These are the top two teams in the Big Ten?
It's almost hard to believe, but No. 3 Michigan State and No. 21 Michigan are the only teams left in the Big Ten without a league loss, and everyone else in the league has at least two. That means tonight's showdown (7 p.m. ESPN) between the state rivals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing could have major implications on the title race.
"It's a big game, a rivalry game," Michigan State guard Gary Harris said. "The Bres will be rocking. They'll be ready to play, so it's definitely going to be a battle."
Breslin was certainly loud last year, when Michigan State and Michigan played each other as top 10 teams for the first time. The Spartans won that one in a 75-52 rout.
Today's game marks another first — Michigan State (18-1, 7-0) and Michigan (14-4, 6-0) have never met with both teams at 6-0 or better in Big Ten play.
It's a rivalry that's experienced a renaissance in recent years. Michigan and Michigan State were both part of a three-way tie for the Big Ten title in 2012. After the embarrassing loss in East Lansing last year, the Wolverines rebounded and went all the way to the Final Four. Michigan has won four of the last six in this series after losing 18 of the previous 21.
"I think the main thing is we're not scared," Michigan's Nik Stauskas said. "We're just going to come in and play the way Michigan basketball plays and just be as aggressive as we can."
The Wolverines lost Burke and Hardaway after last season's run, and any hope of similar success in 2014 seemed gone when McGary needed surgery for a back injury. McGary is out indefinitely, but Michigan has won eight in a row despite the star big man's absence. Jordan Morgan has filled in and is helping the offense with his ability to cut to the basket.
"When he's a threat, people kind of sag in from the side," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Stauskas is doing more as a passer than maybe Hardaway did."