By Adam Biggers/@AdamBiggers81
Michigan and Michigan State square off at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Wolverines have won six of the past nine, and coach John Beilein is one victory away from pulling even with Tom Izzo (6-7 since 2007-08).
For the past few days, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what can and will happen. No one can predict the future, but I'll go ahead and give it a shot with a few bold calls:
1. Michigan State senior forward Branden Dawson will score at least 20 points and rake in 10 rebounds. He already leads the Big Ten with 10.6 RPG, and he's certainly capable of busting loose for 20-plus. I guess calling a 20-and-10 isn't so bold.
During Saturday morning's conference call, I asked Beilein about stopping Dawson, which is something that can't really be done, said the coach. He just hopes that his team continues to play tough and do what it can to contain Izzo's 6'6", 225-pound human trampoline.
2. Michigan freshman forward Ricky Doyle will have a career-esque game. Maybe he won't top his high of 16 points. But he should come close, as the Spartans' frontcourt has been suspect on defense all season.
At 6'9" and 245 pounds, Doyle has the size and bear-like strength to contend with Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling. Predicting a line of 12 points and eight boards isn't too far from crazy.
3. Michigan State senior point guard Travis Trice has been an excellent assist man all year. In fact, he's one of the best in the country, averaging nearly six helpers per game. He'll get his average and then some--call it a 10-assist game for Izzo's top ball handler. He'll get some help from the next guy, too...
4. Michigan State junior wing/utility/whatever Denzel Valentine is due for a nice outing versus Michigan, as he didn't much in two of three meetings with his team's mortal enemy in 2013-14.
He performed as follows: Jan. 25, 2014: Two points, four rebounds, three assists and five fouls (L, 80-75); Feb. 23, 2014: 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists (L, 79-70); March 16, 2014: Three points, four rebounds and three assists (W, 69-55 Big Ten Tournament title game).
The 6'5", 225-pounder will get his Sunday. It's time for Valentine, who just scored 21 during a 79-77 loss to Nebraska, to break out--and doing it against a rival is as good as time as any.
I'm going to call it like this: 14 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and a block.
5. Derrick Walton will play.
During Saturday morning's conference call, Beilein said that Walton was limited and that his condition would be continuously evaluated throughout the night and Sunday morning. Walton's battling a foot injury/bout with turf toe. However, the 6'0", 180-pound sophomore point guard is from Detroit; it's likely that he could regain a little pep in time to suit up tomorrow. Guys from Michigan who play in this rivalry tend to find extra.
Unless he's in a boot and completely incapacitated, Walton will play for the Wolverines on Sunday.
Check out the preview podcast with Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News and Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal.
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