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Pregame Shootaround 3.3.13: Michigan-Michigan State highlights Sunday’s slate

Mar 3, 2013, 9:29 AM EDT

Gary Harris AP

Game of the Day: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The last time these two teams met, Michigan was at the tail end of a brutal four-game stretch in the Big Ten. The Wolverines had faced Indiana, Ohio State, and Wisconsin in succession and were subsequently blown out by Michigan State in East Lansing, 75-52. At the time, there were questions about how much of that was a matter of fatigue and how much was related to Michigan State as an opponent.

Now, almost three weeks later, they meet again and Michigan is fresh off a loss to lowly Penn State, while Michigan State is in its own brutal stretch of the Big Ten. The Spartans have losses to Indiana and Ohio State, will face Michigan Sunday, then welcome Wisconsin back at home.

Guard play is key in this one. Michigan’s Trey Burke is a National Player of the Year candidate and the player tabbed with containing Keith Appling. Appling has struggled of late, combining to go 2-of-14 for nine points in consecutive losses to Indiana and Ohio State. Whoever wins the battle of the point guards will go far to win this game, but continue reading below for the matchup that will decide this one.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 4 Michigan (-5) vs. No. 9 Michigan State

One of the biggest questions that faces the Michigan Wolverines is how they handle the interior. Few questions the potency of their offense or the play of point guard Trey Burke, but when it comes to depth in the paint, there are question marks. That’s why Sunday comes down to a matchup that Michigan State should use to its advantage. Can Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan handle Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne?

If Tom Izzo gameplans accordingly, they should be able to exploit that matchup and can use it as an engine to get a big road win.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Stony Brook vs. Albany (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Stony Brook has already locked up the regular season title in the America East, but they’re worth watching Sunday because they could be dangerous if they make it to March. They are a very solid rebounding team, led by freshman Jameel Warney, and contrast that with help from do-it-all senior Tommy Brenton. Low majors always face a battle because, regardless of what happens in the regular season, the automatic bid is usually the only ticket to the Big Dance. We’ll see if the Seawolves can make a run.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 17 Wisconsin is fortunate to have one of the more favorable final stretches in the Big Ten, but Sunday against Purdue is a major trap game. The Badgers can’t be looking ahead to Michigan State on the horizon and must take care of this one at home.

2) Virginia scored an emotional upset win over Duke on Thursday and faces something similar to what Wisconsin is looking at here in the final three regular season games. The Cavaliers draw Boston College Sunday, then Florida State and Maryland. All three should be wins, but any one could also be a stumbling block before the ACC tournament.

3) Villanova is squarely on the bubble. With all the shifting going on yesterday, they have a chance to solidify their spot in the tournament with a win over No. 23 Pittsburgh. A loss would certainly hurt, but at least it can’t be on the level of Ole Miss’ loss to Mississippi State or Tennessee’s loss to Georgia.

4) Maryland popped its own bubble with a loss to Georgia Tech earlier this week. NC State is much more solidly in the NCAA tournament than the Terrapins, but they’ll need to avoid stumbling against the Yellow Jackets Sunday.

5) Close games have hurt Stanford’s chances in the Pac-12. This team has lost three games by two points or less this season and sit at the bottom of a crowded conference because of it. Regardless, they face Utah Sunday and want to finish out the regular season strong.

The Top 25

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 9 Michigan State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Wisconsin vs. Purdue (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Villanova (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

Florida State vs. North Carolina (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Washington State vs. Washington (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

Virginia vs. Boston College (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Utah vs. Stanford (5:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

NC State vs. Georgia Tech (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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