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The Only Questions: Q&A with Michigan

The Spartans are ready to battle the Wolverines in their own back yard for another years worth of bragging rights

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Only Colors Q&A’s are back in action, basketball style, and what better way to kick off our season of interviews than with the Spartans hated rival Michigan.

This is the only regular season meeting between these two rivals for the year (super dumb by the way) so both teams will look to be on their “A” game. The Spartans have recently experienced some struggles, losing to Ohio State and having an overtime thriller against Rutgers that resulted in an all too close 76-72 win.

These are mishaps all of Spartan Nation thought would be avoided considering MSU is the heavy favorite to win the conference. With that being said the No. 4 Spartans will certainly want to stay clear of any more lapses vs. Michigan.

In order to get inside the minds of our fellow Wolverine fans we’ve brought in Josh LaFond, you guys may remember him from our Q&A prior to the football game in early October. Well he is back and ready to provide us with some spectacular insight that could not be accomplished without the help of the UM site Maize N’ Brew.

The Spartans and Wolverines will always be rivals. No matter what the two fan bases will hate each other until the end of time. They played their first basketball game way back in 1909 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The final score was 24-16 in favor of Michigan State. Michigan currently leads the All-Time series 91-81. What part of the rivalry do you enjoy the most? What sport do you get the most excited for? Why?

You said it, McLain. No matter what sport whether it be football, basketball, hockey, or even gymnastics, the rivalry is very real. For me, personally, I’ve always been more emotionally invested in the outcome of the football game. I grew up in the heyday of the Lloyd Carr era, with Chad Henne and Mike Hart leading the Wolverine offense. Those overtime thrillers and come from behind wins reinforced my love for the Maize n’ Blue.

Where does the fan base sit with head coach John Beilein right now? Why?

That’s a touchy topic, Mr. Moberg. So many people — mostly up until last season — wanted John gone, for whatever reasons. I think he’s a heckuva coach and developer who is going to end up signing the best Wolverine class since The Fab 5.

This season has been a success to date, with all the youth on this team learning a complicated Beilein offense is no small task, but they appear to be up to snuff. As long as Michigan makes the big dance, fans will be thrilled about the team and their bright future.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan was on a seven game winning streak, with very impressive victories against UCLA and Texas before losing to No. 5 Purdue 70-69. There was an extremely questionable call at the end of regulation that many have said changed the outcome. Give us your thoughts on the game as a whole and then specifically your opinion surrounding the call in question.

That was an amazing game. The fight that Michigan showed was truly remarkable considering they came back from down double digits twice — something that’ll benefit them later down the road. Onto the controversial ending.

All game it seemed like Issac Haas of Purdue was getting away with just about anything he wanted to in the post. Mo Wagner and Haas had been going back and forth all game with Mo getting the benefit of the doubt or a correct call not even once. It was no different on the final call.

In real time, and replay, it looked like it should’ve been a no call at the very least. Wagner and Haas were pushing back and forth with Issac Haas hooking Wagner before the inbound. The call was on Wagner and with Purdue in the bonus, Haas made 1 of the 2 free throws to put the Boilermakers up 1 with just seconds remaining. Charles Matthews’ of Michigan got a great look at a potential game winning deep three, but it rimmed out, and sealed the Wolverines fate.

What has been the biggest surprise for Michigan this season?

This is tough as there’s a few different ways I could take this, but I want to talk about [starting point guard] Zavier Simpson. During the off-season it seemed as though it was a foregone conclusion that former Ohio Bobcat and All-MAC guard Jaaron Simmons would win the job. But those who thought so forgot about Z.

He has put a stranglehold on the starting point guard position after rallying Michigan to wins over UCLA, Texas, and nearly knocking off aformentioned #5 Purdue. Zavier struggled in his freshman season to comprehend the Beilein offense, and his confidence was a victim of that. This season, however, Simpson has been a fantastic 3-point shooter, has shown an ability to finish over much taller defenders (he’s listed as 5’9) and has been an artist setting up the offense.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Who is a player Spartan fans should be paying extra attention to?

Isiah Livers. He is one of the many freshman who have been making an impact thus far. With senior guard/forward Duncan Robinson seemingly stuck in a rut offensively, Livers has breathed life into the offense and defense for that matter. He has a great shooting stroke and has the ability to guard on the perimeter and in the post. With his great play to date, the game in East Lansing could mark his first career start.

What one on one match up are you most interested in seeing? Why?

Miles Bridges vs Charles Matthews. Matthews is a transfer from Kentucky and after having sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules, he has shown himself to be a linchpin for the Michigan defense. Miles Bridges’ talent is undeniable and he is electric with the ball in his hands, it’ll be a tough assignment to contain him. That’s why I’m looking forward to seeing what Charles can do to limit Miles impact.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If March Madness started tomorrow where do you have this team finishing?

I think Michigan would be a top 8 seed. They have quality wins over UCLA and Texas which would be enough to get them in if it started today. As for Michigan State, they remind me so much of the 2013 Michigan Wolverine Final 4 team that featured Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, Spike Albrecht, and others. Just like the Wolverines then, when they play how they’re capable of they can run their opponent out of the building, but they’re just as likely to drop a game to Penn State (one of the teams Michigan lost to in that season). But if the Spartans were in the tourney today, I’d have them as a 2 seed and think they would have a great shot at winning it all. I’m very excited to see both these teams progress as the year goes on.

Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?

First, I just want to say that it’s a travesty these teams only play once this year *cough* Jim Delaney *cough*. Onto the score prediction.

I think Michigan will keep it close for the majority of the game but Sparty will find their groove and close the door with limited time remaining. Miles Bridges will have an inconsistent day with Charles Matthews guarding him tight, but he will remind the nation why he is a collegiate star by making a couple big plays towards the end of the game. I have the Spartans winning it by a count of 73-68.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to Josh and everyone over at Maize N’ Brew for helping put this Q&A together!

Go Green!