Will Michigan State seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson finally get what has proven to be an elusive win against the University of Michigan at Crisler Center? We will find out the answer to that question tonight, as the Wolverines host the Spartans at 9:00pm ET on ESPN.
Now seems like as good a time as ever for the Michigan State seniors to pick up their fist win at Crisler Center, as Michigan will once again be shorthanded. It has been announced that the Wolverines will be without their sophomore floor general Derek Walton Jr., who has missed the last 5 games with a foot injury. Michigan lost 4 out of those 5 games, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Illinois last Thursday. In that game, the Wolverines were outscored 21-2 at the end of regulation and in overtime, and ended up losing 64-52. The loss was their 4th in a row but head coach John Beilein believes that his team can survive this challenge, even though they have a depleted roster.
“They’re growing every minute that they’re doing it,” Beilein said. “We don’t have that type of roster right now that’s going to blow people away. We’re going to be in this every single game.”
Michigan State junior guard Denzel Valentine, who was once recruited by Beilein and Michigan, calls Crisler one of the most hostile places to play in the Big Ten. Senior Branden Dawson agrees but looks at the trip as an opportunity.
“Coming to Michigan State, you live for playing in hostile environments like Crisler’s going to be tomorrow night.” said Dawson
The teams come into the rivalry game going in completely different directions. Michigan State has won 4 out of their last 5 games and has an overall record of 17-8, 8-4 in the Big Ten. Michigan on the other hand has lost 4 out of their last 5 and has an overall record of 13-12, 6-7 in the conference.
Though the Spartans have not won at Crisler Center since 2010, they have won the last 2 meetings head to head against Michigan. The first came last year in the Big Ten Tournament championship game as the Spartans won 69-55. The second came on February 1st as MSU was pushed to their limits by the Wolverines, but escaped with a 76-66 overtime win at the Breslin Center.
Tom Izzo knows that this game is very important to Michigan State for many reasons, but none is bigger than the fact that it is against their biggest rival.
“It’s an important game right now for us for a million reasons,” said Izzo. “The Big Ten race, the NCAA tournament, the rivalry game, I mean there’s so many different reasons. But you know, still the biggest reason is it’s the rivalry game, it’s the game in your state.”
Michigan may be slumping and playing shorthanded, but there is no doubt that come 9 o’clock tonight, the Crisler Center will be rocking like they are playing for a national title. The only question is, how long will that last? I really think that Michigan took a huge body blow with last Thursday’s loss at Illinois and it will show tonight against MSU. The Spartan seniors have unfinished business at the Crisler Center, and tonight is when they will finish it.
Prediction: Michigan State 67 Michigan 57