1. Appling: Since returning from his injury, Keith has only scored three points total in the last two games. It has been apparent that his shot has been off, but Appling has only attempted three shots in the last two games combined. Watching him play over the years it has been obvious that Keith really relies on confidence in relation to his shot selection. Not being able to practice fully has truly had an impact on the Spartan point guard. With that being said, I expect to see more of the Appling we saw prior to the injury in potentially his last game against the Wolverines. Appling has been able to practice much more since the injury and the confidence he has gained through that practice should be showcased on Sunday. One important note on Keith is that he has retained his passing ability despite his shooting struggles and his 9 assists last game tend to back that up. If Keith can score near his season average of 13.9, the Spartans should leave Ann Arbor with sole possession of first place in the B1G.
2. The Big Men: Michigan lost Mitch McGary to season ending surgery, but in his absence Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have really stepped up their game to fill the hole left behind by Mitch. Horford has nearly doubled his career points per game this year, while playing nearly 6 more minutes per game than he did a year ago. Morgan on the other hand, has seen 2 more minutes per game this year, but has increased his blocks per game significantly. Unfortunately for Michigan, Horford and Morgan combined barely grab the amount of rebounds a health McGary would pull down. For the Spartans, Adreian Payne’s return from injury has been huge. Since returning, Payne has averaged 18 points per game, while grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game. In other words, he has been a pro. With the absence of Dawson for this game, Payne must grab quite a few rebounds. If he is able to play the way he has been, the combination of him and Costello should be a big advantage for the Spartans in the paint.
3. Derrick Walton Jr.: Sure, many of you are saying: What about Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas? Those two should be able to get their points. But for Michigan, Walton Jr. was the x-factor in the first meeting between these teams. In the first meeting, Walton Jr. scored his career high in points (19) and was clutch at the free throw line, making 9 of his 10 attempts. If the Spartans want to win this game, they cannot allow Derrick to have the kind of game he did last time. He has really struggled over his last 4 games, only averaging 6.5 points per game. He will have to get out of that funk if the Wolverines hope to sweep the Spartans this year.