The Wolverines are back! Wait for a second, have they even left? The University of Michigan Wolverines has picked up where they left off last March and remain undefeated throughout this first half of the season. Michigan’s defense is absolutely stellar again this year. They especially excel at creating points off turnovers and spreading the floor through their numerous 3-pt threats like Jordan Poole. Poole is shooting close to 50% for the year!
Big Ten play started last month, however, this weekend marks the start of the title race as the four remaining undefeated teams play each other. The Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, and Indiana Hoosiers were undefeated in conference play heading into this weekend’s slate of matchups.
Michigan State hosed the Buckeyes in a grind fest yesterday winning by 9 points. This was a landmark victory as it proved they belong with other elite schools like Duke and in-state rival Michigan. The Big Ten title race is shaping to come down between Michigan and Michigan State.
The game was a story of two halves as the Spartans looked lethargic and lost during the first. They came out guns blazing in the second riding the hot hand of Junior Cassius Winston. Nick Ward also came to play chipping in 21 points and 7 rebounds against the Buckeyes. They’ve now won 12 of their last 13 games. Cassius Winston is their floor general and scoring leader. He’s averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 assists per game. He’s excellent at spreading the floor and creating space for his teammates. Winston has definitely earned himself a reputation as one of the best point guards in the country.
The Spartans look to run the break and push the tempo with the ball in Winston’s hands. They look to create easy buckets for Winston and others through their transition play. The Spartans look to beat you with their boundless energy and athleticism. Swinging the tempo up definitely favors their style of play. They are led by Nick Ward and Cassius Winston. Second-year Xavier Tillman has a motor that doesn’t stop and is continuously displaying improvement each game.
The Spartans will have to work hard to contend Michigan’s jump shooting ability. They seemingly have an endless array of 3-point threats Jordan Poole and Brazdeikis are knockdown three-point shooters. Poole is easily one of the best shooters in the nation. Charles Matthew, their transfer, is one of the most enjoyable players to watch in the Big Ten. He just jumps out of the gym with his crazy athleticism. Matthews also has some of the highest versatility on the Wolverines. Stopping him is important for the Spartans as he is Michigan’s best creator off the dribble.
Michigan also boasts one of the best defensive squads in the country. They are ranked no. 2 in defensive efficiency. The Wolverines are only allowing 55 points a game going into their matchup against the Hoosiers. Michigan’s starting five are all capable defenders. Their defense has consistently ranked in the top 5 all season.
The Wolverines’ most glaring weakness is their lack of depth. Michigan has a nice core of scorers with Poole, Matthews, and Brazdeikis, however, their bench lacks a true scoring threat. This really became noticeable with Isaiah Liver’s injury. The Wolverines will confidently run 6-7 deep so the Spartans should focus on getting one of Michigan’s main three scorers on foul trouble. Neutralizing Matthews should be the key to MSU’s defensive strategy.
He is the only one of the three-headed monster that can pull up as well as drive with confidence. The Wolverines are currently undefeated, however, the Spartans look to change that. In Michigan’s remaining schedule, the Spartans loom as their greatest opponent. They just so happen to be their in-state rival. Time will tell how these two times really match up. If anything, it’s sure to produce some truly enjoyable basketball!