That result, of course, ended with No. 3 Michigan defeating No. 22 MSU, 80-75, as U-M would go on to win its first outright Big Ten Championship since 1986.
Fast-forward to Sunday’s match up in East Lansing, and the hype surrounding the annual rivalry game is much different for both programs. Neither team is ranked, neither team is considered a conference front-runner and both are firmly siting on the NCAA bubble with 10 games to go in Big Ten play.
However, that doesn’t take away the importance of the game, says Walton, who is trying to end a four-game losing skid to the Spartans.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Walton Jr. said. “I’m excited. That’s all I can pretty much say. I take it personal because guys from Detroit give me a hard time about not winning that game. So I’m looking forward to a great game. I’m taking my guys up there.”
And with both teams tied for sixth place with 4-4 in conference records, a win for either team could set the tone for the rest of their season, says Walton, noting he’s well aware of what it takes to get ready for MSU.
“Honestly, in this league every game is the Super Bowl,” Walton Jr. said. “You never know what game is going to prevail you in the end. So you treat every game and approach every game like it’s the last. The standings right now are what they are. But at the end of the day, if we’re being honest, this is Michigan-Michigan State, it’s a game that’s televised and we’re ready to play.”
Michigan (14,7, 4-4 Big Ten) plays at Michigan State (12-9, 4-4) this Sunday at 1 p.m.