No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 8 Michigan State: Bragging rights and Big Ten lead on the line

Gregory Shamus

Michigan hasn't been ranked higher when playing Michigan State since 1998, as the two teams collide in East Lansing for bragging rights and Big Ten standings.

The No. 8 Michigan St. Spartans have enjoyed a solid hold on the in-state rivalry with the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines in recent years, but this year might be a bit different.

For the first time since 1998, the Wolverines are ranked higher than the Spartans. Not only that, but for the first time ever the two schools will meet as top-10 ranked schools.

For more on the teams, visit THE ONLY COLORS and MAIZE N BREW

It will be an uphill battle for Michigan against their in-state rivals. The Spartans have won 19 of the past 25 meetings between the two schools and have won 32 of their last 33 games at home. Michigan started out last week on the right foot with an overtime win over Ohio State but couldn't continue the good times, falling to Wisconsin in overtime on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Spartans are doing what all good Tom Izzo-coached teams do -- peak late in the season. Michigan State has won nine of its last 10 games and is currently riding a three-game win streak.

The Wolverines run a high-scoring offense powered by guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., who combine for 34 points per game, or close to 44 percent of Michigan's scoring output. They do it off of efficient shooting as well, both hitting 48 percent of his shots from the floor.

The two guards will have their hands full against the Spartans defense, which allows only a tad under 60 points per game, 17 points fewer than what the Wolverines score per game. The Wolverines aren't as good as the Spartans on defense, sitting No. 32 in KenPom's efficiency standards. In conference play, opponents have shot 48.3 percent on two-point shots against the Wolverines.

As a team, the Spartans shoot the ball well at 46.8 percent from the floor. Forwards Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne have especially soft touches down low, but are averaging better than 50 percent from the floor. The Spartans bring a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging nine points or more, while running about eight players with a good chunk of playing time a game.

The Michigan starters, on the other hand, see a lot more of the court than most players on the team. Burke, Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III all average more than 30 minutes of playing time and the Wolverines are coming off the hardest stretch of their entire schedule, a loss at Indiana, overtime win against Ohio State and an overtime loss on the road against Wisconsin.

This is the first of two meetings between the schools. They play again in Ann Arbor on March 2.

Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Jack Breslin Student Events Center, East Lansing, Mich.
TV: ESPN
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com

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