If Michigan State’s football team is the little brother, then the Michigan men’s basketball team is the black sheep of the family.

Brian Merlos
Freshman Manny Harris leads the underdog Wolverines against the Spartans Sunday. (BEN SIMON/Daily)

Wolverine fans really don’t want to acknowledge the team, but they have no choice.

More than two months after Mike Hart called the Spartans Michigan’s “little brother,” Michigan State fans have a chance to tell Hart where he can stick it.

The 11th-ranked Spartans have won 13 of their last 14 games and will have the home-court advantage when they face Michigan Sunday.

Michigan State hasn’t dropped a game to the Wolverines at the Breslin Center since the 1996-97 season. And that game has been wiped from Michigan’s record books.

So, to appease the Athletic Department and the NCAA, the last time the Spartans lost at home to the Wolverines – and it still counts – was the 1993-94 season.

Freshmen Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady were four years old.

Michigan State is better than Michigan in just about every team statistical category except blocks and losses.

But that’s why they play the games, right? Teams don’t win or lose on paper – they win and lose on the court. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I try to imagine how the Wolverines can win on Sunday.

Michigan coach John Beilein could point to the Wolverines’ near-win versus Wisconsin as a sign his team is close to turning it around.

But Michigan’s rebounding kept it in the game, and there’s no way the Wolverines will outrebound the Spartans.

The offense doesn’t put players in good rebounding position, and the players themselves too often go up for rebounds with just one arm, only to lose control of the ball.

Michigan State works on rebounding. The drill is called “War.”

Beilein could rely on Harris’s scoring ability. Building off the team’s strong rebounding, the freshman phenom almost willed his team to victory against the Badgers.

But Illinois proved teams can concentrate solely on Harris and still win.

The Wolverines’ other scoring threat, sophomore DeShawn Sims, has enough talent to control the game.

But he still takes too many ill-advised shots and, at times, can hurt the team as much as help it.

And what about throwing everything out the window because this is a rivalry game?

Duke, Harvard, Georgetown and UCLA aren’t rivalries, but they were all important games. The Wolverines were close in just two and lost them all.

It’s not that Michigan doesn’t care.

The Wolverines just don’t have the firepower.

Considering Michigan’s one road win came when Bosch wasn’t there, he would like to tell Wolverine Nation that he won’t be at the game on Sunday. He can be reached at hectobos@umich.edu.

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