Saturday, March 30, 2013

Michigan vs. Florida Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 3 Florida
Time: 2:20PM ET
Venue: Cowboys Stadium
Records: Michigan 29-7; Florida 29-7
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.9 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (6.1 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.8 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Florida stat leaders: Points – Mike Rosario/Erik Murphy (12.6 ppg); Rebounds – Patric Young (6.3 rpg); Assists – Scottie Wilbekin (4.9 apg); Steals – Wilbekin (1.4 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W3, Florida W3
Point Spread: Florida -2.5
Prediction: I am a little surprised Florida is favored. I think Michigan has the momentum on its side with its improbable comeback against Kansas, and Florida hasn’t faced much of a difficult road to get to this game, beating a double-digit seed in every game in the tournament. Florida has been a tough team defensively, but its offense is lacking. The Gators also played in a down SEC conference while Michigan had to battle it out in the Big Ten. I think the Wolverines are more battle tested than the Gators and Michigan has the better athletes. The only way I see Michigan losing this game is if it plays into Florida’s hands with its approach on offense. I do expect the Gators to get some easy baskets along the way, but Michigan will be able to outscore the Gators as long as it takes care of the basketball and shoots reasonably well. I think Michigan gets to its first Final Four since 1993 (first recognized Final Four since 1976). Michigan 69, Florida 62

A second look at Michigan's improbable comeback over Kansas

Friday’s Sweet 16 game between Michigan and Kansas featured one of the more improbable finishes in tournament history and surely was one of the most memorable wins in the history of Michigan’s men’s basketball program.
Things got really crazy with three minutes to go in the game, Kansas leading 70-62. I went back and re-watched the game from this point. Here is what I saw, ultimately knowing the unlikely outcome.

2:52: Kansas’ Jeff Withey puts home a one-handed slam on a nice pass under the basket from Kevin Young. Kansas leads 72-62. That dunk seemed to be the final nail in Michigan’s coffin at the time.

2:25: After Tim Hardaway Jr. misses a pair of shots, including a 3-pointer, Kansas’ Elijah Johnson makes a poor decision on the other end and attacks the paint instead of slowing things down to let time run off the clock. Facing a trap from Hardaway and Trey Burke, he lobs a pass toward the top of the key to Withey, but Glenn Robinson III makes a great play to tip it away. He then tracks the ball down on the other end and slams it home in stride to make it 72-64 and give Michigan new life. It was one of a few key plays down the stretch from Robinson, and one of a few big mistakes from Johnson.

2:03: Johnson makes another poor decision, lazily bringing the ball up the floor after the Robinson dunk. Burke defends him hard and draws a 10-second violation. There was no reason for Johnson to allow this to happen. Two huge turnovers in less than 30 seconds for Johnson and Kansas.

1:52: Burke patiently works his way into the lane, drawing Withey to step up and get vertical. Burke passes under Withey to Mitch McGary, who finishes the easy lay-in. 72-66 Kansas. Four crucial points off the two Johnson turnovers, and those two baskets really seemed to give Michigan the momentum.

1:22: McGary called for a foul when he attempts to block a dunk attempt by Kansas’ Travis Releford. The replay shows a clean block, but it looked bad in live action. Releford hits both free throws. 74-66 Kansas.

1:14: Wasting little time, Burke hits an NBA 3-pointer over Withey to make it 74-69. Michigan with a time out after the score.

0:28.8: Michigan elects not to foul. Kansas gets a good look at the basket with Ben McLemore getting inside the paint, but he misses the off-balanced shot. Jordan Morgan rebounds it and gets it to Burke, who make a great down-court pass to Hardaway, who is wide open on the wing for 3. Hardaway misses again, but in a scramble for the rebound, Robinson gets it and hits a tough reverse lay-in to make it 74-71. Beilein uses his final time out. Robinson again comes up with a big hustle play.

0:21.0: Caris LeVert fouls Johnson. He hits both free throws in a 1&1 situation. 76-71 Kansas.

0:14.0: With Withey not on the floor, Burke quickly attacks the lane and gets a lay-in, 76-73. Michigan then quickly fouls Johnson again.

0:12.6: Johnson misses the first of a 1&1. Hardaway boards and gets it to Burke, which leads to…..

0:04.2: Burke hits drains an amazing 3-pointer, nearly halfway between half court and the 3-point line. We all knew Burke had range, but this shot is incredible. Game tied 76-76. Kansas takes a time out. Young nearly gets a piece of the shot on replay. Kansas really couldn’t have done anything short of fouling Burke before the shot, but I don’t think anyone expected him to launch it from there with 5 seconds left on the clock. That shot will go down in Michigan history. If the Wolverines go on to win a national title, that shot will be the equivalent of the Tayshaun Prince block of Reggie Miller in the Pistons’ 2004 run to the championship.

0:00: Naadir Tharpe misses a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Tharpe had a great look as LeVert oddly playing very far off him. It could have cost Michigan the game. You’d like to see a player challenge defensively and at least make Tharpe take an off-balanced shot. I understand the concern about fouling, but he gave Tharpe far too much room.


4:30: Young gets an easy lay-in under the basket. Robinson tried to double up Withey, who was already being well defended by McGary. Robinson got too aggressive and left his man open for the easy 2. 78-76 Kansas.

4:01: Burke hits another NBA 3-pointer at the top of the key. Withey doesn’t step out at all to challenge and Burke is on another planet right now. 79-78 Michigan. First lead for the Wolverines since it was 9-8.

3:47: Releford hits two free throws after a blocking foul. Kansas regains the lead, 80-79.

3:20: Burke does it again, dribbling down McLemore before hitting a long 2 in his face. Nothing but net. Michigan leads, 81-80. Kansas just can’t do anything to stop him at this point.

2:34: After Nik Stauskas misses a wide-open 3-pointer on the baseline, Kansas runs the floor and Young gets a lay-in in transition. Kansas 82-81. It was the final lead for the Jayhawks.

2:15: McGary hits a tough turnaround jumper on the baseline with Withey in his face. One of the better shots I have seen McGary hit. Michigan leads 83-82.

1:04: Burke attempts a one-handed runner that goes long. Withey has the rebounding position, but Robinson again comes up big, tipping the ball out of Withey’s hands. McGary collects it for a quick lay-in. Michigan leads 85-82. Kansas calls a time out.

0:52.1: Robinson comes up big once again. Johnson tries to pass behind himself again and Robinson gets his long arm on the ball and gets fouled before he can breakaway for an easy 2. In a big moment, Robinson hits both free throws to close out the scoring for Michigan. Wolverines lead 87-82.

0:45.0: Johnson hits a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Michigan leads 87-85. Good shot coming off a screen.

0:09.4: Burke unable to put the game away, as Withey gets a piece of his runner. The shot clock expires during a scramble. After a lengthy video review, Kansas gets the ball with 9.4 left.

0:00.0: Johnson goes coast-to-coast and drives to the baseline. It looks like he could have taken a runner from an odd angle to tie the game, but had Morgan following behind him for a possible block. Johnson instead wildly kicks the ball out to Tharpe, who has to throw up a contested one-legged 3-point shot that hits hard off the glass and misses. Michigan wins, 87-85.

There were so many big moments in this final 8 minutes of play. Obviously McGary had a great game and Burke had a legendary second half and overtime, but Robinson III deserves a lot of credit in the comeback. He had a rough game defensively and was out-muscled a number of times by Kansas players, but he came through in a big way. Without his hustle plays, Burke never gets a chance to become a legend.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Michigan State vs. Duke Breakdown & Prediction

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke
Time: 9:37 p.m.
Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium
Records: Michigan State 27-8; Duke 29-5
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.3 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.5 rpg); Assists – Appling (3.4 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.6 spg).
Duke stat leaders: Points – Seth Curry (17.3 ppg); Rebounds – Mason Plumlee (10.0 rpg); Assists – Quinn Cook (5.4 apg); Steals – Cook (1.5 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State W2, Duke W2
Point Spread: Duke -2.5
Prediction: This game certainly feels bigger than a Sweet 16 contest. Two of the most successful programs in college basketball, with two of the best coaches, meeting up tonight. There is no question that Michigan State can win this game. Duke is good, but I don’t think the Blue Devils are any better than the Spartans on paper. MSU matches up well with Duke in my opinion. I think the Spartans have the bodies to keep Mason Plumlee from controlling the paint, and I think they have the athletic guards and forwards to pose problems for Seth Curry. If Michigan State makes a commitment to defending the perimeter, it should win this game. Part of this game will be determined by how well Duke shoots. The Blue Devils haven’t been lighting it up from 3-point land as of late, but can certainly get hot. I question how strong Keith Appling’s shoulder will be in this game and I am not sure if Gary Harris can continue to shoot well on the outside. This is the biggest game of Harris’ career, and the freshman could get lost in the moment. At the beginning of the tournament I picked Duke to win this game. I actually feel better about the Spartans’ chances, but I am going to stick with my original pick. I think Duke will shoot lights out and be able to fend off MSU. Duke 70, Michigan State 67.

Michigan vs. Kansas Breakdown & Prediction

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Kansas
Time: 7:37PM ET
Venue: Cowboys Stadium
Records: Michigan 28-7; Kansas 31-5
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.8 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.9 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.7 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Kansas stat leaders: Points – Ben McLemore (15.8 ppg); Rebounds – Jeff Withey (8.5 rpg); Assists – Elijah Johnson (4.7 apg); Steals – Travis Releford (1.3 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W2, Kansas W5
Point Spread: Kansas -2
Prediction: This is obviously one of the biggest games, if not the biggest, Michigan has had in quite some time. A spot in the Elite 8 is on the line and the winner of this game could easily be favored to reach the Final Four out of the South Region. Michigan looked fantastic last week at The Palace, but are the Wolverines going to be able to take that show on the road? There is no secret that Michigan struggled away from Ann Arbor toward the end of the season. Kansas will likely have the crowd support for this game and playing in a big stadium like this can sometimes impact a team’s shooting as they get accustomed to the size of the building. Michigan will need to shoot well from the outside. Kansas center Jeff Withey does a great job of defending in the post and altering shots from guards as they try to attack the lane. If Michigan isn’t able to shoot consistently well from the perimeter, I don’t think it can win. Michigan will also need to defend well. Kansas hasn’t shot that well in the first two tournament games, but the Jayhawks can get hot quickly. Ultimately I think Michigan can win, but I need the Wolverines to prove to me they can win away from home in a big game. I just get the sense that some of the young players will go AWOL again and keep Michigan from getting this victory. Kansas 72, Michigan 65

Monday, March 25, 2013

Can MSU and/or Michigan make the Final Four?

We are into the second week of the NCAA tournament and both Michigan and Michigan State are still alive.
Both the Spartans and Wolverines had an impressive weekend at The Palace of Auburn Hills, as each team won both their contests by double digits. While there were a handful of teams that looked impressive this weekend, MSU and U-M are right up there with anyone in the tournament in terms of most impressive weekend.
Now things get a little tougher.
This weekend is what separates the great programs from the good. Michigan and MSU fans should feel good about their programs reaching the Sweet 16 this season. It isn’t an easy task. Expectations for both programs at different times this season were greater than a Sweet 16, but when you look at some of the teams that failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, it is an impressive accomplishment.
But, programs are defined on Final Fours. Sure, everyone wants to win the national championship, but reaching a Final Four is often times how programs are defined.
So what is it going to take for MSU and Michigan to win twice this upcoming week?
Michigan State has the toughest road of the two teams. The Spartans start with Duke, arguably the top college basketball program in the country when you look at accomplishments over the last 20 years.
Beating Duke will be hard enough, but if MSU wins, it is possibly looking at a matchup with Louisville, the top overall seed and team that took the Spartans out of last year’s tournament.
MSU will need to be at its best this weekend. Anything less will result in a loss. The Spartans have the horses to win the Midwest region, but we haven’t quite see the team all click at the same time. Keith Appling hasn’t been his best lately, but Gary Harris had a strong weekend. Derrick Nix looked as good as he has all season, but Adreian Payne has been either great or awful. Branden Dawson still looks lost with the basketball on offense, but has played great defense.
When Payne and Nix are clicking in the paint and dominating the glass, the Spartans seem unbeatable. It seems that when Harris is off, Appling is on. If both can find their stroke at the same time, MSU will be just fine. Dawson may never get his shot and finishing around the basket down, but his defense won’t take a step back. His ability to defend all over the floor will be very important against Duke.
Michigan State will also have to make a commitment to defending the perimeter. Duke can light opponents up from 3-point land, so MSU will have to make sure to not get caught trying to trap in the paint.
When it comes to Michigan, the Wolverines have appeared to gotten their swagger back. That was something that was certainly missing from Michigan toward the end of the Big Ten season. The Wolverines didn’t look confident and didn’t play confident. That changed at The Palace.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary looked as good as they have all season, but a plus for Michigan is that Trey Burke looked about as bad as he has all season. I would expect Burke to have a much better weekend in Dallas, which will come in handy if Hardaway, McGary or Glenn Robinson III aren’t hitting their shots.
Michigan faces an interesting opponent in Kansas. The Jayhawks haven’t looked too good in their two games and have struggled on offense. They had 39 turnovers combined against Western Kentucky and North Carolina. Kansas also shot 5 for 20 from 3-point land in the two games. Despite the offensive struggles, Kansas will pose a defensive challenge to Michigan. Center Jeff Withey has been a force in the paint, averaging 3.9 blocks per game. His long wingspan allows him to get the high number of blocks and alter a lot of shots in the paint. Michigan will have issues trying to attack the paint if Withey is standing there.
Michigan proved on Saturday that it can certainly beat anyone in the country when it gets out in transition and plays downhill. I would expect coaches like Bill Self and Florida’s Billy Donovan look to slow down the Wolverines and force them into becoming a half-court offense. Teams will look to “ugly it up” against Michigan and it will be up to the Wolverines to hit shots, especially from the perimeter.
Can both Michigan and MSU reach the Final Four? Absolutely. Will they? I don’t think so. But, that is just my opinion. What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Memphis vs. Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 3 Michigan State
Time: 2:45 p.m.
Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills
Records: Memphis 31-4; Michigan State 26-8
Memphis stat leaders: Points – Joe Jackson (13.7 ppg); Rebounds – D.J. Stephens (6.7 rpg); Assists – Jackson (4.9 apg); Steals – Geron Johnson (1.8 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.6 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.4 rpg); Assists – Appling (3.5 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: Memphis W7, Michigan State W1
Point Spread: MSU -6
Prediction: I think Memphis has a pretty good team and is athletic, but I don’t think the Tigers are going to present Michigan State anything it hasn’t seen before. The Spartans will have to play smart and committed on defense, or else Memphis can pile up the points. I think the Spartans should be able to stay balanced on offense. Derrick Nix still has a size advantage on anyone Memphis has and the Spartans have more shooting options than the Tigers. I think Tom Izzo will have a few tricks up his sleeve for Josh Pastner as well. Based on the vibe I get from Pastner and Memphis, Thursday’s win was an accomplishment in itself. I don’t think the Tigers are ready to take things to another level against MSU. Michigan State 67, Memphis 60

VCU vs. Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

No. 5 VCU vs. No. 4 Michigan
Time: 12:15PM ET
Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills
Records: VCU 27-8; Michigan 27-7
VCU stat leaders: Points – Treveon Graham (15.2 ppg); Rebounds – Juvonte Reddic (8.2 rpg); Assists – Darius Theus (4.9 apg); Steals – Briante Weber (2.7 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.8 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.6 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.7 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: VCU W1, Michigan W1
Point Spread: Michigan -3.5
Prediction: I have gone back and forth on this game. I really think it should be a fantastic contest. I think VCU will pose its problems for Michigan with the aggressive press, but I also think the Wolverines will find their fair share of transition baskets thanks to their solid ball handling. Michigan will turn it over more than usual, but it will also get some good looks at the basket in the paint and from 3-point land. With the game being at The Palace, and Michigan getting the support from the crowd, I see it shooting well. The real key will be how well Michigan plays on defense and if it can keep VCU from getting high-percentage looks. In the end, I think Michigan will do just enough to win. Michigan 76, VCU 71

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday's NCAA Tournament Coverage

Click on the links to ready all of The Oakland Press' coverage from Thursday's NCAA tournament action at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Be sure to update as the night goes on.

Pat Caputo's column on how MSU used toughness to advance to Saturday's round of 32

My story on MSU center Derrick Nix and how he was able to overpower Valparaiso in the Spartans' victory.

Pat Caputo's column on how Michigan persevered in Thursday's win over South Dakota State

Column from Randy Castro on Michigan's Trey Burke and his impressive college career.

Paul Kampe's story on Michigan's supporting cast stepping up with Trey Burke having an off night.

My column on Memphis coach Josh Pastner and the importance of Thursday's win on his career.

My column on VCU and coach Shaka Smart turning the Rams into more than a one-hit wonder

Paul Kampe's news & notes from Thursday's action at The Palace

South Dakota State vs. Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

No. 13 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Michigan
Time: 7:15PM ET
Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills
Records: South Dakota State 25-9; Michigan 26-7
South Dakota State stat leaders: Points – Nate Wolters (22.7 ppg); Rebounds – Jordan Dykstra (7.9 rpg); Assists – Wolters (5.8 apg); Steals – Wolters (1.8 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (19.2 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.5 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.7 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: South Dakota State W4, Michigan L1
Point Spread: Michigan -11.5
Prediction: I think this is going to be a reasonably difficult opening game for Michigan. South Dakota State is no joke. The Jackrabbits have tremendous scoring ability and one of the top players in the entire tournament in Nate Wolters. South Dakota State is also in its second straight tournament appearance, so it won’t be overwhelmed by the environment and opponent. Despite all that, I think Michigan will win, because I think the Wolverines will be able to outscore the Jackrabbits. South Dakota State needs Wolters to give them a certain about of points, and if he can’t do that, the Jackrabbits will not be able to win. Michigan is able to survive if Trey Burke isn’t quite his usual self, as long as guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary or Glenn Robinson III step up. With Michigan being close to home and having a solid crowd behind it, I think the Wolverines will play composed and comfortable, and do enough to get the win tonight. Michigan 75, South Dakota State 68

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Valparaiso vs. Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 14 Valparaiso vs. No. 3 Michigan State
Time: 12:15 p.m.
Venue: The Palace of Auburn Hills
Records: Valparaiso 26-7; Michigan State 25-8
Valparaiso stat leaders: Points – Ryan Broekhoff (15.9 ppg); Rebounds – Broekhoff (7.3 rpg); Assists – Erik Buggs (3.7 apg); Steals – Buggs (1.5 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.6 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.5 rpg); Assists – Appling (3.5 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: Valparaiso W6, Michigan State L1
Point Spread: MSU -10.5
Prediction: Valpo has a senior-driven team that should play somewhat composed against Michigan State, but the Spartans have the clear talent advantage and the support of the home crowd, with the game being at The Palace. Tom Izzo will have the Spartans ready to come out strong and not overlook the Crusaders. With it being tournament time, I expect Michigan State to hit a new gear and start to look like a championship-caliber team more consistently. Michigan State 68, Valparaiso 56

Wednesday's NCAA Tournament coverage

Update throughout the day for Oakland Press' coverage of the NCAA Tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Story looking ahead to the Valpo-MSU game, including video of MSU's practice

Story looking ahead to South Dakota State-Michigan including video of U-M's practice

Michigan fans about to be introduced to South Dakota State's Nate Wolters

Pat Caputo reflects on the career of MSU coach Tom Izzo and how the program has changed through its success in the NCAA Tournament

Video of a couple of nice dunks from the MSU practice

My NCAA Tournament predictions

Alright, I’ve looked at this bracket a hundred times now and still am coming up with the same reaction I had when the field was announced.
As much as this college basketball season has been wide open, and as much as I thought there would be a number of upsets, I went chalk in a lot of the regions and don’t have any double-digit seeds making it to the Sweet 16.
It was just something about the matchups. There are a lot of “good teams” in the field but none are really “elite.” When it comes to the poor seeds, I just don’t see that team that can really make a run. Bucknell and Belmont, two 11 seeds, may be your best bet for Cinderella runs, but I just couldn’t make the picks myself.
Anyway, here are my picks for each region and my championship pick.

Midwest Region
In the toughest region I have the top four seeds all reaching the Sweet 16 next weekend. I really like Saint Louis in any other region, but the Billikens are going to come up just short against Louisville.
Michigan State will give Duke a run for its money, but the Spartans haven’t always been good at defending on the perimeter. MSU has given up nearly 600 3-point attempts this season (18.1 per game), which could spell trouble against the Blue Devils with Ryan Kelly back in the lineup. Can MSU beat Duke? Certainly. But, I don’t see it happening this time around.
I then see Louisville getting the best of Duke in the regional final in a classic contest. It should go right down to the wire, but I think Louisville’s guard play and athleticism will carry it past Duke.

West Region
This is the weakest region, and thus the most wide-open region as well.
I like the top three seeds to reach the Sweet 16 along with fifth-seeded Wisconsin.
I also like the Badgers to eliminate the first No. 1 seed in Gonzaga. I think the Badgers’ defense and style of play will carry to a run to the Elite 8.
Ohio State and New Mexico should be a great contest, but I like the Lobos to advance. New Mexico has a great resume and is battle tested, more than people would think. Steve Alford has done a great job with that program.
In the regional final, I see New Mexico getting past Wisconsin in a grinder.

East Region
In this top-heavy region, I have the top four seeds in the Sweet 16. I could see the winner of Butler-Bucknell getting by Marquette, but the Golden Eagles are probably better than I give them credit for.
I have Miami advancing to the Elite 8 because I think they have the easiest road to the Elite 8 of any team. I just don’t see any other team in its half of the bracket being able to handle the Hurricanes’ size and athleticism.
I have Indiana over Syracuse in the other regional semifinal. The Hoosiers just have too much talent for this Syracuse team, which has been streaky all season long and can also be very streak in games. Indiana is the more consistent team.
When it comes to the regional final, I like Miami over Indiana. I think the Hurricanes have the bodies to be physical inside with Cody Zeller, which tends to make him less aggressive on offense and on the glass. Miami also has the athletic guards to keep up with Victor Oladipo. If the Hurricanes can guard the perimeter, they should be able to win.

South Region
Big surprise, I have chalk in the Sweet 16.
Michigan has the talent to beat Kansas, but I think the Jayhawks will be too much for the Wolverines. This game will be in Dallas and the pressure will be on. Michigan hasn’t done too well in that scenario against elite teams. Until Michigan can prove it can win these games to me, I can’t pick it to beat Kansas.
I like Florida to beat Georgetown in the other semifinal. I don’t know that I really like either team to make it this far, but they have favorable bracketing. The sixth seed (UCLA) is without one of its starters and the seventh seed (San Diego State) has been up and down all season. In the end, I think Florida will have more composure than Georgetown and get the victory. The Hoyas can be great, but they have a notorious history of struggling in the NCAA Tournament.
I then see Kansas over Florida. I think the Big 12 is more of a challenging conference than the SEC. Florida was clearly the best in the SEC, but it didn’t face a lot of great challenges during conference play. The Big 12 is overly great either, but Kansas has faced some strong non-conference teams like MSU, Ohio State and Saint Louis.

Final Four
I think New Mexico can win it all, but I think getting to the Final Four will be reward enough. Louisville got to this point last year and will be hungry to close the deal. Give me the Cardinals over the Lobos.
Miami vs. Kansas should be a tough battle. I just think the Hurricanes will get it done. Similar to New Mexico, Miami could be satisfied by just getting to this point, but the Hurricanes have a lot of seniors that I think will help keep the team focused. It has the better team on paper, and I think they will beat Kansas.
In the championship, I am going with Louisville. I feel like the Cardinals are playing the best and their experience of being in the Final Four will lead it to the championship this year. The Cardinals have the talent, like Miami, but I just can’t get myself to pick Miami’s basketball program to win a national title. I think it can go all the way, but history says go with the other team. Thus, I am picking Louisville to win it all.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Does Michigan or MSU have the tougher road to the Final Four?

Now that we have all had a day to chew on the NCAA Tournament field, it is time to start really breaking it down.

I think there isn’t much debate that Michigan State has a tough draw. The Midwest region looks to be the toughest of the four regions. What the Spartans have in their favor is that they play their first two games at the Palace, and then would have to go to Indianapolis for the regional final four.
Valparaiso poses an interesting opening challenge for the Spartans. Valpo is ranked 59th in the RPI but was 0-2 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI, falling to Saint Louis and New Mexico, both by 13 points. Valpo averages an impressive 71.7 points per game, but struggles in the rebounding department, ranking 248th in the nation at 32.9 per game.
Should MSU get past Valpo, it will likely encounter Memphis in the round of 32. The Tigers have an impressive resume, winning 30 games and sitting 14th in the RPI. Memphis went 9-4 against the RPI top 100, but 0-2 against the top 25 in the RPI. The Tigers have an up-tempo offense that could give the Spartans problems, and they also battle in the paint, ranking 39th in the nation in rebounding.
I think MSU can win both games in Detroit, partly due to the home-crowd support. The real test comes in the second weekend with the potential of having to beat Duke and Louisville to get to the Final Four. Michigan State certainly can beat both teams, but the Spartans will have to come out and play with the intensity it had when it hosted Michigan. I don’t count out Tom Izzo in the NCAA Tournament, but a Final Four appearance doesn’t seem in the cards to me.

Michigan faces an intriguing opponent in its first game, as the Wolverines play Summit League champion, South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits sit 63rd in the RPI rankings and were 4-4 against RPI top 100 teams, including a 70-65 win over New Mexico. SDSU averages 73.9 points per game and is led by one of the top players in the country, Nate Wolters, who averages 22.7 points per game. I think Michigan is okay in this game because the Wolverines have the ability to score with most teams. The Jackrabbits don’t rely on overwhelming defense and physical play to win games, which is what gives Michigan the most trouble.
The real intriguing game comes in the Round of 32 as Michigan will be matched up with VCU or Akron. VCU is the expected opponent as the No. 5 seed. The Rams are 24th in the RPI and come out of the very-competitive Atlantic 10 conference. VCU has experience of getting to the Final Four under head coach Shaka Smart. The Rams were 12-8 against top 100 RPI teams and 3-3 against Top 25 RPI teams. VCU plays a very aggressive style of basketball, averaging 78 points per game and 11.8 steals per game. The Rams force just under 20 turnovers a game for their opponents. I do think this is a matchup that could be a problem for many teams, but it should be something Michigan can handle. Trey Burke handles the ball well most games and, if Michigan can break the press of VCU, it will get a lot of high-percentage shots.
Like MSU, Michigan has the luxury of playing its first two games at the Palace, which should help settle the nerves of postseason play. I do think Michigan makes it to the second weekend of the tournament, but I see the Wolverines have trouble beating Kansas in the regional semifinal, especially against a pro-Kansas crowd in Dallas. Michigan has the talent to compete with anyone, but we haven’t seen that total team performance on the road in a big game. If Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III are able to step up, it could be a very successful tournament run for Michigan.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Immediate NCAA Tournament Overreactions

Alright, it is finally time to see the NCAA Tournament field. I am sure CBS will drag this out over the next hour. Just hit refresh to get my thoughts as the field is announced.

- Louisville named the No. 1 overall seed. I'd say it's surprising, but winning the Big East regular season and tournament title pushed it ahead of Indiana. The Cardinals will be the top seed in the Midwest Region.

Midwest Region Thoughts
- Tough draw for Oklahoma State to face Oregon in the opener as the 5-12 matchup.
- I really like Saint Louis. They will be a tough out as the No. 4 seed.
- Louisville has a tough draw with Duke as the No. 2 seed in its region. Arguably the best No. 2 paired with the top overall seed.
- MSU the No. 3 seed and playing at the Palace. The Spartans face Valpo in the opening round. No. 6 Memphis facing No. 11 Middle Tennessee & St. Mary's.
- The Spartans will have a tough game against Memphis in the second round if it holds up. That is a 30-win team out of the Conference USA. Memphis is No. 18 in the BPI rankings. The Tigers have lost to Louisville, Minnesota, VCU and Xavier.
- MSU will get its first two games at the Palace, which will help its chances, but the regional Final Four could feature Duke, Louisville and Saint Louis. That will be a tough weekend.

South Region Thoughts
- Kansas gets the top seed in the South region. Not too surprising.
- Possible Kansas-UNC matchup in the second round is intriguing.
- VCU (5) facing Akron (12) at the Palace. That will be a great contest.
- Michigan (4) faces South Dakota State (13) in the opener. SDS is the Summit League champion, which features Oakland.
- The Wolverines really dropped in seeding over the past few weeks, but was able to keep that spot at the Palace, which is big for a team that has struggled away from home.
- Michigan's game will be about Trey Burke vs. Nate Wolters. Two tremendous guards that can score a lot of points.
- VCU may not be a bad matchup for Michigan either. VCU really likes to apply defensive pressure, but Michigan has been known to take care of the ball. VCU also isn't a very big team, but it is deep.
- Overall, I feel the South is not nearly as tough as the Midwest. Kansas and Georgetown are strong, but beatable. Florida is a tough No. 3, but I feel the SEC is a weak conference this year.

East Region Thoughts
- Indiana is the top seed out East. Regional semifinals and finals are at Washington D.C.
- I feel like Indiana and Syracuse (4) have a relatively easy road to the Sweet Sixteen in this bracket.
- I have really wanted to see Indiana vs. Miami this season. The Hurricanes are the No. 2 seed in the East.
- Illinois gets the No. 7 seed in the East. The Illini meet up with No. 10 Colorado. Should be a good opening-round meeting.
- I think the East may be the easiest bracket yet. Indiana and Miami are both solid, but I don't think Syracuse and Marquette (3) have been reliable teams this season. I would argue Syracuse is tougher than Marquette, which makes things easier for Miami to get to the Elite Eight.

West Region Thoughts
- Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed, but might have a tough early meeting with Pitt (8) or Wichita State (9). Both teams are capable of giving Gonzaga all it can handle.
- Wisconsin gets the No. 5 seed. Tough draw for it as it plays Ole Miss (12). Would have thought Wisconsin played up to a No. 4 this weekend.
- Kansas State is the No. 4 seed in this region. Not too scared of the Wildcats.
- Ohio State gets the No. 2 seed in the West. It plays Iona (15).
- Notre Dame (7) has a tough game with Iowa State (10) in the opener. Iowa State has been a tough out this season.
- New Mexico is a team many don't know a ton about, but the Lobos are very strong. Ohio State-New Mexico could be the real game for the Final Four in this region.
- I have no doubt that Wisconsin could beat Gonzaga if it gets a shots at them.
- The West seems to be the weakest overall region. I question Gonzaga being the No. 1 seed. I think Ohio State and New Mexico are solid, but Kansas State is questionable to me.

My Way Too Quick Final Four Picks: Louisville, Kansas, Miami, New Mexico

Friday, March 15, 2013

Michigan State vs. Ohio State prediction for Saturday

No. 6 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Ohio State
Time: 4 p.m.
Venue: United Center
Records: Michigan State 25-7, 13-5 Big Ten; Ohio State 24-7, 13-5
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.5 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.5 rpg); Assists – Keith Appling (3.7 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.6 spg).
Ohio State stat leaders: Points – DeShaun Thomas (19.75 ppg); Rebounds – Thomas (6.1 rpg); Assists – Aaron Craft (4.5 apg); Steals – Craft (2.0 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State W3, Ohio State W6
Point Spread: even
Prediction: On paper, this is a heck of a ball game. It may end up being one on the court as well, but I think Michigan State is going to be much more fatigued than Ohio State coming into this game. The Spartans had a dog fight with Iowa. It was a physical game for the Spartans that really pushed them for the full 40 minutes. Ohio State had a much easier time with Nebraska, and was able to cruise home to a win. I think that plays a big role in this game. Ohio State is going to make Michigan State work from the opening tip, and I think that will lead to some serious fatigue in the second half. MSU is capable of winning this game, but I think Ohio State will be fresher and has been playing some very good basketball as of late. Ohio State 67, Michigan State 58

Iowa vs. Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

Iowa vs. No. 6 Michigan State
Time: 9 p.m.
Venue: United Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Iowa 21-11, 9-9 Big Ten; Michigan State 24-7, 13-5
Iowa stat leaders: Points – Roy Devyn Marble (14.3 ppg); Rebounds – Aaron White (6.1 rpg); Assists – Mike Gesell (2.9 apg); Steals – Gesell (1.2 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.5 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.5 rpg); Assists – Appling (3.7 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: Iowa W2, Michigan State W2
Point Spread: Michigan State -5.5
Prediction: Michigan State begins its Big Ten Tournament today against Iowa, which is coming off a 73-59 win over Northwestern last night. These two met just once this year, with MSU getting a 62-59 win at the Breslin. The Spartans have won five straight and nine of their last 10 against the Hawkeyes. I see MSU getting the win again today, but I think Iowa will make it a challenge. The Hawkeyes have been a tough out all season, as seven of their nine Big Ten losses have come by single digits. MSU may have to play from behind for a good portion of the game, but I see the Spartans staying composed and grinding out the victory. Michigan State 67, Iowa 61

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Michigan vs. Wisconsin Breakdown & Prediction

No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 22 Wisconsin
Time: 2:25PM ET
Venue: United Center
Records: Michigan 26-6, 12-6 Big Ten; Wisconsin 21-10, 12-6
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (19.2 ppg); Rebounds – Glenn Robinson III (5.5 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.8 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Wisconsin stat leaders: Points – Jared Berggren (11.5 ppg); Rebounds – Ryan Evans (7.5 rpg); Assists – Traevon Jackson (2.8 apg); Steals – Jackson (1.0 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W1, Wisconsin W1
Point Spread: Michigan -3
Prediction: Similar to the win over Penn State, I would expect Michigan to play a highly-motivated game against Wisconsin on Friday. The Badgers gave the Wolverines one of their toughest losses of the season in Madison. Michigan clearly has more talent than the Badgers. The only way for Wisconsin to win is to out-work the Wolverines and dominate the glass, which is possible. However, I think Michigan will build off its strong second half against Penn State and match Wisconsin’s defensive intensity. It won’t take a ton of points to beat the Badgers, so Michigan just needs to be aggressive and create open looks on the perimeter through dribble penetration. In the end, I see Michigan winning by double digits. Michigan 66, Wisconsin 55

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Penn State vs. Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

Penn State vs. No. 6 Michigan
Time: 2:25PM ET
Venue: United Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Penn State 10-20, 2-16 Big Ten; Michigan 25-6, 12-6
Penn State stat leaders: Points – Tim Frazier (16.3 ppg); Rebounds – Ross Travis (7.3 rpg); Assists – D.J. Newbill (4.1 apg); Steals – Frazier (2.3 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (19.2 ppg); Rebounds – Glenn Robinson III (5.5 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.8 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: Penn State L1, Michigan L1
Point Spread: Michigan -14.5
Prediction: Penn State has certainly played Michigan tough this season, but I see the Wolverines coming into this game with a lot of motivation for revenge. The Nittany Lions handed Michigan its most embarrassing loss of the season. Michigan will look to correct that and make a statement against Penn State. Michigan also knows the importance of picking up a few wins this week to improve its NCAA Tournament seeding. Penn State might start fast, but I ultimately look for the Wolverines to take control and win comfortably. Michigan 71, Penn State 56

My Big Ten Tournament predictions

The Big Ten Tournament is set to begin tomorrow.
I won’t ramble on here, just get right to my picks.
For this, I will just predict winners and losers. As Michigan and MSU play each game it has, I will give a score prediction on that day.
So, here are my picks, which are certain to not go well

Illinois def. Minnesota
Michigan def. Penn State
Purdue def. Nebraska
Iowa def. Northwestern

Indiana def. Illinois
Michigan def. Wisconsin
Ohio State def. Purdue
Michigan State def. Iowa

Michigan def. Indiana
Ohio State def. Michigan State

Ohio State def. Michigan

I just feel the Buckeyes are playing the best right now and will be heavily motivated this week. A run to the title will greatly improve their NCAA Tournament resume. I actually think the MSU-Ohio State winner will win the tournament, but I see Ohio State getting the nod over the Spartans.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Who is going to win the Big Ten Tournament?

It’s finally time for postseason play.
The Big Ten Tournament kicks off on Thursday and runs through Sunday at the United Center.
This year’s tournament field is as good as the Big Ten has ever had.
Though it feels like Indiana is the favorite, it feels as if any of the top 5 teams (Indiana, MSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin) could potentially win this thing. Wisconsin may be a stretch, but the Badgers have some big wins throughout the year and are capable of putting a run together.
I don’t feel that the Hoosiers are going to win this week. It seems that Indiana has the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region locked up, so it doesn’t need to really push itself to win this tournament.
The other four teams all could really use this championship. The difference between a title this week and an early exit could mean a lot for NCAA Tournament seeding and location. Michigan, MSU and Ohio State are all contending for a No. 2 seed and each have a slim chance at the fourth No. 1 seed if a lot of early upsets take placing during the week.
Wisconsin could probably make a run to a No. 3 seed if it wins the tournament.
Of the top contenders, Ohio State is the hottest team. The Buckeyes are coming in on a five-game winning streak with wins over MSU and Indiana.
Michigan State has the program pedigree to win this week, but we haven’t seen much consistent play out of the Spartans lately.
Michigan has the talent, but winning big games away from Crisler has been an issue. The Wolverines can either learn from the loss to Indiana and become a stronger team, or they can lick their wounds and continue to struggle in big games.
My pick to win the tournament will be later this week, but what is your pick to win this week?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Northwestern at Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

Northwestern at No. 10 Michigan State
Time: 6 p.m.
Venue: Breslin Center
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Northwestern 13-17, 4-13 Big Ten; Michigan State 23-7, 12-5
Northwestern stat leaders: Points – Drew Crawford (13.5 ppg); Rebounds – Jared Swopshire (6.7 rpg); Assists – Dave Sobolewski (3.9 apg); Steals – Reggie Hearn (1.2 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.4 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.6 rpg); Assists – Keith Appling (3.7 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: Northwestern L7, Michigan State W1
Point Spread: Michigan State -19.5
Prediction: Michigan State could have everything to play for tonight if Michigan takes care of business against Indiana. If the Indiana-Michigan game is close, the Spartans won’t know for sure what the Big Ten situation looks like at the tip of its game, so they should go in with the attitude that this game is for the title. Northwestern has been a mess the last month and the Wildcats are probably looking to get the regular season over with quickly. With it being senior day for MSU, I don’t see the Spartans lacking energy on the floor. They should be able to take care of business right from the start. I don’t feel comfortable saying MSU will cover this lofty spread, but I do see it winning comfortably. Michigan State 62, Northwestern 47

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Indiana at Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

No. 2 Indiana at No. 7 Michigan
Time: 4PM ET
Venue: Crisler Center
Records: Indiana 25-5, 13-4 Big Ten; Michigan 25-5, 12-5
Indiana stat leaders: Points – Cody Zeller (16.5 ppg); Rebounds – Zeller (8.0 rpg); Assists – Kevin Ferrell (4.3 apg); Steals – Victor Oladipo (2.3 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (19.1 ppg); Rebounds – Glenn Robinson III (5.5 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.9 apg); Steals – Burke (1.6 spg).
Current Streaks: Indiana L1, Michigan W2
Point Spread: Even
Prediction: I’m pretty torn on this one. Indiana has bounced back strong from all of its losses this season, but Michigan hasn’t lost yet at home. The Wolverines will need a full team effort to get this win. Michigan can’t afford to have some starters disappear as it has had in some of its road losses. Defense will be key as well. Michigan has proven it can play good defense in stretches, but it needs to make a commitment to defending against Indiana on Sunday. Ohio State showed that Indiana will back down to physical play, but the Wolverines aren’t known for throwing their weight around. Trey Burke can put his stamp on Big Ten, and maybe even National, Player of the Year honors if he leads Michigan to the win. I think he does that on Sunday. There is something about being at home that makes Michigan a tougher team, mentally and physically. It will be a grind until the end, but I think the Wolverines do a favor for MSU and Ohio State by beating the Hoosiers and creating a 4-way tie for the conference title. Michigan 70, Indiana 66

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wisconsin at Michigan State Breakdown & Prediction

No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 10 Michigan State
Time: 9 p.m.
Venue: Breslin Center
Records: Wisconsin 20-9, 11-5 Big Ten; Michigan State 22-7, 11-5
Wisconsin stat leaders: Points – Jared Berggren (11.6 ppg); Rebounds – Ryan Evans (7.6 rpg); Assists – Traevon Jackson (2.7 apg); Steals – Jackson (1.1 spg).
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Gary Harris (13.3 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.4 rpg); Assists – Keith Appling (3.8 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.7 spg).
Current Streaks: Wisconsin L1, Michigan State L3
Point Spread: Michigan State -4
Prediction: Michigan State has gotten rid of that stigma that Wisconsin had over it. The Spartans have won four straight over the Badgers and I think it will be five after tonight. Wisconsin can be a dangerous team and will challenge MSU with its defense, but the Spartans will also pose a problem defensively for Wisconsin. The Badgers don’t have enough solid outside shooting to keep pace with Michigan State’s athleticism. With MSU knowing it needs to win out to potentially get a share of the Big Ten title, I see the Spartans taking care of business. It may not be pretty, and it rarely is against Wisconsin, but MSU gets the nod. Michigan State 57, Wisconsin 50

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Michigan at Purdue Breakdown & Prediction

No. 7 Michigan at Purdue
Time: 7PM ET
Venue: Mackey Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
Records: Michigan 24-5, 11-5 Big Ten; Purdue 14-15, 7-9
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.9 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.6 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.9 apg); Steals – Ronnie Johnson (0.9 spg).
Purdue stat leaders: Points – Terone Johnson (12.9 ppg); Rebounds – A.J. Hammons (6.3 rpg); Assists – Ronnie Johnson (3.9 apg); Steals – Frazier (2.3 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan W1, Purdue W1
Point Spread: Michigan -6
Prediction: Michigan has new life with Ohio State beating Indiana in Bloomington on Tuesday night. The Wolverines should come into this game with focus and motivation. If the ability to win the Big Ten title wasn’t motivation enough, last week’s loss at Penn State should be. Michigan had a strong second half against Michigan State last Sunday, and that can be something it can build on. Purdue is coming off its biggest win of the season, winning at Wisconsin, 69-56. The Boilermakers can be a dangerous team if they shoot the ball well, but they haven’t shown much consistency in a 40-minute game throughout the season. I don’t feel good about saying Michigan should win easy, because it clearly hasn’t been at its best for a while, but I do think the Wolverines come out strong and win comfortably at Purdue. Michigan 66, Purdue 56

Monday, March 4, 2013

What kind of run will Michigan make in the NCAA Tournament?

Trying to figure out this Michigan basketball team has been difficult.
Prior to non-conference play, I would have been willing to put money on the Wolverines reaching the Final Four this season.
After the loss to Penn State, I would have put money on Michigan to lose early in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, after a grind-it-out win over Michigan State, I am not sure what to think.
I still feel like Michigan is a team that has lost its swagger. The Wolverines still have too many players that seem lost and shy away from the big moment. Ultimately, if Michigan is going to make a deep tournament run, it needs someone other than Trey Burke to step up from time to time.
The NCAA Tournament is just a few weeks away, so there is plenty of time for Michigan to alter my perception of what it will do in the Big Dance.
Sometimes it is the team that is struggling prior to the tournament that pieces it all together at the right time to make a magical run.
Sometimes when a team struggles away from home, the high-pressure of a NCAA Tournament game can be too much for it to handle.
After losing Penn State, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Michigan be one of the big first round upsets in the NCAA Tournament.
However, the talent Michigan possesses is great enough that it can make a run to the national championship.
With the Big Ten title out of the equation (I don’t see Indiana losing at home to Ohio State), the determination of a successful season for Michigan all depends on postseason play.
What are your thoughts?
Just what will Michigan do in the NCAA Tournament?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Michigan State at Michigan Breakdown & Prediction

No. 9 Michigan State at No. 4 Michigan
Time: 4 p.m.
Venue: Crisler Center
Records: Michigan State 22-6, 11-4 Big Ten; Michigan 23-5, 10-5
Michigan State stat leaders: Points – Keith Appling (13.4 ppg); Rebounds – Adreian Payne (7.3 rpg); Assists – Appling (3.8 apg); Steals – Branden Dawson (1.7 spg).
Michigan stat leaders: Points – Trey Burke (18.8 ppg); Rebounds – Mitch McGary (5.6 rpg); Assists – Burke (6.9 apg); Steals – Burke (1.4 spg).
Current Streaks: Michigan State L2, Michigan L1
Point Spread: Michigan -4
Prediction: Both teams are coming into this game a bit wounded by losses. Michigan State has suffered a pair of close losses to Indiana and Ohio State, while Michigan suffered an embarrassing loss to Penn State during the week. This win is crucial to both teams, not so much for the Big Ten race, but for NCAA Tournament seeding. Michigan has gone from being an expected No. 1 seed, to seeing a three or four seed in its future if it doesn’t get back on track. MSU still has a shot at the Big Ten Title if it wins out, and an impressive Big Ten Tournament showing could still give the Spartans a potential No. 1 seed. When it comes to Sunday’s game, I see it all coming down to toughness, both physical and mental. The Spartans dominated the toughness category in a 75-52 win over Michigan at the Breslin on Feb. 12. The Spartans dominated in all aspects of the game and took the Wolverines out mentally. Michigan had mental lapses and poor defense cost it against Penn State, and defense has been a big question mark for the Wolverines’ in their last seven games. Say what you will about talent, it doesn’t mean much if Michigan refuses to toughen up defensively. The Wolverines can’t allow MSU to control the paint like the first meeting, and Glenn Robinson III can’t check out mentally when called upon. Despite riding a two-game losing streak, Michigan State still has a clear toughness advantage over Michigan. Keith Appling had one of the worst weeks of basketball he will ever have, yet the Spartans lost two games to two ranked teams by a combined 12 points. Appling will be motivated to get out of his funk and rise to the challenge of facing off with Trey Burke. Michigan will also be up for the challenge of hosting MSU and getting payback, but I don’t see that being enough to beat the Spartans. I trust Tom Izzo over John Beilein, and Michigan has proven to wilt under pressure as of late. Unless the Wolverines shoot over 50 percent for the game, I don’t see them winning. Give me the Spartans in a season sweep. Michigan State 70, Michigan 64