The Michigan State Spartans will look to stay undefeated in Big 10 play tonight as they host the Maryland Terrapins. The Spartans have managed to stay atop the Big 10 standings at 7-0 despite playing without their best player, Joshua Langford, for the last five games. The Spartans are ranked number six in the AP Poll and are third on kenpom. The Terrapins are looking to stay hot as they have won nine out of their last ten games, including seven straight. With the recent hot streak, the Terrapins find themselves ranked in the top twenty-five as well, coming in at number nineteen in the AP Poll and number seventeen on kenpom.
If Maryland is able to knock off the Spartans on the road tonight, they will jump Michigan State for first place in the Big 10. There is a lot of basketball to be played yet this year, but whoever wins this game will have a clear path the Big 10 regular season title. The Spartans are big -9.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 148 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 PM PST from the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
What the Michigan State Spartans have been able to do this year has been truly remarkable. They have played an absolutely brutal schedule and have had to play through multiple injuries, yet here they are, lurking just outside the top five in the nation, and sitting in first place in the Big 10. After losing to the number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks on opening night, the Spartans have been rolling. Wins over UCLA, Texas, Iowa, Florida, Ohio State, Purdue, and Nebraska are all solid ones, and the Spartans look like a team that could compete for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
The big issue right now for Michigan State is that they can’t keep their best players on the court. Joshua Langford has missed the last five games, and although the Spartans haven’t let it hurt them, getting him back on the floor is going to be key to a Final Four run for Tom Izzo’s squad. Langford is the upperclassmen leader for this Spartans team, and while he might not be the most talented player on the team, that title probably goes to Cassius Winston, his value can’t be understated. Langford was averaging fifteen points, four rebounds, and three assists before going out with a foot injury. The timetable for his return seems to be all over the place, but if the Spartans don’t get him back soon, it is going to catch up with them.
The expectations were fairly low for the Maryland Terrapins coming into the season. They were picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big 10 in the preseason coaches poll, and they are one of the youngest teams in the league. But at this point, the Terrapins look like a team that could actually win the Big 10 regular season title. Now, they haven’t played the two best Big 10 teams yet, Michigan or Michigan State, but they do have nice wins over Wisconsin, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Loyola Chicago. And all three of their losses are all reasonable ones as they lost to Virginia, Purdue, and Seton Hall, all teams that should be dancing in March. This team is much better than we all thought they would be, that is certain.
Michigan State has the better overall roster in this one. But with Langford and Kyle Ahrens both expected to miss the game, that talent gap shrinks down a lot. When I saw the line open at nearly double-digits I was shocked. Yes, winning in East Breslin is never an easy thing, and Michigan State has a great team, but Just don’t see the Terrapins getting blown out in this one. At some point, we are all going to have to acknowledge the fact that we greatly underestimated this Maryland team and that they are a lot better than we thought they would be.
It wouldn’t even shock me if the Spartans are on legit upset alert in this one. In a vacuum, I like this Michigan State team a lot, but this Big 10 league play is a grind, and I don’t see any way that they run the table undefeated in conference. And when you look at spots where they could slip up and drop a game, a game like tonight could be the one. They are banged up, and Maryland is red hot and playing with a lot of confidence right now.
I see this game being much closer than everyone else thinks. In the end, the Spartans are likely to come out on top, but don’t be shocked if the Terrapins give them all they can handle. So, I will snatch up all those points and expect a close game and an easy cover. Give me the Maryland Terrapins and the +9.5-points tonight from the Breslin Center!