A position-by-position look at Sunday's Michigan-Michigan State game at Breslin Center:
Derrick Walton Jr. had a breakout game last year in East Lansing, but an injured foot threatens to keep him out of the Wolverines' lineup Sunday. Spike Albrecht has been solid since joining the starting lineup and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman can step in if needed.
MSU's tandem of Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine has had some huge games this season but inconsistency has plagued them at times. Trice has the ability to take over games, evidenced by a 26-point game against Iowa when he was 7-for-8 from 3-point range, while Valentine is one of the Spartans' best all-around players. Junior transfer Bryn Forbes provides plenty of scoring, shooting 47.3 percent from 3-point range, good for second in the Big Ten.
UM doesn't have a player as strong as Branden Dawson, but Zak Irvin and Aubrey Dawkins can be potent shooters, as shown when they combined for 27 points against Nebraska. Irvin has had struggles, but will need to have another solid all-around game as he did vs. the Huskers, with 12 rebounds and three assists.
Dawson has been one of MSU's most consistent players in Big Ten play. He has five double-doubles in eight league games and leads the Big Ten in rebounding (10.1). He's grabbed 18 rebounds twice this season and had eight offensive rebounds against Nebraska. Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling have been solid at the center position, combining to average nearly 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Injuries and illnesses have forced the Wolverines to go six deep on the bench, including walk-ons Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan. Senior Max Bielfeldt and Abdur-Rahkman have improved significantly and Mark Donnal is a threat from the outside. Beilein will look to get more from freshman Kameron Chatman, who has gone from starter to struggling reserve.
The Spartans, meanwhile, are relatively healthy, though freshman Javon Bess is coming off the bench again after aggravating an ankle injury. He had started three and showed toughness getting to the basket and hitting the glass. Freshman Marvin Clark has cooled off from the field after a fast start but has seen his minutes steadily progress over the last several games while sophomore Alvin Ellis III is used primarily in defensive roles. Freshman Lourawls Nairn has steadily improved as a backup to Trice at the point and scored a career-high eight points against Rutgers. Former walk-on Colby Wollenman has provided insurance when Schilling and Costello get in foul trouble.
With two of the best coaches in the Big Ten, each matchup in the series has the potential to be an instant classic. John Beilein has retooled the roster after his three best players left for the NBA. Making a group of freshmen and former reserves into a Big Ten contender this year may be one of his best coaching jobs.
It's hard to argue with Tom Izzo's record as he makes his way through his 20th season at MSU. But he has struggled recently against UM, losing three straight before the win in the Big Ten Tournament title game last year. He continues to tinker with MSU's rotation in an effort to reach his 18th straight NCAA Tournament; a win over UM would be another key step.