Five reasons Michigan State will beat Michigan on Sunday at Breslin Center:
Best be the best
Tom Izzo has said all season he needs his best players to perform well and often that means guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine. There have been flashes — 27 for Trice and 21 for Valentine last week against Nebraska — but it hasn't come consistently from both. There's no doubt the Wolverines will be focusing on the tandem Sunday, and the Spartans can ill afford and off day from its most-experienced guards.
Senior Branden Dawson is enjoying one of the most consistent stretches of his career, recording five double-doubles and scoring in double figures six times in eight conference games. He has been dominant on the glass and leads the Big Ten with 10.1 rebounds a game. He had 18 rebounds, including eight offensive, against Nebraska and grabbed 11 more in the win over Rutgers.
Hang on to the ball
Michigan State had been doing a good job of securing the ball through the first six games of conference play, but in the last two the Spartans have lost the handle. They turned it over 16 times in the loss to Nebraska and 17 times in a win over Rutgers. It's a stat that could come back to bite them in a close game, much like it did in the loss to the Cornhuskers.
Hit the freebies
The Spartans are usually one of the bet free-throw shooting teams in the Big Ten, but this season they are dead-last at 63.1 percent. There has actually been improvement over the last couple of weeks from some of the worst offenders — Branden Dawson and Gavin Schilling — but overall the misses have been huge in each of MSU's three conference losses.
Control the glass
It helps when you have Dawson, the best rebounder in the league. But Michigan State must win the rebounding battle to eliminate second-chance points, and just as importantly, keep its transition game going. It's a favorable matchup for the Spartans, who lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin while the Wolverines check in at 13th.