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Michigan State hoops a slight underdog at rival Michigan

Despite a No. 10 national ranking, sportsbooks have the Spartans as a small underdog to unranked Michigan in Ann Arbor

Michigan State enters the first of two rivalry showdowns with Michigan winners of eight straight basketball games.

After beginning the season unranked, the Spartans have surged to No. 10 in the country in both national polls. The Wolverines, meanwhile, have been one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball this season.

Michigan is 7-6 on the year, and have gone from the preseason No. 6 team in the country to a team that an unranked club.

With all of that in mind, it's a bit of a head-scratcher that the Wolverines enter Saturday's game as a two-point favorite over Michigan State.

But not everyone is surprised.

“Anybody that thinks this isn’t a good Michigan team is crazy," Spartan head coach Tom Izzo said. “This is a very talented, well-coached – they run good stuff – team. We’ve got to play our best, I promise you that.”

Izzo noted that Michigan has played a tough schedule thus far, with losses to No. 8 Arizona, No. 24 Seton Hall, a solid Minnesota team and a Rutgers team that is tough to beat on the road.

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“I told you two weeks ago, don’t get fooled by some of these teams’ records, whether it be Michigan or Illinois or even Michigan State," Izzo said. "Because, we have long way to go.”

The rivalry between the Spartans and the Wolverines has transformed into one of the best in the sport since former Michigan head coach John Beilein got the program in Ann Arbor on track.

“I’m looking for the normal backyard brawl. It’s exciting. It’s a privilege to play in it," Izzo said.

“This thing is growing into one of the better rivalries in college sports. Because, not many places – there is Duke and Carolina, but Duke and Carolina don’t have anything in football. When you have a rivalry that pans over two different sports, at a level where people are going to Final Fours, I think it even heats it up more.”

Current U-M coach Juwan Howard's 2021 recruiting class was No. 1 in the nation, and while that hasn't translated into the amount of wins the Wolverines were expected to have by this point, Izzo says its only a matter of time before Michigan starts to win more games.

“Probably one of the more talented teams in the league," Izzo said. "They are trying to figure out how to play together. They’ve had different lineups, and we’ve gone through some of that, a lot of it last year.”

Izzo didn't engage in any "hate talk" ahead of the matchup with the Wolverines.

“I respect the schools we play, and I respect the coaches that I go against, and that’s the same for them," he said of Michigan. "I have great respect for their staff, their team, but it is the rivalry game and I’m looking forward to it.”