When it comes to Big Ten basketball, there aren’t many who know the state of Michigan better than former MSU All-American Steve Smith. I caught up with Smith and asked him for three bold predictions leading up to tonight’s much-anticipated Michigan-Michigan State matchup.
BTN.com: Who wins the scoring battle between Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris?
Smith: I think Gary Harris. The reason why is because that 3-point shot of his. Both of those guys can shoot the basketball tremendously from a high level, but I think Michigan State has more guys that can defend the wings, and they do a really good job at switching. But with Michigan, they only have a couple guys that can stay in front of Michigan State’s wings, and I think that’s why they will be broken down because of style of play. I think Stauskas is going to be more of a problem when he is driving and creating his offense that way. He has to do that more than Gary. Keith Appling provides the penetration and can kick to Gary, but Stauskas has to do both. That’s why I think Gary scores more.
BTN.com: Which team will get more production from their bench?
Smith: I give a small advantage to Michigan State just because their bench guys have been playing so much with the injuries, especially those guys on the front line with the absence of Adreian Payne. They have become a little more comfortable, and now with Dawson out, those guys are going to get even more playing time. Michigan lost so much in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke, so they’ve had guys like Derrick Walton Jr. need to step up. He’s going to be the key guy, if he doesn’t start, coming off the bench for Michigan.
BTN.com: We all know about Appling and Harris for Michigan State and Stauskas and Robinson III for Michigan. Who is one guy who doesn’t get all the headlines that is going to step up and could make a difference in this game tonight?
Smith: I think for Michigan State it’s going to be Travis Trice. I think both he and Kenny Kaminski are due for big games. On the Wolverines side, I think it will be Jon Horford. He’s a kid who grew up in the Lansing area, so he’s familiar with this stage and will be very comfortable. He will have a big game for Michigan, whether he starts for comes off the bench. He’s one of those guys who isn’t a household name, but is a player that can make a difference for Michigan in this game.
BTN.com: What’s your prediction for the game?
Smith: That’s easy. Playing at Michigan State, in the Breslin, the Izzone will be going crazy. The chips are against Michigan State because there are two starters down in the front court, but I think MSU’s wing guys are savvy enough and tough enough, along with that crowd, Michigan State wins by double digits.