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Posts Tagged ‘Spartans’

Third time’s the harm: Michigan State 69 – Michigan 55

Sunday, March 16th, 2014


MSU BTT win 3-16-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

With the Big Ten regular season title under its belt and a possible one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan faced off with Michigan State for the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday afternoon. But instead of running the table and pulling off a three-game sweep of the Spartans, Michigan was outplayed and handed a 69-55 defeat.

Nik Stauskas started the game just as he left off the previous two meetings. His first shot of the game was good for three, and after a pair of Adreian Payne free throws, Derrick Walton Jr added a three to give Michigan an early 6-2 lead. The Wolverines widened it to 9-4 before Michigan State scored 12 straight to take a 16-9 lead.

After a Michigan time out, Stauskas hit another three to stop the run, but Michigan State kept the foot on the pedal. The Spartans’ game plan was clear from the start: get the ball inside and take it to Michigan’s big men. It worked as Jordan Morgan and Jon Hoford both picked up several fouls in the first few minutes, forcing John Beilein to turn to Max Bielfeldt for major minutes.

Keith Appling made a layup to put Michigan State ahead 23-14 and Beilein received a technical foul — his second in the last four games. Travis Trice made both free throws, but Stauskas responded with a four-point play to negate the whole sequence. Michigan State took a 38-29 lead into the locker room.

The second half started out as badly as possible for Michigan as Michigan State scored eight straight and Michigan missed its first six shots. Suddenly, a nine-point halftime deficit was 17 just three minutes into the half. Morgan ended the Spartan run, but Dawson answered with a jumper of his own. Michigan was never able to get closer than ten the rest of the way and Michigan State captured its fourth ever Big Ten Tournament crown.

For the game, Michigan shot just 31.5 percent and 26.1 percent from three-point range. Michigan State, meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the field despite making just 2-of-17 from downtown. Michigan had no answer for the Spartans’ inside game without Morgan and Horford for most of the game.

Stauskas led Michigan with 17 points on just 4-of-14 shooting. He hit 3-of-5 three-pointers, but often struggled to find an open shot, especially in the second half. Walton was the only other Michigan player in double figures with 11 points, while Caris LeVert scored just seven on 2-of-10 shooting and Glenn Robinson III just six on 2-of-8 shooting.

Three Stars

***Adreian Payne***
18 points (6-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3PT, 5-of-5 FT), nine rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, two turnovers in 29 minutes

**Branden Dawson**
15 points (7-of-8 FG, 1-of-1 FT), six rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, in 24 minutes

*Gary Harris*
15 points (7-of-13 FG, 1-of-5 3PT), two rebounds, two assists, three steals, one turnover in 30 minutes

Quick Hitters:


___________________________________________________________

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 2-8 0-3 2-2 1 2 3 2 6 0 0 0 1 31
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 1-4 4-5 1 3 4 3 11 1 0 1 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-14 3-5 6-6 1 1 2 1 17 1 3 0 0 39
52 Jordan Morgan* 4-6 0-0 0-0 4 2 6 4 8 0 2 0 0 20
23 Caris LeVert* 2-10 0-4 2-3 0 1 1 0 7 4 3 0 1 34
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 11
05 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
15 Jon Horford 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 4 0 0 1 1 0 5
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
21 Zak Irvin 2-5 2-5 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 0 0 0 0 15
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-2 0-2 0-0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 13
Totals 17-54 6-23 15-16 13 15 28 15 55 7 9 3 3 200
Michigan State 27-54 2-17 13-15 14 24 38 19 69 14 10 6 7 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Michigan State

Sunday, March 16th, 2014


Michigan-Michigan State header_BTT

Michigan staved off an Ohio State comeback on Saturday afternoon to beat the Buckeyes for the first time in seven tries in Big Ten Tournament play and advance to its first championship game since 1998. Michigan State, meanwhile, held off Wisconsin to reach its fourth championship game and first since winning it in 2012. Thus, it set up a third meeting between the two intrastate rivals, but just the first ever meeting in Big Ten Tournament play.

In the Jan. 25 meeting in East Lansing, Michigan State was without the services of both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson and Michigan capitalized with a 80-75 victory. In the return meeting on Feb. 23, the Spartans had Payne back but were still without Dawson and Michigan once again pulled out the win, 79-70. This time around, with the championship on the line, Tom Izzo’s squad is healthy and out of excuses.

Can Michigan beat MSU for the third time in less than two weeks and become the seventh Big Ten team to win both the outright regular season title and the tournament championship in the same season? Or will the Spartans exact revenge for the first two matchups and steal the tournament trophy? Here are my three keys to the game:

Branden Dawson is eager to face Michigan for the first time this season and try to shut down Stauskas (Michael Conroy, AP)

Branden Dawson is eager to face Michigan for the first time this season and try to shut down Stauskas (Michael Conroy, AP)

Get off to a hot start

Michigan State is sure acting confident in the lead up to this winner-take-all battle. Izzo likened it to ‘Fourth of July on Christmas,’ whatever that means, and Gary Harris reportedly texted Zak Irvin earlier in the week, saying ‘see you on Sunday.’ The reality is they’ve lost six of the last eight meetings, so the pressure is on them.

Michigan was able to survive a big Spartan lead at the beginning of the game in Ann Arbor and come back to win, but a big Michigan State lead on Sunday will only give them more confidence. Conversely, if Michigan is able to jump out to a big lead early on it will cause the Spartans to force their play and doubts will start creeping in.

The game won’t be won or lost in the first ten minutes, but — aside from Saturday’s hot start — Michigan has had a propensity for slow starts over the last month. They can’t afford to do so on Sunday and give Michigan State the confidence it needs to take control of the game.

Make sure Stauskas gets his shots

In the first two meetings Stauskas scored a combined 44 points on 16-of-25 shooting and 8-of-11 three-point shooting. With Dawson out, Stauskas was able to get off good looks over the smaller Keith Appling. But now the 6’6″ Dawson is back and has the ability to guard Stauskas on the perimeter or make it tough for him to get open looks.

This adds a new dynamic for Michigan than the first two meetings, so expect John Beilein to have something ready to free up Stauskas or use the Canadian sharpshooter as a decoy to get open looks for others. No, Beilein doesn’t have a week to prepare for this one, but he’s shown time and again that he’s able to design effective offensive schemes.

In the first meeting Michigan State was guarding the perimeter hard and coming over the top of ball screens. In the second meeting, Beilein had the offense look for back cuts and was able to get some easy buckets. Expect something similar on Sunday.

Make free throws

It sounds like a lame key to the game, but this one is going to come down to the wire and every point will be crucial. Michigan was the Big Ten’s best free throw shooting team all season, making 76.3 percent. In the first two meetings, Michigan went a combined 42-of-55 — an identical 76.3 percent.

In Saturday’s win over Ohio State, however, Michigan wasn’t able to capitalize on its trips to the charity stripe, making just 10-of-19. Fortunately, it didn’t cost them the game, but rest assured if there’s a repeat performance on Sunday Michigan won’t win.

Prediction: Michigan 73 – Michigan State 71

Sweeping Sparty: Michigan 79 – Michigan State 70

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014


Stauskas dunk vs MSU 2-23-14(Scott Mapes, UMHoops)

In a basketball game being called one of the biggest ever in Ann Arbor, with all the marbles on the line and a clear road to the Big Ten championship at stake, Michigan and Michigan State put on a game for the ages. Back and forth they went, the Spartans jumping out to a quick double-digit lead in the first half, then the Wolverines battling back to make it a two-point halftime deficit and taking a lead themselves early in the second stanza.

All afternoon, it seemed that the game would come down to a last-second possession, but somewhere along the way, Michigan decided they wanted it more and Michigan State lost its steam.

Once the Maize and Blue clawed back from the small but tough deficits they were in to go up 50-49 with 11:18 left, Michigan State was certain to draw closer. And they did, with a Gary Harris three to re-gain the lead less than a minute later. Then Nik Stauskas answered with a three of his own, and we’d all seen the narrative before – Michigan gets over the hump, Michigan State fights back, game comes down to wire, one rival wins in heart-stopping fashion.

After all, three of the past five meetings between these bitter enemies had been decided by five points or fewer – and two by a single point.

Nik Stauskas dominated the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points (MGoBlue.com)

Nik Stauskas dominated the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points (MGoBlue.com)

Today, however, the story would follow a different path. Once Stauskas drained that three, good for his 18th, 19th, and 20th points of the day, Michigan got a stop, then two free throws from LeVert, then another stop, and another three from Stauskas to go up by seven. Michigan State called a timeout, and rightfully so with the noise of the Crisler crowd. But after the timeout, it was LeVert’s turn to continue digging the Spartan grave with a three and a dunk off a turnover to give him 21 points on the day.

When the two sophomores finally took their feet off the pedal, Michigan had already amassed a 12-point lead on the backs of the 21-4 run put on entirely by LeVert and Stauskas, and the game was over.

Sure, the clock still had seven minutes and change left, but the Spartans simply weren’t coming back.

When the clock eventually did strike zero, the scoreboard read Michigan 79, Michigan State 70. The Wolverines were back again.

This time around, Michigan State couldn’t blame the loss on two absent stars. Adreian Payne, their best player, was back in full form, and while forward Branden Dawson had to sit out again, both teams were down a starter.

It’s certainly clear now that Michigan has adjusted much better to their adversity than their counterparts in East Lansing. There have been bumps in the road to be sure, but the Maize and Blue have played through the loss of Mitch McGary in mid-December like nothing ever happened.

Stauskas, the sophomore many are calling the best player in the Big Ten, broke out of a mini slump today with spectacular team highs of 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) and five assists. LeVert, being billed as the Big Ten’s most improved, complemented his classmate’s game remarkably with 23 points (7-of-15 FG, 3-of-5 3PT) and three assists of his own. Together, the pair who played second fiddle to the likes of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and even McGary and Glenn Robinson III last season, emerged for all to see today with more than 60 percent of Michigan’s total offensive output.

LeVert, with 14 points in the first half, including a wide open, buzzer-beating, corner three that splashed net with LeVert already halfway down the court, kept Michigan alive. Stauskas, with 21 after the break, including shot after shot falling away with a hand in his face, put the nails in Michigan State’s coffin.

The pair also got a big boost from the quiet Glenn Robinson III, who finished with 15 points — 11 in the second half — on 12 shots despite missing all three of his threes and four of his seven free throws.

What stands out most about the win, however, is how Michigan completely abolished Tom Izzo’s defensive game plan and simply out-smarted the Spartans all game long. In the first half, when buckets were hard to come by, the Wolverines scored on a variety of back-cuts against an overly-aggressive defense. In the second half, Michigan drove the ball much better and started hitting their outside shots while stymying Michigan State’s attack with a 1-3-1 zone defense.

Michigan has won six of the last eight against the Spartans (MGoBlue.com)

Michigan has won six of the last eight against the Spartans (MGoBlue.com)

With a quick glance at the box score, it’s clear what the difference was: Michigan turned the ball over just three times while taking advantage of 13 Michigan State giveaways to outscore the Spartans 14-0 off of turnovers.

Postgame thoughts are often overly optimistic or pessimistic based on the very recent play of a given team, but today it seems obvious that this Michigan win will hold great weight for a long time.

With the victory, the Wolverines have complete control of their conference finish. Win the four winnable-looking games (at Purdue, home versus Minnesota,  at Illinois, home versus Indiana) left on the schedule, and the Big Ten title goes to Michigan – no splits, no shares, no ties.

The win also means that even if Michigan and Michigan State somehow play each other two more times this season – highly unlikely – and the Spartans win both (again, this is a hypothetical) no Wolverine will have a losing record against their in-state foes at the end of the season. That includes senior Jordan Morgan, who will in all likelihood finish his career with a 6-2 mark against Michigan State.

Michigan’s triumph also ensures a black mark on Michigan State seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne’s college careers – neither will ever be able to claim a victory over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

Following the momentous win, John Beilein credited his team with playing a great game against a great opponent, but noted that his Wolverines will quickly move on after celebrating tonight, because, of course, they are now only “in position to be in position.”

But he didn’t leave the press room before making a statement that just about everyone already realized.

“Michigan is back in so many ways.”

Indeed.

Three Stars:

***Nik Stauskas***
25 points (9-of-13 FG, 3-of-5 3PT, 4-of-6 FT), three rebounds, five assists, two turnovers in 37 minutes

**Caris LeVert**
23 points (7-of-15 FG, 3-of-5 3PT, 6-of-8 FT), three rebounds, three assists, one steal in 39 minutes

*Gary Harris*
21 points (7-of-17 FG, 4-of-13 3PT, 3-of-3 FT), one rebound, four assists, one steal, three turnovers in 39 minutes

Quick Hitters:


 Crisler Center was perhaps as loud as it has ever been today with 3,000 students in the house and a crowd that had less green in this rivalry game than ever before. Jordan Morgan appreciated the boost, saying, “Our fans were great…we gotta give them a lot of credit. They made it a great atmosphere to play in, and I’m sure they made a huge difference in the outcome today.”

 For the fifth consecutive year, Michigan’s Maize Rage teamed up with the Dance Team to put on the show dubbed “Dance Rage.” While Dance Rage previously took place as the main halftime attraction, the entertainment has disappointingly been moved to a timeout in the second half for the past three seasons. Today’s halftime show instead was a no-name magician who received very little attention.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 6-12 0-3 3-7 2 3 5 1 15 1 0 0 0 38
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-5 1-3 2-2 1 3 4 3 5 3 0 0 2 28
11 Nik Stauskas* 9-13 3-5 4-6 0 3 3 0 25 5 2 0 0 37
52 Jordan Morgan* 1-2 0-0 2-2 0 2 2 4 4 0 0 0 0 22
23 Caris LeVert* 7-15 3-5 6-8 0 3 3 2 23 3 0 0 1 39
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 1-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 2 0 0 1 13
15 Jon Horford 1-1 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 5 2 1 0 0 0 16
21 Zak Irvin 1-3 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 17
Totals 27-54 8-19 17-25 7 17 24 18 79 15 3 0 5 200
Michigan State 26-48 9-23 9-15 7 24 31 23 70 13 13 2 1 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Michigan State

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014


Michigan-MSU header

There are a few games in every college basketball team’s season that are remembered years down the line. Oftentimes those aren’t the blowout wins or brutal losses that set off fan firestorms in their immediate aftermath, but rather the close, season-defining wins and losses over rivals – games that determine conference finishes or tournament outcomes.

For Michigan fans, games like the home Indiana loss of last year and the Evan Turner buzzer-beater in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament still sting, while the wins against Duke and UCLA in 2008 and the nail-biter triumph over Michigan State last season will live on in Wolverine lore forever.

Tomorrow’s showdown with the Spartans (12 p.m. on CBS) has all the makings of one of those matchups that will be remembered for years to come. Not only are the teams fierce rivals who are competing for the upper hand in the Big Ten title race this season. Michigan and Michigan State are also fighting for tournament seeding, rivalry respect on the level of Duke-North Carolina, and perhaps more than anything else, pure bragging rights.

The Wolverines, winners of five of the last seven against the Spartans, will look to sweep the season series while also battling to protect home court and to avenge their loss to Wisconsin just one week ago. Here’s what they will have to do to avoid back-to-back losses for just the third time in three years.

Contain Payne: In Michigan’s 80-75 victory at Michigan State almost exactly one month ago, Spartan senior star Adreian Payne was unable to play due to the plantar fasciitis he’s been dealing with nearly all year long. Tomorrow, that won’t be the case. After sitting out for seven straight games in January and early February, Payne has come back with a vengeance in the twilight of his college career without missing a beat.

Adreian Payne missed the first meeting but has averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in five games since (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

Adreian Payne missed the first meeting but has averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in five games since (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

In Michigan State’s last five game, of which the Spartans have won only three times, Payne has been dominant both inside and out, averaging 18 points and nearly seven boards while making 54.2 percent of his shots from the floor and 44.4 percent of his triples (8-of-18). What’s even more impressive is the fact that Payne has done all this damage while playing fewer than 27 minutes per game in that stretch.

For Michigan, team defense as a whole has been a concern lately, but their collapse inside against Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky was particularly eye-opening. Kaminsky, a seven-footer with range stretching beyond the three-point line, is very similar to Payne but with less athleticism, a little more height, and a much slower first step. He simply pounded Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford like pieces of meat to the tune of 25 points (11-of-16 FG, 1-of-2 3PT) and 11 rebounds a week ago.

Last year at Crisler, Payne was a terror himself, amassing 17 points (6-of-11 FG, 2-of-5 3PT) and 11 rebounds in Michigan’s one-point win.

The problem for the Wolverines, and for just about every team facing off with Payne and his Spartans for that matter, is essentially that there is no clear idea of who should defend the beast inside. Morgan gives up a lot of size to Payne and was exposed big time on the dribble-drive against Kaminsky, while Horford lacks the strength to consistently body up Payne in the paint and is not quick laterally either. Glenn Robinson III has the athleticism to compete with Payne, but he’s also shown a complete inability to defend any post-up attempt in the past and would stand no chance in a one-on-one matchup.

I think John Beilein will go with a strategy we’ve often seen in the past against dominant big men like Jared Sullinger and Payne himself by doubling down any time Payne touches the ball inside, rotating the defense, and hoping he can’t find the open man on the perimeter. On the outside, Morgan and Horford need to do their best to hedge screens and quickly get back to Payne or else simply hope that his shot isn’t on.

With no Branden Dawson to worry about again tomorrow, Michigan needs to focus all of their rebounding efforts on keeping Payne off the glass and preventing his rim-shaking put-backs.

Get Stauskas Going: Nik Stauskas, Michigan’s offensive superstar who was shooting up NBA draft boards after scoring double-digit points in 12 straight contests in December and January, has been disappearing far too often lately as teams continue to try to limit his touches. Rather than getting more active and running his man around screens every time down the court, however, Stauskas has largely been content to camp out in his corner starting spot while watching his teammates go to work. That strategy is going to need some re-thinking if the Maize and Blue are to pull out a win tomorrow.

Nik Stauskas has been held to just 11.2 points in his last four games (MGoBlue.com)

Nik Stauskas has been held to just 11.2 points in his last four games, but scored 19 in the first meeting with MSU (MGoBlue.com)

Since putting on a show with 19 points on some hot three-point shooting over Michigan State (5-of-6 from deep, 2-of-6 inside the arc), Michigan’s Canadian marksman has struggled mightily on offense while becoming more and more the focal point of opponents’ defensive plans, averaging just 11.2 points (versus 16.7 ppg on the season), 2.3 assists (3.5), and 3.2 turnovers (1.9) per game over the Wolverines’ past six games. In that same stretch of games, Stauskas has also shot the ball less (7.5 FGA versus 10 on the season and 3.2 3PTA vs. 5.2) and worse (46.2 percent on twos vs. 52.6 percent on the season and 31.6 percent on threes vs. 44 percent).

In Stauskas’s stead, Caris LeVert has had to pick up the slack and lead the team, but Michigan is just not the same offensive juggernaut without Stauskas. In fact, while Michigan has gone 2-2 over their last four games, Stauskas has been the team’s fourth leading scorer behind LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, and Zak Irvin. Tomorrow, Michigan needs to get Stauskas the ball in good spots early on to give him open shots from outside or a nice lane from which to drive and dish, score, or get fouled. If Stauskas reaches his season average of 16 and gets to the line 10 times tomorrow afternoon, I think Michigan wins.

Win the Fast Break: Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State has always been a team that likes to dictate tempo, and not surprisingly, Michigan does the same very well with John Beilein’s philosophies, but the teams play a little bit differently. The Spartans are generally more content to play a faster game and run off of makes or misses while Michigan generally likes to slow things down defensively and run only off turnovers and missed shots.

Recently, Michigan’s turnover woes have led to losing the fast break battle, and if the same happens tomorrow, Michigan State will quite literally run away with things. Two weekends ago against Iowa, Michigan allowed 17 fast-break points on 12 turnovers. Overall, the Wolverines have coughed it up at least nine times in nine straight games.

Look for Michigan to be particularly careful with the ball tomorrow and in getting back in transition against Spartan guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris and big men Payne and Matt Costello. The Wolverines can win making shots and letting Michigan State collect defensive rebounds off their misses, but they’ll be hard-pressed to pull out a victory with the Spartans effectively getting into the lane on the run.

Prediction: This Big Ten season has seen more road wins across the conference than any that I can remember, but Michigan has generally been an excellent home team under Beilein and has won three straight in Ann Arbor over their in-state foe. As previously mentioned, Michigan has lost back-to-back games only twice in the last three seasons (including this one), but has not lost back-to-back home games since January of 2011. I expect that trend to continue tomorrow as Stauskas regains his form and Glenn Robinson III is the surprise star against a Michigan State squad that doesn’t have anyone to match up with him defensively. Michigan wins and takes control of the Big Ten once again with a 77-71 win.

Inside the Numbers: The golden age of the Michigan – Michigan State rivalry

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014


Burke steal

Michigan does not like Michigan State. Michigan State does not like Michigan.

This is no secret.

Those who have participated in the heated rivalry on the hardwood in recent years have made that very clear. Former U-M point guard Darius Morris told former MSU guard Kalin Lucas to “get the f*** off my court” after a Michigan win in Ann Arbor three years ago. U-M guard Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd moments after the Wolverines toppled MSU just last month. And MSU head coach Tom Izzo summed it up best in January 2012 when he told the press, “Do I like [Michigan]? Not one bit. I don’t like anything about Michigan and they don’t like anything about us, and that’s the way it should be.”

However, do not let the conduct that transpires before the tip and after the buzzer fool you into thinking that this intrastate rivalry has always been one of the best. For a rivalry to be at its best, both rivals must frequently sport top-notch teams, competing against one another with championships at stake year after year. This is not an apt description of the Michigan-Michigan State basketball rivalry prior to 2012.

This is never clearer than when one realizes how infrequently both Michigan and Michigan State have been ranked in the Associated Press poll in their matchups. Generally, when a team is ranked in the AP poll, it is one of the best teams in the nation. Therefore, rivalry games are more significant and anticipated when both rivals are ranked in the AP poll. Yet, of the 113 meetings between U-M and MSU from January 20, 1949 — the date the first AP poll was released — to the end of the 2011 season, both the Wolverines and Spartans were ranked in only six.

Michigan-Michigan State Games With Both Teams Ranked in AP Poll – Prior to 2012

Date

Home Team

Road Team

Winner

Feb. 20, 1986

#7 Michigan

#19 Michigan State

MSU, 74-59

Mar. 1, 1990

#14 Michigan State

#8 Michigan

MSU, 78-70

Jan. 29, 1992

#13 Michigan State

#15 Michigan

U-M, 89-79 (OT)

Feb. 15, 1992

#17 Michigan

#12 Michigan State

MSU, 70-59

Feb. 2, 1993

#25 Michigan State

#7 Michigan

U-M, 73-69

Feb. 17, 1998

#14 Michigan State

#22 Michigan

MSU, 80-75

It was not until 37 years after the very first AP poll was released when Michigan and Michigan State squared off against each other as ranked teams. U-M and MSU went toe-to-toe 64 times during that prolonged span. Although the AP poll did not expand to 25 teams until the 1990 season, this is an extraordinary amount of basketball played between two teams without one marquee matchup.

It does not mean, however, that both U-M and MSU were bottom-dwellers throughout those four decades. Both programs had fantastic seasons during those years. The Wolverines were in the AP Top 10 for eight of their 64 contests with MSU. The Spartans were in the AP Top 10 for five of those 64 meetings. It just so happened that neither school managed to be one of the best in college hoops the same season as the other.

Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd after Michigan's 80-75 win on Jan. 25

Nik Stauskas blew kisses to the Breslin Center crowd after Michigan’s 80-75 win on Jan. 25

This changed slightly after U-M and MSU’s first matchup in which both teams were ranked in 1986. Over the course of the next dozen years, Michigan and Michigan State went head to head five more times as members of the AP Top 25. The rivalry hit its high note when U-M’s touted “Fab Five” recruiting class stepped on campus. Both teams were ranked for the Fab Five’s first three showdowns with the Spartans in 1992 and 1993. It seemed like the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was on the verge of something special.

But it did not materialize. By the end of the century, because of the sanctions imposed due to the Ed Martin scandal, Michigan basketball was a shell of its former self and fell off the proverbial map. From 1999 to 2011, U-M and MSU faced off 22 times. Michigan was not ranked once in any of those contests. As a result, perception of the rivalry suffered, having little appeal outside the footprint of the Big Ten. The rivalry seemed destined to be forever overshadowed by the likes of Duke-North Carolina, Kentucky-Louisville, and Syracuse-Georgetown.

Rankings are not the only metric that tells this same tale. The Big Ten standings tell it, too. Rivalries are at their best when both rivals are in the hunt for conference and national titles. More is on the line. Win, and you celebrate a championship at the expense of the team you most like to see miserable. Lose, and you suffer, wondering how your team came so far only to allow the team you like the least snatch success from your team’s grasp.

The Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry is perfect example. Fans of U-M, OSU, and college football in general consider this prestigious rivalry’s best era to be the Ten Year War. Why? Because the outcome of “The Game” crowned the Big Ten champion nine of those 10 seasons. Until 2012, the Michigan-Michigan State hoops rivalry had nothing resembling that sort of an era.

Seasons In Which Both Michigan and Michigan State Finished in Big Ten Top 3 – Prior to 2012

Season

Michigan’s Finish (Record)

MSU’s Finish (Record)

1959

t-2nd (8-6)

1st (12-2)

1966

1st (11-3)

2nd (10-4)

1986

1st (14-4)

3rd (12-6)

1990

3rd (12-6)

1st (15-3)

1992

t-3rd (11-7)

t-3rd (11-7)

1995

3rd (11-7)

2nd (14-4)

2003

t-3rd (10-6)

t-3rd (10-6)

Michigan State basketball joined the Big Ten in 1951. In the 61 seasons played from 1951 to 2011, Michigan and Michigan State both finished in the top three in the Big Ten standings only seven times. That is it. To contrast, in 58 seasons of ACC basketball from 1954 to 2011, Duke and North Carolina both finished no worse than third place in their conference 34 times. Additionally, prior to 2012, U-M and MSU secured the two best spots in the conference standings in the same season just twice. The more recent of these two occurrences happened almost a half-century ago. No matter how one tries to break these numbers down, the same conclusion will be reached: the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was irrelevant nationally and not very prestigious.

However, the key word in that last sentence is “was.” No longer can anyone make the claim that this rivalry is not prestigious. It has changed dramatically in the past three seasons. Izzo has continued to lead MSU to successful season after successful season, but Michigan finally burst back onto the national scene under the direction of head coach John Beilein. In just a few short years, the Wolverines have transformed from a program trying to eke its way into the NCAA Tournament into a program that won a share of a conference title in 2012 and appeared in the national championship game the following season.

As a result, for the first time in the history of the rivalry, Michigan and Michigan State both have been two of the best college basketball programs. Want proof? Let’s once again look at U-M and MSU’s ranks in the AP poll when they compete against one another, but only at their ranked matchups since 2011 this time.

Michigan-Michigan State Games With Both Teams Ranked in AP Poll – Since 2011

Date

Home Team

Road Team

Winner

Jan. 17, 2012

#20 Michigan

#9 Michigan State

U-M, 60-59

Feb. 5, 2012

#9 Michigan State

#23 Michigan

MSU, 64-54

Feb. 12, 2013

#8 Michigan State

#4 Michigan

MSU, 75-52

Mar. 3, 2013

#4 Michigan

#9 Michigan State

U-M, 58-57

Jan. 25, 2014

#3 Michigan State

#21 Michigan

U-M, 80-75

In the past three seasons, all five games between the Wolverines and the Spartans have featured two teams ranked in the AP Top 25. In fact, U-M and MSU both were ranked in the AP Top 10 for two of those for the first time in the rivalry’s history. Do not forget that the Wolverines and Spartans both were ranked in only six games played against each other from 1949 to 2011. With MSU at No. 13 and U-M at No. 20 in this week’s AP poll, they will do it for the sixth straight meeting this Sunday at the Crisler Center. Simply, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has never been better.

This is why this Sunday’s showdown in Ann Arbor between Michigan and Michigan State will be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry. Sounds crazy, but it is not. The fans agree with this notion, too. The average price on the secondary market for this week’s game is $269, which is the highest for any Michigan basketball home game. Ever. And here is why:

Beilein and Izzo (Tony Ding, AP)

When Beilein and Izzo square off on Sunday it will be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry (Tony Ding, AP)

Currently, Michigan and Michigan State are tied atop the Big Ten standings with 10-3 records, sitting 1.5 games ahead of third-place Iowa. Given Iowa’s difficult remaining schedule, there is only an outside shot that the Hawkeyes make a push for the Big Ten championship, so this is very likely a two-horse race between the two hated rivals.

But this is the biggest game in the rivalry because never before have Michigan and Michigan State been the two clear leaders in the Big Ten race, within one game of each other, this late in conference play with a meeting on the horizon. Only three times before have both Michigan and Michigan State finished in the top two of the Big Ten. In 1959, the Spartans were the runaway champion, besting second-place Michigan by four games. In 1966, the Wolverines clinched the title before their only meeting with MSU in the finale. And, in 2012, U-M shared the crown with Michigan State and Ohio State only because MSU blew a two-game lead in the final week.

This is different. This game will have more of a combined impact on these two programs’ championship hopes than any prior meeting between the two rivals. Because MSU faces Purdue tomorrow, while U-M has a midweek bye, the Spartans will either be a half-game ahead or behind U-M come Sunday. Therefore, not only will the winner on Sunday be in sole possession of first place, the winner also may have a 1.5-game cushion with no more than four games remaining. The winner between Michigan and Michigan State — two rivals in the midst of the best stretch of their rivalry’s history — will be propelled into the driver seat in this Big Ten race and may never look back.

So this Sunday, if Stauskas starts chirping towards the Michigan State bench or the Spartans start slapping the floor on every defensive possession, know that they are no longer doing it just because they are rivals 64 miles apart that do not like each other. They are doing it because they know that their regular-season goal — to win the Big Ten championship — is on the line and likely will be decided by the game’s outcome. And that is wonderful, albeit heart-wrenching, feeling because it means that Michigan-Michigan State basketball rivalry is finally where it belongs: at the top.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 6 – Friday edition

Friday, February 14th, 2014


1. Michigan (18-6, 10-2)  Even
Last week: Feb. 5 W vs Nebraska 79-50, Feb. 8 L at Iowa 67-85
This week: Tuesday W at #22 Ohio State 70-60, Sunday vs #21 Wisconsin 1pm CBS

Michigan needed to stop the bleeding after a drubbing in Iowa resulted in its second loss in three games. The team that won 10 games in a row showed up in the second half in Columbus, leading Michigan to its first win there since 2003 and putting the Wolverines back atop the Big Ten standings.

2. Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) • Even
Last week: Feb. 6 W vs Penn State 82-67, Feb. 9 L at Wisconsin 58-60
This week: Thursday W vs Northwestern 85-70, Sunday vs Nebraska 3pm

The Spartans are mired in a tough stretch in which they had lost three of their  last five games. Last night’s win over Northwestern and upcoming games against Nebraska and Purdue should provide an opportunity to get back on track before the big showdown in Ann Arbor on February 23.

3. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5) • Up 7
Last week: Feb. 4 W at Illinois 75-63, Feb. 9 W vs #9 Michigan State 60-58
This week: Thursday W vs Minnesota 78-70, Sunday at #15 Michigan 1pm CBS

Although a win over Illinois ended a streak of five losses in six games for the Badgers, beating first-place Michigan State hinted at a possible return of the Wisconsin that started the season ranked in the top 10.

4. Iowa (18-6, 7-4) • Even
Last week: Feb. 4 L vs Ohio State 69-76, Feb. 8 W vs #10 Michigan 85-67
This week: Saturday at Penn State 1pm ESPNU

In its last six games, Iowa has rotated between wins and losses, making it difficult to gain any ground in the Big Ten standings. Its inconsistency was nowhere to be found on Saturday, though, as it dominated Michigan on national television.

5. Nebraska (13-10, 5-6) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 L at #10 Michigan 50-79, Feb. 8 W at Northwestern 53-49
This week: Wednesday W vs Illinois 67-58, Sunday at #9 Michigan State 3pm BTN

Tim Miles’s team finally picked up a road win last Saturday with a win over the streaking Wildcats in Evanston. Nebraska continues to protect its home court, moving to 11-1 with its second straight win on Wednesday night.

6. Ohio State (19-6, 6-6) • Up 2
Last week: Feb. 4 W at #17 Iowa 76-69, Feb. 8 W vs Purdue 67-49
This week: Tuesday L to #15 Michigan 60-70, Saturday at Illinois 8pm BTN

Just when Aaron Craft and his crew began to look like the preseason top 10 team they were four months ago, Michigan went into Columbus and won for the first time since 2003. Ohio State had won three games before the loss to Michigan, and the schedule offers an opportunity to build another winning streak into March.

7. Northwestern (12-13, 5-7) • Down 4
Last week: Feb. 8 L vs Nebraska 49-53
This week: Thursday L at #9 Michigan State 70-85, Sunday vs Minnesota 6pm BTN

Northwestern’s magical stretch that brought it as high as fourth in the Big Ten came to an abrupt halt Saturday when it became the first team to lose to Nebraska at home this season. An extremely busy week lies ahead for Chris Collins’s crew, as it will host Minnesota in between trips to East Lansing and Columbus.

8. Penn State (13-12, 4-8) • Down 2
Last week: Feb. 6 L at #9 Michigan State 82-67, Feb. 9 L vs Illinois 55-60
This week: Wednesday W at Indiana 66-65, Saturday vs #16 Iowa 1pm ESPNU

The Big Ten’s last place team shook up the conference with a three-game winning streak last week, but followed up by losing twice in four days. Penn State got back on track Wednesday night by pulling off a shocker on the road against Indiana.

9. Minnesota (16-9, 5-7) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 L at Purdue 74-77 3OT, Feb. 8 W vs Indiana 66-60
This week: Thursday L at #21 Wisconsin 70-78, Sunday at Northwestern 6pm BTN

An outstanding non-conference performance by Minnesota evaporated during Big Ten play, in which it has lost five of its last eight. Before beating Indiana last Saturday, Richard Pitino’s team dropped three straight against teams with losing conference records.

10. Indiana (14-10, 4-7) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 8 L at Minnesota 60-66
This week: Wednesday L to Penn State 65-66, Saturday at Purdue 4pm ESPN

Indiana got the enormous win it needed to turn its season around when it handed the first-place Wolverines their first conference loss. Unfortunately for this team, the next two games featured losses to Minnesota and Penn State, dropping the Hoosiers right back to where they were.

11. Purdue (14-10, 4-7) • Even
Last week: Feb. 5 W vs Minnesota 77-75 3OT, Feb. 8 L at Ohio State 49-67
This week: Saturday vs Indiana 4pm ESPN

Fans in West Lafayette enjoyed a thrilling triple-overtime win over Minnesota last week, but Purdue’s struggles leave little reason for hope as the Big Ten season nears a close.

12. Illinois (14-11, 3-9) • Even
Last week: Feb. 4 L vs Wisconsin 63-75, Feb. 9 W at Penn State 60-55
This week: Wednesday L at Nebraska 58-67, Saturday vs #22 Ohio State 8pm BTN

In its last 10 games, Illinois does boast a win over 11th-place Penn State, but the other nine games are all loses. Chances of making the NCAA Tournament in 2014 have evaporated for this young team.

Michigan hoops preview: Michigan State

Friday, January 24th, 2014


Michigan vs MSU banner
#21/25 Michigan (14-4, 6-0) vs #3/3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0)
Saturday, Jan. 25 | East Lansing, Mich. | 7 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
77.2 Points/gm 79.9
(489-1,005) 48.7 Field Goal % 47.8(545-1,141)
(152-398) 38.2 3-pt FG % 38.5 (146-379)
(259-348) 74.4 Free Throw % 70.0 (282-403)
14.4 FT Made/gm 14.8
33.4 Reb/gm 39.5
15.6 Assists/gm 17.8
9.2 Turnovers/gm 11.5
Defense
63.7 Points/gm 63.9
(428-993) 43.1 Field Goal % 37.9(412-1,087)
(100-307) 32.6 3-pt FG % 31.3 (125-400)
31.1 Opp. Reb/gm 33.9
6.0 Steals/gm 8.0
2.9 Blocks/gm 5.3
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (18.5), G. Robinson III (13.9) Points/gm Gary Harris (18.3), Adreian Payne (16.2)
Mitch McGary (8.3), Jon Horford (5.1) Reb/gm Branden Dawson (8.7), Adreian Payne (7.7)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Following back-to-back wins over top 10 teams Michigan has played itself to the top of the Big Ten and set up the early game of the year for the conference title race against heated instate rival Michigan State. ESPN College GameDay will be on hand for Saturday’s battle between the only two teams still unbeaten in the Big Ten and the winner will gain the upper hand. The team that Michigan beat on Wednesday, Iowa, is the only other Big Ten team with fewer than three conference losses and the Hawkeyes have yet to play MSU.

Can Michigan pull off a win in the Breslin Center in the face of what is sure to be the most intimidating atmosphere it will face all season? Remember, since its 61-57 upset in East Lansing on Jan. 27, 2011 no one in the conference has a better record than the Wolverines. Or will the Spartans protect their home court and end Michigan’s eight-game winning streak? Let’s take a look.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Gary Harris (G) 32.2 18.3 43.1 33.3 83.8 4.5 2.8 1.9 0.3 2.1
Adreian Payne (C)* 28.8 16.2 52.4 43.9 80.3 7.7 1.5 1.7 1.0 0.7
Keith Appling (G) 32.4 15.6 47.0 42.6 72.2 3.6 4.6 2.0 0.5 1.2
Branden Dawson (F)* 28.4 10.2 60.4 00.0 57.9 8.7 1.9 1.4 0.9 1.2
Denzel Valentine (G) 28.0 7.6 38.6 30.2 71.4 6.0 3.9 1.6 0.5 1.2
Matt Costello (F) 16.2 3.5 56.4 00.0 53.3 3.2 0.7 0.6 1.7 0.3
*Injured
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Travis Trice (G) 20.3 7.1 41.4 41.8 75.0 1.2 2.2 1.1 0.2 1.2
Kenny Kaminski (F) 10.8 5.2 51.3 54.8 62.5 1.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.4
Alex Gauna (F) 8.9 2.1 68.0 00.0 30.0 1.6 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.1

The big news coming out of East Lansing this week was an injury that Branden Dawson (6’6″, 225) suffered on Thursday. While watching film, he slammed his hand on a table, breaking a bone and requiring surgery that will keep him out of action for four to five weeks. That’s a huge loss for the Spartans’ front court as Dawson leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game and also adds 10.2 points and about a block per game. In nine of the 18 games he has played this season he recorded at least ten rebounds, so his presence will surely be missed.

Starting in his place will be redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski (6’8″, 225). It will be the first start of his career, but he presents a different challenge than Dawson does. Though a couple inches taller than Dawson, Kaminski isn’t as big of a presence down low, however, he’s a threat to step out and hit a three. He has made 17-of-31 attempts, leading the team in three-point percentage. In fact, he has only taken eight two-pointers so far this season, so Michigan’s defense won’t be able to back off Kaminski.

Dawson’s injury isn’t the only one on the team as senior center Adreian Payne (6’10″, 245) has missed the past four games with a sprained foot. Tom Izzo said that the chances of Payne playing on Saturday are “slim to none” but anyone who knows the rivalry knows Izzo is likely downplaying the chances as a bit of gamesmanship. But even if Payne plays he won’t be 100 percent, and if he doesn’t, Michigan State will miss his 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

The other big man that will start is sophomore Matt Costello (6’9″, 240). He averages 16 minutes per game, but has seen 22 or more in three of the last four games in Payne’s absence. In those four, he’s averaging 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds, both of which are higher than his season-long averages. In the Spartans’ overtime victory over Minnesota two weeks ago, Costello totaled seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks, his best performance of the season.

The backcourt is led by shooting guard Gary Harris (6’4″, 210), one of the leading candidates for Big Ten player of the year. The sophomore is averaging 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and nearly three assists per game. He shoots a lot of threes – 14 more than Nik Stauskas has taken – at a 33.3 percent clip, but in his last two games he has made 6-of-10 from downtown. In fact, Harris has made 15-of-22 overall from the field in the last two games against Illinois and Indiana, and he’ll need to keep up the same rate if the Spartans are to win.

Senior point guard Keith Appling (6’1″, 185) also finds himself on player of the year watch lists, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per contest. While he has taken a little more than half the number of threes as Harris, Appling is making them at a better rate (42.6 percent). However, unlike Harris, he is in a bit of a rut, having made just one of his last ten from downtown and 10-of-32 overall in the last three games.

Sophomore wing Denzel Valentine (6’5″, 225) is not a great shooter (38.6 overall and 30.2 three-point), but is the team’s third-leading rebounder and will have to hit the glass hard with Dawson and likely Payne out. Valentine averages 7.6 points and six rebounds per game, but has stepped it up the last two games, averaging 12.5 points and nine boards.

Junior guard Travis Trice (6’0″, 170) is the other guard that sees a lot of action, averaging 7.1 points and 2.2 assists per game. Heh as only scored in double figures five times this season, but he’s a capable shooter at 41.4 percent overall and 41.8 percent from three.

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 8 McNeese State W 98-56
Nov. 12 #1 Kentucky^ W 78-74
Nov. 15 Columbia W 62-53
Nov. 18 Portland W 82-67
Nov. 22 Virginia Tech* W 96-77
Nov. 23 Oklahoma* W 87-76
Nov. 29 Mount St. Mary’s W 98-65
Dec. 4 North Carolina# L 65-79
Dec. 14 Oakland W 67-63
Dec. 17 North Florida W 78-48
Dec. 21 at Texas W 92-78
Dec. 28 New Orleans W 101-48
Dec. 31 at Penn State W 79-63
Dec. 31 Nebraska W 67-57
Jan. 4 at Indiana W 73-56
Jan. 7 #3 Ohio State W 72-68 OT
Jan. 11 Minnesota W 87-75 OT
Jan. 15 at Northwestern W 54-40
Jan. 18 at Illinois W 78-62
Jan. 12 Indiana W 71-66
^Champions Classic, *Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, #Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Like Michigan, Tom Izzo’s squad has really challenged itself with its non-conference schedule. That has been one of Izzo’s philosophies since he has been at Michigan State and one of the reasons his teams are always tough down the stretch in Big Ten play.

The second game of the season was a matchup with then-No. 1 Kentucky in Chicago and the Spartans won by four. They beat Oklahoma (currently ranked 25th) by 11 in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and won by 14 at Texas in MSU’s only true road game before conference play began.

The only loss came at the hands of North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Tarheels were able to dominate the glass, outrebounding Michigan State by 11 – something Michigan hopes to repeat with Dawson and Payne out.

In Big Ten play, the Spartans have survived a pair of overtime games, topping Ohio State by four and Minnesota by 12. Outside of those two, Michigan State has played three of the bottom five in the conference – Penn State, Northwestern and Illinois – and Indiana twice.

The Series

Michigan holds a 95-76 all-time lead in the series, but Michigan State leads 48-36 in East Lansing. Michigan has lost its last two at the Breslin Center including a 75-52 defeat last season, but stunned the Spartans there on Jan. 27, 2011. Overall, Michigan has won four of the last six in the series, but the home team has won the last five.

Notes

• Michigan is 6-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2002-03 season

• Nik Stauskas has recorded three straight 20-point games and nine so far this season, the most in the Big Ten

• Tomorrow’s meeting will be the fifth straight in which both teams are nationally ranked

• Gary Harris and Zak Irvin were high school teammates at Hamilton Southeastern in Fishers, Ind.

Embarrassed in East Lansing: Michigan State 29 – Michigan 6

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013


(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

Late in the third quarter, Raymon Taylor stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked off a Connor Cook pass, returning it to the Michigan State 41-yard line. It was just the play Michigan needed to jumpstart a comeback. I let out a nice shout, something along the lines of “YES! Go, go go go go, wooooooo!!!!” but my daughter, who was playing on the floor in front of me, immediately tensed up and said, “Stop yelling at me, daddy.” I spent the next few minutes explaining to my two-year old that I was cheering for Michigan, not yelling at her, all the while watching what should have been a game-turning moment go from first down at the Spartan 41 to 4th-and-31 from the Michigan 38. It was that kind of day.

Two weeks after breaking several offensive records against Indiana, the Wolverines broke another one, but this time it’s not one to be proud of. Thanks in large part to seven sacks and an overwhelmed offensive line, Michigan totaled negative-48 yards rushing, two fewer than the previous worst in Michigan history. It was that kind of day.

Final Stats
Michigan Michigan State
Score 6 29
Record 6-2 (2-2) 8-1 (5-0)
Total Yards 168 394
Net Rushing Yards -48 142
Net Passing Yards 216 252
First Downs 12 19
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 3-39 5-25
Punts-Yards 8-327 5-204
Time of Possession 27:39 32:21
Third Down Conversions 2-of-13 9-of-18
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 1-16 7-49
Field Goals 2-for-2 3-for-3
PATs 0-for-0 2-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 1-of-2 3-of-3
Full Box Score

The talk leading up to the game centered around needing to match Michigan State’s physicality. Brady Hoke and Al Borges likened it to a street fight. Taylor Lewan said Michigan got bullied two years ago in East Lansing: “If somebody came up to you and hit you right in the face would you take that personally? Yeah, I take it personally.” Lewan was determined not to get bullied this time around, but Michigan State’s defense did the bullying in a clean, hard-nosed football sort of way, and Lewan resorted to, well, hitting a Spartan right in the face, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was that kind of day.

Trailing 6-3 early in the second quarter, Michigan showed signs of moving the ball. A Fitzgerald Toussaint nine-yard run – Michigan’s longest of the day – followed by a Gardner six-yard run and an 11-yard completion to Jeremy Gallon got Michigan across midfield. On 1st-and-10 from the Michigan State 49, Graham Glasgow’s snap sailed over Gardner’s head and the quarterback had to fall on it for a 20-yard loss. Gardner lost another yard on the next play and was sacked on third down. Lewan’s penalty moved Michigan back another 15 yards and the Wolverines faced 4th-and-48 from their own 13. Matt Wile’s punt went 43 yards – three more than his season average – and still didn’t reach the first down marker. It was that kind of day.

Midway through the second quarter, still trailing 6-3, Jehu Chesson went up and snatched a 58-yard pass from Gardner. It was just his eighth reception of the season and by far his longest and it put Michigan 1st-and-10 from the MSU 22. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-2 from the 14, Borges called a zone read and Gardner was stopped for a loss of seven, prompting former Michigan linebacker Larry Foote to tweet “That was the worst call I’ve ever seen on 3rd and short!!!!!!!!!!” Michigan settled for a field goal, which Brendan Gibbons banked in off the right upright. It was that kind of day.

Taylor Lewan losing his cool embodied Michigan's performance (Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

Jeremy Gallon, who set the all-time Michigan and Big Ten single-game receiving record two weeks ago, caught three passes for 57 yards on Michigan’s first five plays of the game. He caught just two for 10 yards the rest of the game, one of which was caught at the first down marker then fumbled backward, turning what would have likely been a first down on 2nd-and-5 into a 3rd-and-6, which Michigan didn’t convert. In the fourth quarter, needing two touchdowns with two-point conversions, Michigan put together it’s longest drive of the day. Gardner tried to connect with Gallon down the left sideline near the end zone, but Gallon was outmuscled by Darqueze Dennard, who picked it off, effectively sealing the game. It was that kind of day.

On Michigan State’s first play of the game, after Michigan had opened with a field goal, Cook rolled to his right. Fullback Trevon Pendleton, who had fallen down making a block, got up and leaked out to his left. As Michigan defensive end Brennen Beyer was closing in, Cook turned and lobbed it back across the field to Pendleton who was wide open and raced down the left sideline 49 yards to the Michigan 26. It was the fifth reception of his career and the longest pass play of the season for the Spartans. It was that kind of day.

When all was said and done, Michigan removed itself from contention for the Big Ten Legends Division title, gaining a season low 168 total yards – just 13 more than Youngstown State of the FCS managed against the Spartans. To make matters worse, it was Michigan’s fifth loss in the past six meetings with the in-state rival and because of the divisional realignment with Rutgers and Maryland joining the conference Michigan has to travel to East Lansing once again next season.

What a strange, strange season it has been, from the elation of the Notre Dame win to the depression of the Akron, UConn, and Penn State performances to the record-breaking thrill of Indiana to the embarrassment in East Lansing. With Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State remaining, the ups and downs are likely to continue the next four weeks. And with no shot at Hoke’s stated goal – to win the conference – we resort to playing spoiler, especially when Nov. 30 rolls around.

M&GB staff predictions: Michigan State

Friday, November 1st, 2013


While we all knew it would be an offensive battle, none of us predicted such a high scoring game against Indiana two weeks ago. It was certainly fun to watch the Michigan offense go up and down the field with ease, shattering records in the process, but it was equally as concerning watching Indiana do the same to the Michigan defense. The good news is Michigan got a week off to fix what went wrong defensively and now gets to face one of the worst offenses in the conference. The bad news is Michigan’s offense has to go up against the best defense in the conference and perhaps the best in college football.

Can Michigan win its second straight against its bitter rival and win in East Lansing for the first time since 2007? Or will the Spartans win for the fifth time in six years? Let’s take a look at our picks:

Justin: The way this season has gone, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Michigan win by ten or lose by ten in this one. But neither is likely. As I mentioned in the game preview, Michigan will look to jump out early and dictate the way the game is going to be played, forcing Michigan State’s conservative offense to play from behind, and keeping the vaunted Spartan defense from being able to dictate. Look for an aggressive Michigan offense to start with before settling down into more of its base offense. Defensively, Michigan will play somewhat conservatively, looking to stop the run and make Connor Cook move the ball down the field.

As long as Gardner plays under control and doesn’t turn the ball over in Michigan’s territory, there’s no reason to think Michigan can’t win this game.

Michigan 24 – Michigan State 17

Staff Predictions
Michigan Michigan State
Justin 24 17
Chris 20 21
Josh 17 27
Sam 24 20
Derick 19 17
Katie 24 27
Drew 20 16
M&GB Average 21.1 20.7

Chris: Michigan State 21 – Michigan 20

Josh: See yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan State 27 – Michigan 17

Sam: It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the 2013 Michigan football team will ever have a true identity, or whether they will ever manage to pair together a solid display both offensively and defensively in one game.

As it stands now, this Michigan team is not unlike my golf game. If my driver is working well, my irons and short game are undoubtedly off. If my touch around the green is at its prime, I’m probably approaching the hole from somewhere in the woods to the right of the fairway.

Whatever the case may be, the time for the Wolverines to get it together is now. Over the next month, Michigan will face Nebraska and Ohio State at home in addition to away games at Iowa and Northwestern. If the Wolverines hope to compete for the Big Ten title and make it to a relevant bowl game, some consistency must be found – and soon.

Now, after the second bye week of the year, Michigan will travel to East Lansing for one of its three rivalry games after a 63-47 heart attack victory over Indiana.

Fortunately for the Michigan squad, the coaches should know exactly what to expect against a Michigan State team that shines on defense and sports an offense that some grade schools would be ashamed to field. Most agree that it will come down to the points each team is able to score this Saturday, and if Michigan is able to break down the Spartan defense for three or more touchdowns, the Paul Bunyan trophy should find its way back to Ann Arbor.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the Michigan State defense is exceptional yet again, giving up just 12.3 points per game. Indiana, who gave Michigan fits all day with a quick-fire offense that put up 47 points, is the only team all season, with 28 points, that has been able to put up more than 17 points on Michigan State. Michigan State’s last two opponents, Illinois and Purdue, combined to score three points while gaining just 354 total yards.

This weekend, the key is in Devin Gardner’s hands yet again. Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi loves to bring pressure via the blitz; if Gardner cowers at any semblance of defenders in the backfield, Michigan will be in for a long day, but if he can stay calm and find Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess over the top of a vulnerable Spartan secondary, the Wolverines will be successful. Of course, early gains through the air should also open up some holes for Fitzgerald Toussaint, but the run game will not be Michigan’s weapon of choice. Gardner will connect with Gallon, Funchess, and Drew Dileo just enough to keep Michigan State’s offense playing catch-up, which it will fail to do, as Michigan wins.

Michigan 24 – Michigan State 20

Derick: The two sides if the bye week couldn’t be more different. Michigan entered the break with a win that featured 110 total points scored and countless school/conference records broken.

In East Lansing, two scores could be enough.

One of the most bipolar offenses in the country faces off against potentially the stringiest defense as Devin Gardner attempts to continue the ball security that resulted in 63 points against Indiana.

Unfortunately, Michigan State’s defense not only forces turnovers, they score on them. It is critical for Gardner to keep the Spartan defense out of the endzone and force an anemic passing attack to move the ball on offense.

If he can accomplish that, the defense should be able to contain Connor Cook and the Spartans.

Statistically, of all Michigan State’s 2013 opponents thus far, Michigan most closely resembles the offense of Indiana, scoring just over 42 points per game. If that is any indication, Michigan will post around the same score (28) in East Lansing.

Given the intensity of this in-state rivalry I doubt Mark Dantonio’s defense will be so generous. To keep the Big Ten Championship aspirations alive Michigan will have to win an ugly low-scoring game.

Michigan 19 – Michigan State 17

Katie: What will happen when the Wolverine offense plays a defense that doesn’t allow 63 points in a game? We shall see. I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I don’t think Michigan is going to pull this one out, mainly because of the stat differences in when the Maize and Blue are at home versus away. The defining matchup will likely be Gardner and the offensive line against the touted Spartan defense. I think that the bye week has done the Wolverines good. Time to look at the tape, fix holes, and drill. Then again that’s what I said after the last bye week, and the play wasn’t spectacularly better after that respite.

Michigan State 27 – Michigan 24

Drew: On Monday, I asked my followers on Twitter whether they viewed tomorrow’s heated matchup with Michigan State as the most important game of Brady Hoke’s tenure at Michigan. Although the majority of the responses ranked U-M’s 2011 victory over Ohio State at the top of the list, an argument certainly can be made for tomorrow’s game against the Spartans.

First, after having a stranglehold on this in-state rivalry from 1969 to 2007, winning 30 of 39 contests, Michigan needed a last-second field goal by Brendan Gibbons in 2012 to prevent Michigan State from winning an unprecedented fifth straight time in this series. Tomorrow, MSU has an opportunity to win five of the last six games in this series for the first time since 1962. If Michigan wants to continue to be the “big brother” in this rivalry, it needs to start stringing wins together now.

Second, although Michigan is unbeaten at home under Hoke, the Wolverines have been notoriously bad on the road. With Hoke on the sidelines, Michigan holds a 5-6 record in true away games. The best opponent U-M has beaten in that span was a 2011 Illinois squad that lost its final six games of the regular season. This is Hoke’s last opportunity of 2013 to earn his first signature win in a hostile environment. To not have one in his first three years would be worrisome.

Third, and most importantly, Michigan’s Big Ten championship hopes are on the line. If Michigan loses, it essentially would be three games behind the Spartans in the loss column because MSU would win the tiebreaker. Only one MSU win or U-M loss thereafter would eliminate the Wolverines. For a Michigan program whose top goal every season is to win the Big Ten, missing the conference championship game for the second time in three years because it lost to its in-state rival would be a big black mark on Hoke’s first three seasons at U-M.

So will Hoke and the Wolverines earn a critical victory in East Lansing?

Despite a slow offensive start, Michigan finally realizes in the second half that the shotgun and pistol formations are the core of its offense. As a result, U-M becomes the first team this season to surpass 300 total yards against MSU. Defensively, Greg Mattison holsters his blitzes, forcing the inaccurate Connor Cook to force throws into tight windows. The strategy pays off as MSU struggles to sustain extended drives all game. After throwing a fourth-quarter interception that hands the Spartans a three-point lead, Gardner redeems himself, scrambling for the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes to keep U-M’s Big Ten championship dreams alive.

Michigan 20 – Michigan State 16

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For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Michigan State game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with Chris Vannini of the Spartan SB Nation blog The Only Colors; Monday’s First Look: Michigan State, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Drew (@DrewCHallett) broke down Michigan’s running game through the first seven games and explained what it should do to have success going forward.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n Brew, Touch the Banner, Maize n Blue Nation, The Big House Report, and The M Block.

From the other side, game preview from The Only Colors. Also, eight out of ten of them pick MSU to win and their average score is 26-18.

Friend vs Foe: Michigan State

Thursday, October 31st, 2013


It’s Michigan State week, and for this week’s Friend vs Foe we asked Chris Vannini of the Michigan State SB Nation site The Only Colors to answer a few questions about the upcoming game. He was gracious enough to provide his thoughts on his confidence level, Michigan State’s advantages, what Michigan will have to do to move the ball, and more. He also provides his prediction. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVannini and the site’s main feed @TheOnlyColors.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you in this game, and why?

I’ll go with a 7. In a rivalry game with two good teams, you say a five. Add a point for home field and add a point for the fact I think MSU has more advantages than Michigan, and I get 7. That still means I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Michigan win.

2. Michigan State’s offense struggled through the first few games but has seemed to come alive recently. What has the difference been?

More than anything, it’s Connor Cook making throws. The offensive line has been the best in the Dantonio era and the receivers are getting open and making catches, which they couldn’t do a year ago. Now, it comes down to Cook. He made the throws against Iowa, Indiana and Illinois, but he didn’t against Purdue.

3. Following up on the previous question, what happened against Purdue? How were they able to hold the MSU offense to just seven points despite having a defense that allows 34.4 points per game?

MSU's offensive line has been great at pass protection, but Connor Cook's ability to make throws can make or break the offense (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

It was Cook’s throwing and Purdue’s punting (no, really). MSU’s yards-per-drive was among its highest in the past two years, but MSU’s average starting field position was its worst of the season. For a team that doesn’t get many big plays, requiring long drives to score, the longer they had to go, the more difficult of a time they had. But Cook did miss a number of wide-open guys, including one that would have been a touchdown.

4. What specific matchups do you see Michigan State having a big advantage in this week?

I do see MSU shutting down Michigan’s running backs. The Wolverines have had enough of a problem getting the backs going, and MSU is one of the best rush defenses in the country. If Michigan moves the ball on the ground, it’s going to be Gardner making something out of a pass play that breaks down.

5. Are there any specific matchups you’re worried about, where you think Michigan might have an advantage?

Similar to above, I worry about Gardner’s abilities to make plays out of nothing. He’s very strong and has a knack for breaking tackles and getting out when the pocket breaks down. If he can escape the pressure and make a few big plays, that will go a long way for the Wolverines.

6. Everyone knows MSU’s defense is one of the best in the country. It gave up 28 points to Indiana, and Michigan’s offense – when it doesn’t turn the ball over – can be even more explosive. What will Michigan have to do to have success against your defense?

They’re going to have to take care of the ball and make some of those big plays. Not many can dink and dunk down the field against this MSU defense. Whether it’s a bomb on a pass play or a big run from Gardner, they’re going to need to make some big plays, which MSU has been prone to giving up, due to its aggressive style.

7. What’s your prediction? Explain how it will happen.

I’m going 27-21 MSU. I think both teams will be able to move the ball at times, but MSU will be more slowly down the field, while Michigan will be all or nothing. A turnover or two from Gardner would go a long way.

Ah, Beat State week. I’ve never liked MSU but the contempt has grown into almost Buckeye proportion since the Rich Rod years and their recent rise to defensive supremacy. I respect what Pat Narduzzi has up there and I’d love to see our defense play that way (sans the cheap shots and overall dirty play) but I still can’t stand them.

This is, and will be, the best defense Michigan will come across all year, period. For an offense that hasn’t been consistent and at times has just been downright awful, this will be a big test. With that let’s move on to what Michigan needs to do if they not only want to walk away from East Lansing with a win over a bitter rival but also put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Legends division.

On Offense

Devin Gardner's ability to take care of the ball will determine Michigan's fate against MSU's top-ranked defense (MGoBlue.com)

Sparty is third best (yardage-wise) against the pass and they are tops against the run. Michigan has yet to show a serviceable run game and Gardner often gets happy feet and makes bad decisions in the face of pressure. This presents a difficult challenge. Not to mention State’s proclivity for defensive touchdowns. MSU likes to blitz and they often run a double a-gap blitz, which puts immense pressure on the center and guards – both of which are positions Michigan has not played well at this year. Graham Glasgow, Erik Magnussen and Kyle Bosch (or whoever else plays on the interior) need to bring their A-game. They don’t need to negate or stop these blitzes to be successful, they just need to buy Gardner or the running backs a little bit of time by slowing up linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen.

Okay, assuming the interior of the line holds up their end of the bargain we’re still not in the clear. Gardner has to keep his poise and not make bad decisions. He needs to take the sack more often than not. Lost yardage is better than turning it over. Sparty has seen the tape and they will bring pressure and try to get Gardner to make bad decisions that lead to turnovers. If Gardner can play mistake-free football and get the offense into the end zone a couple of times Michigan will win. Michigan can probably win with 21 points, but they will be very hard to come by if Gardner loses his poise and starts turning it over. To reiterate, Garnder cannot turn the ball over against Michigan State’s defense. It wouldn’t be impossible to overcome but if Michigan wants to beat Sparty it needs to hold on to the ball.

On Defense

Luckily for Michigan, the Spartans’ offense is, well, offensive. They’ve found their quarterback in Connor Cook but they still struggle to put up points even against terrible defenses (see: Purdue). Cook is mobile enough to extend plays but I wouldn’t call him a threat to run. That said, Michigan will probably sit back and play their bend but don’t break style of defense. Sparty has been pretty good running the ball and that’s exactly what they will try to do Saturday. It’s not an unstoppable rushing attack but it is very good.

Michigan needs to stay in their assignments, wrap up with solid fundamental tackling and not give up the big play. If they do this they should be able to keep it a game. As with any team that pounds the run game Michigan needs to be aware of the play-action threat. Michigan has given up several big plays this year so the secondary needs to be careful not to peer into the backfield too often looking to make a big stop lest they get beat deep for a touchdown. If Michigan can just play average defense and not let anything get into the second level they should be okay against this State offense.

On Special Teams

Once again, field position will be paramount. Despite their less than stellar offense, if you give Sparty too many short fields they will score. And if Michigan needs to march 70-plus yards each time against a stellar defense they won’t put up 30-plus points. Michigan needs to manage the field position game and keep it in their favor. I wouldn’t expect Norfleet to be able to take it to the house but if he did it could be a huge, momentum swinging event.