Other than the fact that Tuesday's contest features MSU and UM in their annual match-up, the game has much bigger implications than it has in recent years.
For the Wolverines, this may be the biggest game of the season.
They have lost six of their last eight games, including a hard fought loss at No. 1 Connecticut. The wave that the Wolverines rode after beating UCLA and Duke is starting to fade, and now they are in desperate need of another signature victory to make their way into the NCAA Tournament.
But no one should sell the Wolverines too short. The fact that they have taken down a couple college basketball's giants, make this an interesting game. Michigan is dangerous and presents a challenge to the Spartans primarily because of the intensity that they'll bring to this rivalry game and because of their style of play. Defensively, they play a 1-3-1 zone, the same zone that Northwestern plays, but just with better and more athletic players.
The Spartans feel that their experience against Northwestern and their personnel will help them succeed against Michigan's zone.
"We have the team to match up," freshman Delvon Roe told GSN recently. "If they want to stop us from going inside, we got shooters that can knock down the jump shot. If they want to stop our perimeter game, we got people inside that could cause havoc."
On offense Michigan runs a lot of screens- and that's an understatement. They utilize back door cuts, plenty of motion and they fire it up from deep whenever they get the chance. It is a high-risk, high-reward offense, and it makes them very dangerous.
Spartans point guard Travis Walton has seen two different Michigan teams while observing them this year and he knows which one he wants to face on Tuesday.
"Hopefully a Michigan team that's missing a lot of jump shots. When they're making them, they're a scary team," Walton said. "We got to make sure we press up in them. We know they're going to shoot a lot of three pointers and that's how upsets usually happen. We got to contain them on the three-point line and force them to put the ball on the ground."
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims get most of the press for the Wolverines and deservingly so. Harris can do it all on the floor. He is a streaky shooter, but he knows how to get to the line, and he converts once he is there shooting 86 percent. He averages 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists to go along with his 17.5 points a contest.
DeShawn Sims plays the power forward position, but looks more like a wing. He likes to play on the perimeter as he has three-point range, but he also attacks the glass. He is putting up 14.8 points and 7.5 boards a game.
Sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry, as well as freshmen Zack Novak and Stu Douglass are the primary long-range threats. Lucas-Perry, after a hot start, has cooled considerably and if UM is to pull an upset, they'll need him to play well.
The Spartans are the more talented, deeper, and stronger team, and should have a lopsided advantage on the glass, but this is a rivalry game and the Spartans' players know it by the way their coach acts around this game.
"Yeah, he's different. He's more excited, he's on the edge, senior Goran Suton said."
WINNING AT CRISLER
Another often overlooked aspect of the series is the fact that Michigan State has not had much success when they've played in Crisler Arena, site of Tuesday night's contest.
While few think of Crisler as a real snakepit, it has been one for the Spartans in season's past.
Michigan State has not won in Ann Arbor since the 2005 season, which means not one player on the current MSU roster has won a road game against their rivals.
Goran Suton was on the roster in 2005, but he was red-shirted and doesn't feel like that victory counts on his résumé. He is amped up for the opportunity to get that first victory at Crisler.
"Definitely excited," Suton said. "I want to go down there and get a win. I haven't got a win down in Ann Arbor yet, so I guess it's a first time for everything."
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