Last year, the turning point of Michigan's season was when they beat Michigan State in East Lansing. This year, with even more at stake, the Wolverines are looking to do it again and in the process win a fourth straight against their in-state rivals.
"We've got a three game winning streak against them, so we're taking steps in the right direction" said guard Stu Douglass. "That was one of the key turning points for us."
"It gives you the most confidence, especially when you win on the road," said guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. "That just sets the tone for the rest of the season."
After the Wolverines beat the Spartans on January 17, MSU's Draymond Green was pretty passionate about how much he was looking forward to the rematch.
"Celebrate these three," said Green. "Cuz I still get a chance to play 'em one more time."
I asked Hardaway if he was aware of what Green had said after Michigan most recent win.
"We're definitely aware," said Hardaway. "Everybody's aware. The whole state's aware."
It's just another chapter in the storied rivalry between the green and white and the maize and blue.
"We're looking at the big picture," said Douglass. "It's not us against Draymond's words."
Green, who missed the end of Michigan State's loss to Illinois earlier this week, is expected to play Sunday in his final regular season game against Michigan.
"We know that he's going to go out there and play hard," said Hardaway. "They're going to give their most effort and we're going to give our best effort."
Head Coach John Beilein acknowledged how a road win can boost a team's confidence, but tries to keep the pressure off his team.
"Just go up there and do your best guys," said Beilein. "That's all we care about. You lay it all out there and that's all we can really do. Don't say, 'Oh I gotta win a road game, or we gotta do this.' No. Just play your best."
Zack Novak, who has had success guarding Green over the course of his career at Michigan, understands better than anyone how critical Sunday's matchup truly is.
"With the rivalry implications and where we're at in the league with our record, it's a huge game," said Novak. "I think both sides know that. We'll be ready to go and I'm sure they'll be ready to go."
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