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Move Past Wisconsin: Sparty’s Coming to Town

Let’s be honest here: Michigan looked terrible yesterday against Wisconsin. The Wolverines’ shot selection left much to be desired, they couldn’t make stops on defense when they needed them most, and Wisconsin dominated the rebounding column. The Badgers showed up, and Michigan didn’t.

Move on.

Yeah, it’s no fun to lose, especially at home. But good teams don’t let losses like yesterday’s carry over into future games. Instead, they learn from those defeats, and work on what they can do better. Often times, they come out better and more focused in their next game.

So was the Wolverines’ loss on Sunday good for the team?

For Michigan, that next game is this coming Sunday against Michigan State. Both teams sit tied atop the Big Ten standings at 10-3, with Iowa 1.5 games back in the standings. The winner on Sunday will vault into sole possession of first place, and control their own destiny toward an outright Big Ten title.

The Wolverines will have to shoot significantly better from the field than their 40% performance, which included shooting 31.8% in the first half. They will also have to deal with Spartan big man Adreian Payne, who missed last month’s game in East Lansing with a foot injury. Spending practice time addressing these concerns will be paramount for John Beilein and his staff, and will hopefully result in a substantial difference from what we saw against Wisconsin.

All of that will be settled on the floor come gametime, of course. However, there are a few reasons to believe that the Wolverines will bounce back against the Spartans:

1) John Beilein is 7-3 against ranked opponents at home since the 2010-2011 season. This includes two wins against Top 10-ranked Michigan State. The Spartans won’t be ranked in the Top 10 this time around after their loss at home to Nebraska yesterday, but it’s good to know that Beilein’s teams have taken down better Spartan teams in the past.

2) After starting his Michigan tenure 0-4 against MSU, Beilein’s Michigan teams have gone 5-2 in their last seven games against Sparty, dating back to the 2010-2011 season. In fact, if the Wolverines can beat the Spartans on Sunday, the current senior class will have earned two season sweeps against MSU. No Michigan class has done that since the class of 1999, who swept MSU in both 1996 and 1997.

3) A win over MSU on Sunday gives Michigan a clear path toward their first outright Big Ten title since 1986. Following their matchup with the Spartans, Michigan’s remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .588 (60-42), but a Big Ten winning percentage of just .360 (18-32). Meanwhile, MSU still has to face Iowa at home and Ohio State in Columbus after their trip to Ann Arbor next weekend. MSU’s final three opponents following the Michigan game have a combined Big Ten winning percentage of .549 (28-23), and .688 overall (53-24). Advantage Michigan.

None of this is to say that Sunday’s game will be easy, or should be won by one team or another. MSU will have Adreian Payne at center this time around, and may even have Brandon Dawson back from his broken hand. Keith Appling should also be good to go, barring a setback in his return this week from a sprained wrist.

Michigan has been lucky enough to avoid the injury bug (minus Mitch McGary’s back problem), and in addition will get a full week to rest and prepare for MSU. For what it’s worth, Michigan is 3-1 under John Beilein when getting seven or more days of rest between games, and 5-1 with 6+ days of rest.

There’s no question that the game will be hard-fought, and there is a good chance that it will come down to the final possessions, as it has so frequently over the past few years. But if Michigan’s week of prep can fix some of the problems from their subpar performance against Wisconsin, the Wolverines have a great chance at a season sweep against their rivals.

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