The losing streak continues for the Michigan Wolverines, and it might only get worse from here. While getting hammered by Purdue was expected, and falling to Illinois was unfortunately predictable as well, Tuesday brings a trip to the Breslin Center, a place Michigan has not won since Mo Wagner scored 27 in 2018.
The Michigan State Spartans are just 4-5 in conference play but sit 18th in Kenpom and are currently projected as a No. 9 seed per Bracket Matrix. So while this not necessarily the season that many expected from Tom Izzo, it still looks a ton better than whatever is happening in Ann Arbor right now.
Tuesday’s goal is to not be embarrassed, though that does feel like the most likely outcome. Any rivalry loss feels bad, but this program is in a dangerous spot already. State absorbed October’s 49-0 smackdown by chalking it up to a meaningless season with brighter days ahead. It is unclear if Michigan basketball can really feel so optimistic.
Michigan Wolverines (7-13, 2-7) at Michigan State Spartans (12-8, 4-5)
Date & Time: Tuesday, Jan. 30, 9 p.m. ET
Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
The Big Ten slate has kind of played out as expected for the Spartans, with all five losses coming to the top five teams in the standings. The result is league-average offensive and defensive efficiencies, though this translates to top-40 units when considering the entirety of the schedule (with the results following suit as well with losses to Duke and Baylor).
Interior scoring has been an issue, but the team hits threes (fourth-best in conference) when it actually decides to take them (fourth-lowest rate). Defensively, nothing sticks out too badly except for a poor two-point percentage and poor foul rate — pretty clear what the issue is here. Overall this is a decent squad but certainly one that has failed to perform.
“We’re number two!”
Schematically, the key for Michigan is again Tarris Reed. The sophomore was unable to step up against Iowa, but he will have a chance for a big game against the Spartans. With no Dug McDaniel, it makes sense to lean more on the bigs and try to take advantage of the one clear mismatch between these rosters. It is not a sure-fire path to victory, but at least something to attack.
Big picture-wise, these programs are clearly in much different spaces. As painful as it is to say, the goal on Tuesday has to be just surviving. Given the trajectory of the season and the hostile environment, the game could easily get out of hand very quickly. Staving off that reality is easier said than done, but the Wolverines have to find a way to regain some mental toughness.