Tonight's showdown in Ann Arbor between #9 Michigan State and #19.5* Michigan is one of the biggest basketball games between these two schools in recent memory. Since most of the people reading this (Hi Grandma!) are only familiar with one of the two sides, we're going to clue you in on the most important aspects of tonight's matchup. Tip off is at 7:30, with your first family dispute over officiating scheduled for approximately 7:41 pm.
*Yes, I averaged them. Deal with it.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Aside from that whole "Little Brother" thing, both teams are competing for a conference title. Michigan State, at 4-1, is tied for first with Illinois. Michigan and Saddam Hussein Al Qaeda Hitler himself Ohio State sit just 0.5 games back at 4-2. Also important is that both Michigan and MSU are coming off of road losses this weekend against Iowa and Northwestern, respectively, and we've seen what losing can do to you if you're not careful. Plus, Michigan's next three games are on the road, and starting that stretch on a 2-game losing streak is not a healthy way to live.
SERIOUSLY, IS ANYONE GOING TO SCORE IN THIS GAME?
While Michigan State's offense is nothing to sneeze at, this game is going to come down to defense. Other than occassional defensive lapses from the Spartans (see: Northwestern game), both teams are rock solid. Michigan hasn't given up more than 70 points in a game at Crisler Arena this season, and I don't expect that to change tonight. Look for Draymond Green and Tim Hardaway Jr. to get the ball in key situations for their respective squads, but I'll be surprised if either one scores 20 points tonight.
WHO'S THAT FRESHMAN HOTTIE AND IS SHE AVAILABLE?
On one side, we have Michigan's Trey Burke. He's second on the team at 14.3 points per game and leads the Wolverines wth nearly 5 assists per game. To put it mildly, the Michigan offense isn't worth dick without him in the lineup. There's a reason he leads the team in minutes played this season.
Michigan State's barely legal stud is Branden Dawson. While his numbers aren't as impressive as Burke's, he still plays a key role for the Spartans, putting up decent numbers across the board. His size (6'6", 215) could make him a matchup nightmare for the smallish Wolverines, especially on the glass.
SINCE DARIUS MORRIS AND KALIN LUCAS AREN'T HERE TO FIGHT, WHO'S GONNA THROW DOWN TONIGHT?
As much as I'd like to see Tom Izzo and John Beilein go toe-to-toe, I'd have to say that Jordan Morgan and either Derrick Nix or Adreian Payne are the safe bet. Morgan lost his cool when attacked by an Oompa Loompa from Northwestern, and no doubt Tom Izzo has shown that video to his bigs. With Morgan being the only legitimate inside presence the Wolverines have, look for the Spartans to do anything they can to get him off his game.
WHITE GUYS THAT NOBODY SEEMS TO LIKE
As a Michigan basketball fan, Evan Smotrycz makes my blood boil. Yes, he leads the Wolverines in rebounding, steals, blocks, and 3-point shooting percentage, but his play lately has been nothing short of "What the hell is Brian Scalabrine doing on my television set?" bad. Hopefully he makes me look like an idiot tonight, but I won't hold my breath. For Michigan State, Austin Thornton wins this category by default. Sorry, buddy.
JUST FOR LOLZ
People texting at sporting events amuses me.
As a Michigan alum, I want to say that Michigan will win by 50, but we all know that won't happen. Now that both of these schools have real basketball teams (thanks a lot, Brian Ellerbe), the rivalry has regained its former luster. While Michigan hasn't lost at home this season, Michigan State has shown the testicular fortitude necessary to go on the road and win, even if Wisconsin isn't exactly who we thought they were (sorry, Dennis Green). If Michigan shoots well, I think they win, but I don't know if they will get the open looks that they have become accustomed to against less athletic opponents. Michigan State's frontcourt depth and re-acquaintance with rebounding in 2011-12 provides the difference, and the Spartans win 67-59.