Michigan vs. Michigan State: Who has the edge
The Detroit News' Matt Charboneau breaks down Sunday's Michigan-Michigan State game at the Breslin Center (1, CBS/WJR 760, WWJ 950)
Michigan definitely wins the experience category here as both Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin are seniors and have seen the good and bad ends of this rivalry, including a pair of regular-season wins as freshmen in 2014. Irvin has been a steady performer throughout his career while Walton has overcome a slow start to the season and has been a big spark as the Wolverines have won three of four. Junior Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman has played well against Michigan State in the past and can score in bunches. Michigan State is younger, by far, but junior Lourawls Nairn Jr. has been through this rivalry enough not to be overwhelmed by it. His offense is hit and miss though he’s a tough on-ball defender that can bother Walton. Senior Eron Harris can be a big-time scorer as well as a defensive issue for Irvin, but he’s been inconsistent all season while Michigan State is still waiting for freshman Joshua Langford to truly break out. Edge: Michigan.
Sophomore Moritz Wagner and junior D.J. Wilson have been enjoying breakout seasons for the Wolverines. Wagner is becoming the type of big man coach John Beilein covets, one that can play on the block while having the ability to pop out and score from the perimeter. Wilson has been the real revelation after not doing much his first two seasons. He’s reached double figures in seven of eight games, including a career-high 28 at Iowa. Freshman Miles Bridges has truly lived up to the hype for the Spartans, coming back from an ankle injury that kept him out seven games and jumping right back in as the leading scorer. He’s coming off a career-high 33 points against Purdue while fellow freshman Nick Ward has been the overachiever of the class, being named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times while providing a legitimate low-post scoring threat for the Spartans. Edge: Michigan State
Michigan doesn’t go quite as deep as Michigan State, but it has effective option, including guard Duncan Robinson, who started most of last season before coming off the bench this year. He’s an excellent 3-point shooter who’s shown some ability to get to the rim. He’s joined by freshman Xavier Simpson and big man Mark Donnal, who has been consistent if not spectacular as a senior. Michigan State will use as many as five or six players off the bench, especially freshman point guard Cassius Winston, sophomore forward Kenny Goins and senior guard Alvin Ellis. Each have had their moments this season while MSU is waiting for sophomore guard Matt McQuaid to shake off what has been a season-long slump and start hitting shots. Sophomore Kyle Ahrens has also been a versatile option while Matt Van Dyk is a stop-gap forward that is athletic but undersized. Edge: Michigan State
Trying to find out which team has more at stake in a rivalry game like this is difficult, especially since Michigan enters on a bit of a roll with a chance to establish itself as a tournament team and one that belongs in the top half of the conference. Michigan State, meanwhile, has the higher expectations but has been struggling to find consistency and has lost three in a row. The Spartans have the benefit of this game being at home and knowing another loss might be hard to take in a season that could get away from them. Edge: Michigan State