No. 3 Michigan State has been banged up all season long.
Gary Harris has missed time with an ankle injury. Matt Costello and Travis Trice have been sick enough that they had to sit out games. Keith Appling has dealt with nagging injuries that were painful enough to visually affect him during games but not bad enough to keep him out of the lineup.
That’s all in the past. Now? The Spartans are without Adreian Payne, who missed his fifth straight game on Saturday with a sprained right foot, and Branden Dawson, who missed his first game as he tries to get his broken hand healed.
That’s a lot to overcome when you’re going up against the hottest team in the country, and for the first time since November, those injuries finally cost the Spartans. No. 21 Michigan went into the Breslin Center and picked up their ninth straight win, beating Michigan State 80-75 on the strength of a combined 55 points and 11 assists from Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton.
It was the third straight game that the Wolverines have beaten a top ten opponent. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time that happened was in 1987.
Think about that for a second.
For all the injuries and illnesses that the Spartans have had to deal with this season, this was the first time since November that it has actually cost them. And for that to happen, the Spartans had to face a team putting together a win streak the likes of which we haven’t seen in 27 years while they’re down two starters.
Michigan has taken over the top spot in the Big Ten standings, and deservedly so.
But as long as the Spartans can get healthy, they have done nothing to convince us that they are anything other than a national title favorite.