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Game Preview: Michigan State travels to Ann Arbor to Resume Big Ten Season Against Michigan

Men’s basketball plays its first game since February 12th, one day before the tragic shooting on MSU’s campus

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

After some of the most difficult days imaginable for the MSU community, athletic events are beginning again, with men’s basketball making the 65 mile trip to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Saturday evening. In what has been a charged, nasty, and toxic rivalry across multiple sports, this meeting is something that obviously feels wildly different. Monday night’s shooting that left three MSU students dead and five more seriously wounded and the hours of chaos that followed before the perpetrator was found have rendered the leadup to Saturday night’s game more than a little toothless.

Michigan, to their credit, has prepared a series of tributes, most notably the Michigan pep band playing MSU Shadows

Once the game starts, I agree with Seth Fisher from MGoBlog (His conversation with our O Basse here) that it’ll be basically a normal game, even if some of the venom is lacking compared to other meetings between the two programs. MSU has been off since last Sunday’s win in Columbus against Ohio State, with the home game against Minnesota scheduled for Wednesday night being postponed. Minnesota, being solidly in the basement of the Big Ten, probably wouldn’t have taught us all that much.

For Michigan, their story is largely the same as it’s been all season, with Hunter Dickinson continually embracing his role as a pro wrestling heel while playing extremely well at the 5 for the Wolverines. In the first game between these teams in January, Dickinson finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds, leading Michigan in both categories. Michigan comes into Saturday night on a two game losing streak, dropping games against Wisconsin and Indiana. Against the Badgers Kobe Bufkin, the Grand Rapids sophomore led the scoring with 21, and Dickinson added 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to win in Madison. Michigan is a better team at home than on the road, but this feels more like a “throw the records out” sort of game than most, even in a heated rivalry.

For MSU, the storyllines are obvious - how does the team respond on the basketball court to the horrible real-world events of the past week. For the Spartan teams that resumed play on Friday, things went well. Baseball scored 15 runs on Michigan, Hockey dominated Wisconsin in Madison, softball beat Elon, and wrestling beat Central. Initially, I thought that Tom Izzo’s team might come out flat against Michigan, given the weight of the early week. After Izzo’s speech at the rock and after the dominance of the other programs, it’s hard to believe that they’ll be anything other than motivated.

The basketball questions that have followed the team throughout the season remain, especially how MSU’s centers can neutralize Dickinson and make the rest of Michigan’s team beat them. Michigan will also be motivated, as their NCAA Tournament hopes become dimmer with each day. A win against MSU, while not the caliber that it could be in other years, would go a long way toward Michigan having a more interesting path to March.