Both the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans were dealt sizable blows in their quest for a solo regular season Big Ten title in the last week.
By no means has the ship sailed on either team eventually sharing a title, however. The Wolverines host the Indiana Hoosiers and Spartans at home in the next few weeks, meaning they’ll have a say in the race. Michigan State, meanwhile, has big games remaining against Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Two of those three contests will be on the road.
The motto? Neither team can afford to mope in the wake of tough losses. Michigan bearly beat Penn State on Sunday, and Michigan State will need to be ready in a hurry after Tuesday night’s missed opportunity at home against Indiana. Getting off to a fast start against Ohio State is important for the Spartans. The Wolverines, set to face an improving Illinois team desperate for another big resume win, need to dominate from the beginning instead of allowing a last place team to hang around.
Mostly, this is about each team having a proper mindset for their upcoming games first. The past is the past, and there’s nothing that can be done to change the outcome of those individual close losses, tough games or plays. Rebounding quick in the ever changing Big Ten is critical. Each team needs to keep their swagger and stay confident, even though losses have a way of diminishing that.
Using the spring of 2012 as the primary evidence, both teams should understand the Big Ten race is literally never over until it’s over. The resurgent Wolverines stole a piece of the title from the Spartans and Buckeyes on the final day of the year. Then, Michigan State, which hadn’t won a Big Ten tournament title since 2001, ripped off four impressive wins to take home the postseason crown and a number one seed.
Why did each team manage to finish strong and keep their heads above water? They rebounded from tough midseason season losses with big wins. The Spartans lost on the final day to the Buckeyes in crushing fashion and then went on a tear and the Wolverines lost an embarrassing game to Purdue and followed that up with three straight wins.
Each team staying mentally strong and rebounding quickly is the key, no matter what else happens. It should be the motto of the topsy turvy Big Ten; where one day you’re up, and the next you’re down hard.
Player Of The Week: Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan. With 21 points in Michigan’s big win against Penn State, Robinson answered the calls for his return down low in fine form. In order to win against the Fighting Illini, the Wolverines need another big performance out of Robinson. Then, he needs to step up on the road against the Nittany Lions. For now, we’ll salute him given the fact he stepped up from last week’s embarrassing performance against the Spartans.
Game Of The Week: Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday. There’s no time for the Spartans to mope following Tuesday night’s heartbreaking loss to Indiana. They must summon the strength to go on the road and rebound against the Buckeyes in a tough environment. A win in hostile Columbus would certainly help the Spartans rebound well from a loss, and keep them on the heels of the Hoosiers. It’s never easy to win at Value City Arena no matter how bad the Buckeyes’ record might be. Michigan State is certainly on high upset alert late Sunday afternoon.
Stat Of The Week: 34, the number of rebounds Illinois grabbed against Michigan in their earlier meeting despite getting blown out at home. Michigan held serve with 33, but have been getting dominated on the glass lately by other more physical opponents. Knowing this, the game plan for the Illini should be to attack the paint better and try to outmuscle the Wolverines in the paint.
#4 Michigan State 22-5 (11-3 Big Ten)
#7 Michigan 22-4 (9-4 Big Ten)
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax