The Michigan Wolverines extended their win streak to three after narrowly escaping Northwestern with a 72-70 win at home on Wednesday. Michigan improved to 10-7 overall and 4-3 in conference play. Last week, we postulated about what would happen if they won their remaining games in January, and so far they are on track to pulling that off.
Next up is a crucial game against the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans. Does Michigan have what it takes to come away with a win against the in-state rival on the road?
Michigan State has proven its preseason rankings wrong as the Spartans have climbed from unranked to the top 10. They are 15-4 overall and 6-2 in conference play. They’re coming off a frustrating 56-55 loss to the Fighting Illini. They hadn’t lost since November before Northwestern upset them at home. What does MSU have to do to stave off its third loss in the month of January?
As any rivalry game, Michigan will want to disrupt the Spartans season by upsetting them at home, while MSU will want to send the Wolverines packing with their eighth loss of the season. After having to postpone their game from earlier this month, both teams are surely itching for this game. For the Wolverines, getting this win will significantly shift the trajectory of their season. If anything, this will spur on the Spartans further. How can Michigan get a win at the Breslin tomorrow?
The Spartans are 8-1 at home this year, with the lone loss coming from Northwestern. The Wolverines look to improve their record on the road as they are currently 2-4. However, despite the lackluster road game record, this does include their win at Assembly Hall. They know they are capable of heading into a tough road environment and getting a win. Add on the mentality of a rivalry game, they are fully capable of making this a competitive game.
Michigan has shown improvement across the board with minimizing mistakes and showing mental toughness when momentum shifts. While the Wolverines haven’t played perfect games, Northwestern being a prime example with fouls and turnovers, they were still able to overcome setbacks to get the win. They still have a lot to prove to reach their goals, but they have made significant progress to get there.
Luckily for the Wolverines, they’ve gotten their game rescheduled against Purdue, and now wait for news on their second Michigan State game. Should Michigan get this game rescheduled, a loss on Saturday won’t necessarily break it. While it will make climbing back into tournament projections more difficult, the Wolverines have two shots at Purdue in February to get them right. However, it is best to not assume the second game against MSU is guaranteed, so Michigan has to play as if this is the only game against the Spartans. How essential do you think it is to come away with a win on Saturday?
The Wolverines are looking a lot more like our preseason expectations and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Michigan State will be tough but if the Wolverines are able to come out of East Lansing with a win, they will force themselves back into conference championship contention. The top of the Big Ten is jammed with four teams with two losses in conference play, Michigan State being one of them. On the other hand, Michigan sits at seventh, right in the middle of the conference, but only has one more loss than the leaders. Michigan is fully capable of breaking in, and it definitely helps they are a game back against Purdue.
Michigan might receive some of MSU’s frustrations from its most recent loss, so it will have to be prepared to counteract a highly motivated Spartan team. This game has the ability to alter the trajectory of Michigan’s season, and that fact has to motivate the Wolverines to pull off an upset in East Lansing. What do you think gives Michigan an advantage tomorrow? What does Michigan State have that could curb Michigan’s potential upset? Who do you think will emerge victorious in this rivalry game? Share your thoughts on tomorrow’s game in the comments below!
Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State Spartans tips off at 12:30 p.m. on CBS.