Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo watches from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
- The Michigan State Spartans (14-11, 8-11 Big Ten) host the Michigan Wolverines (19-2, 14-2 Big Ten) Sunday, March 7
- The Maize and Blue beat Sparty 69-50 Thursday in Ann Arbor
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Michigan State Spartans, winners in four of their last six games to play themselves back into NCAA Tournament consideration, host the Michigan Wolverines Sunday, March 7 in East Lansing. Tip is set for 4:30 pm ET at the Breslin Center.
Tom Izzo’s squad is firmly on the bubble and fighting for its NCAA lives in this one. MSU ran an impressive, late-season gauntlet while knocking off a pair of top-five teams (Illinois and Ohio State) and sweeping Indiana. But after a road loss to Maryland, and losing to Michigan 69-50 Thursday, Sparty might need a win Sunday to secure a ticket to the Big Dance. Michigan, meanwhile, wrapped up the Big Ten title with the win over Sparty.
Now, Michigan State is a heavy home underdog to its rival in the rematch.
Michigan vs Michigan State Odds
|Michigan||-8 (-110)||-460||Ov 137 (-106)|
|Michigan State||+8 (-110)||+360||Un 137 (-116)|
Odds taken March 6 at FanDuel
Sparty Shooting Woes
After the 19-point blowout, Izzo said his team would bounce back, noting its been in this position — a lot — this season. Whether he’s right or not remains to be be seen. But Sparty’s back is firmly against the wall thanks an ugly performance at Crisler.
The Spartans never held a lead Thursday as Juwan Howard’s club simply never allowed Michigan State to have a chance, expanding its lead to as large as 28 with just over four minutes left to play.
The glaring stat was in three-point shooting — or lack thereof in the Spartans’ case. Six different Spartans attempted a shot from distance and none dropped. Michigan State finished 0-for-9 from beyond the arc, while the Maize and Blue went 7-for-16 from the perimeter. That kind of shooting effort can’t happen if Sparty wants to prove Izzo right.
Unfortunately though, this might be where MSU is at right now. It’s one of the worst offensive teams in the Big Ten, shooting just 30.4% on three-pointers (13th) and 45.2% on two-pointers (12th). Michigan, conversely, ranks in the top three in both categories.
Whatever offensive blast the Spartans enjoyed during their recent three-game win streak – where they averaged 76.7 points – it is now gone. MSU has averaged 56.3 points in its last three games
2020-21 College Basketball Conference Title Odds Tracker
For all the basketball talent that has passed through Ann Arbor, conference championships have been few and far between over the last 35 years.
Neither of Howard’s Fab Five teams — that reached the Final Four in consecutive seasons in 1992 and 1993 — won the Big Ten. And when Michigan shared the conference title in 2012 under John Beilein, it was the program’s first regular-season crown since 1986. The Wolves won the title again in 2014 — but that’s it.
So, could there be a let-down Sunday against a highly-motivated Spartan squad? Howard isn’t buying it.
While Michigan has the regular-season Big Ten title in hand, the Wolverines aren’t done yet.
“Sunday DOES matter. … The season’s not over. Our goal is to be the last team standing on the first week of April.” pic.twitter.com/ilm7iS1u2i
— TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineMag) March 5, 2021
Trying to help the Maize and Blue stave off that possibility are its two stars: Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson. Wagner scored a game-high 19 points on Thursday, while the soon-to-be conference Freshman of the Year Dickinson registered another double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
With plenty of basketball left, it seems unlikely Michigan suffers a significant let down to an inferior team.
A Lot Riding
The Spartans might need to win Sunday in order to find themselves in NCAA Tournament.
Lunardi now has Michigan State and Indiana in the first four out. Bubble battle tomorrow night in EL https://t.co/4aHTF54CXU
— Stephen Brooks (@StephenM_Brooks) March 1, 2021
Sparty won that game against IU, but then didn’t show up against Michigan two days laters. At 14-11 overall and 8-11 in Big Ten play – the program’s first sub-.500 conference mark since 1993 — there is little room for error for Izzo’s crew.
Aaron Henry was the only player that scored in double-digits Thursday, finishing with 14. If the Spartans hopes to have a shot, they need Joshua Langford and/or Rocket Watts help Henry. The duo combined to go just 5-for-18 Thursday, finishing with just 12 points.
Barring a devastating loss in the Big Ten Tournament, a win against Michigan may just be enough to catapult the Spartans into safe territory – but the Wolverines’ offense may just be too much for Michigan State to overcome.
While Michigan is clearly the better team here, the spread seems too generous against a hungry home dog.
The pick: Michigan State +9 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.