It’s an all Michigan affair in the Big 10 final. The top-seeded Michigan Wolverines turned away a tough Ohio State team on Saturday to reach the championship game. Their rivals from East Lansing have hit their stride at the right time.
After stumbling during the regular season, the Michigan State Spartans snuffed out Wisconsin to punch their ticket. The Wolverines swept the regular-season series, but this could be an epic finale to an exciting Big Ten tournament.
Despite the Wolverine’s two wins during the season, they come into Sunday’s final as underdogs, at least according to a report from Michigan State News.
The organization said in a tweet that Michigan State was favorited to win the Big 10 tournament by 2.5 points.
Think that’s going to motivation for the Wolverines to beat their in-state rivals for a third straight time? The Wolverines will be amped, but it’s very head to beat a good team three times in a row.
This one is going to be good.
Here’s how you can watch:
When: Sunday at 3:30PM ET
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
If Michigan wins, it most certainly deserves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
It will have won eight games in a row. That includes two wins over the Spartans. With Kansas failing to reach the Big 12 tournament final and Villanova getting upset in the Big East conference tournament, there would appear to be a top seed open for the Wolverines to snatch.
Michigan State won’t get a top seed, but capturing the conference tournament will improve its resume and possibly land it a top-four seed in the region.
According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Wolverines are predicted to land as the top seed in te East region, and the Spartans are slated to be the fourth seed in the Midwest region.
If that holds true, the next time these two teams could meet could be for the national championship. That may sound far-fetched, but both seem to be peaking at the right time.
Here’s a closer look at the matchup.
Michigan Will Win If…
It makes over 40 percent of its three-point shots. The Wolverines are 13-1 when they hit that percentage. As the 20th best shooting team in the nation, the amount of shooters the team possesses gives teams fits.
Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Nik Stauskas is perhaps the deadliest bomber.
He’s averaging 17.5 points per game and knocking down 44.5 percent of his long-range attempts. In the two wins over the Spartans, Stauskas is averaging 22 points, and he has made 8-of-11 three-point attempts.
Michigan State must extend its defense to slow the Wolverines’ three-point barrage.
Michigan State Will Win If…
It finds a way to make its free throws. The Spartans have struggled mightily from te line in the two losses to Michigan.
Michigan State has made just 33-of-48 free throws against Michigan this season. Coincidentally, the total difference in scoring over the two games is almost exactly equal ot the number of free throws the Spartans have missed, 15-to-14.
Spartans star big man Adreian Payne didn’t play in one of the meetings with Michigan. But in the game he did appear in, he made just 4-of-10 attempts from the charity stripe.
That has to improve if Michigan State is going to prevail.