS)
When: Sunday, February 24, 2019 – 3:45 p.m. ET
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIST +4/MICH -4 (MyBookie Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 131
Last Time Out: Michigan State beat Rutgers 71-60; Michigan handled Minnesota 69-60.
Scouting the Spartans:
Something seems to have awakened in the Spartans after they got tripped up by Illinois. Since that trip to Champaign, Michigan State is 4-0 and has won three of its four by double digits, with the fourth being an eight-point win over Wisconsin. The Spartans’ closing kick was on full display against Ohio State, when they locked down the Buckeyes and held them to just 13 points in the second half to turn a six-point deficit into an 18-point win. Even as injuries have piled up, the Spartans have found answers, such as senior guard Matt McQuaid, who has scored in double figures in Michigan State’s past two games and served as a solid replacement for the injured Joshua Langford.
Scouting the Wolverines:
When Michigan plays defense as well as it did at Minnesota, it really doesn’t matter if the Wolverines aren’t scoring the basketball. They’re still going to be a major problem for their opponents. Michigan did shoot it very well from 3-point range against the Golden Gophers, but the concern for John Beilein came in the fact that the Wolverines had trouble connecting on inside shots. Michigan actually sank more 3-pointers (13) than two-point baskets (12) against Minnesota, and that’s not a long-term strategy for winning games. But at the same time, the Gophers were just 1-for-10 from beyond the arc, as Michigan gave what might have been its most complete defensive performance of the season.
Injuries. Just how much longer can Michigan State keep itself from collapsing under the weight of all of its injuries? The Spartans are already down Langford, lost Nick Ward in the Ohio State game and might now be without Kyle Ahrens as well. Tom Izzo has a deep team full of players who can step in when necessary, but even the best teams eventually fall victim to a lack of bodies if injuries pile up. Michigan State has to find a way to pull together like it has in the past four games in order to ward off Michigan.
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Michigan State will Cover if:
The Spartans can limit the Wolverines on offense. Michigan’s defense gets all of the attention, but Michigan State can play defense pretty well itself, and the Spartans are exactly the type of team that can frustrate the Wolverines by rebounding the ball and making Michigan come up empty in its possessions. Michigan’s game plan is built around tough defense and methodical offense, and when one of those two factors disappears, it’s much easier to beat the Wolverines. Michigan State has to force Michigan into zero-point possessions and follow up by making their own possession matter.
Michigan will Cover if:
The Wolverines assert themselves on defense. Michigan does this in almost every game anyway, but the Wolverines’ defense will face their biggest test here against a Michigan State offense that averages 80.2 points a game and doesn’t beat itself. Unlike North Carolina, which Michigan handled with relative ease earlier this year, Michigan State scores without playing especially fast. The Spartans are middling in terms of tempo, which is the sign of a team that takes smart shots and doesn’t try to force things. Michigan has to throw Michigan State off of its game by getting in their faces and contesting every shot. The more uncomfortable the Spartans are, the easier it will be for the Wolverines to force them into mistakes.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
I missed on Michigan earlier this week against Minnesota. I’m not going to make the same mistake a second time, not with Michigan State banged up and Michigan playing in Ann Arbor. Crisler Center has been a fortress for the Wolverines all year, and while Michigan State is the strongest opponent to come into Michigan’s arena this season, I can’t see them taking out the Wolverines at something less than full strength.
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So the pick has to be Michigan here. Michigan State’s four-game win streak is impressive, but only one of those wins came away from home, and two players who played in that contest likely won’t be playing Sunday. There’s just too much that’s questionable with the Spartans here to trust them. Give me the Wolverines.