The No. 13 Michigan State Spartans and No. 25 Michigan Wolverines will take part in college basketball’s opening day on Wednesday. Michigan welcomes Bowling Green at 4 p.m. while MSU plays host to Eastern Michigan at 6 p.m.
Fans in Michigan will be able to bet on their favorite schools for each of the matchups. Sportsbooks have released their odds for each game and the Wolverines and Spartans are double-digit favorites. MSU is a 20-point favorite against Eastern Michigan and Michigan is a 14-point favorite over Bowling Green.
Here are a few things to watch for as each team begins its 2020-21 season.
Replacing Cassius Winston, the school’s all-time leader in assists, is the biggest concern for MSU this season. Winston was a National Player of the Year candidate last year for the Spartans. He was the initiator of the offense and was relied upon to hit key shots down the stretch. Replacing Winston’s production will be vital for any success MSU has this year.
Sophomore Rocket Watts is a candidate to take over the team’s primary ballhandling duties. He started in the backcourt alongside Winston last season and played some minutes at point guard when Winston was on the bench. Watts came on at the end of last season, averaging 17.8 points per games in the final four games of the year.
Foster Loyer, who was the 2018 Mr. Basketball in Michigan, will also likely handle point guard duties this season.
Wednesday will also mark the MSU debut of sophomore transfer forward Joey Hauser. During his one season at Marquette, Hauser averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game before deciding to move to MSU.
Hauser sat out last season per transfer rules, but the 6-foot-9 forward gives the Spartans a stretch forward option. Hauser converted on 43% of his 3-point attempts while at Marquette and he has the ability to score off the block as well.
With Xavier Tillman leaving for the NBA, Hauser has the potential to be one of MSU’s top scoring options in the front court.
Similar to MSU, Michigan will be tasked with replacing a high-usage point guard from last season. Zavier Simpson led the team in scoring, averaging 12.9 points, and in assists with 7.9 per game. He was the ball-dominant guard in Michigan’s offense.
But the Wolverines have the luxury of returning three perimeter players who averaged double figures from a year ago. Eli Brooks is slotted to take over for Simpson. He averaged 10.6 points per game last season and posted a better offensive efficiency rating with Simpson off the floor compared to playing alongside him. Without Simpson, Brooks’ offensive rating was 112.7. But with him, Brooks’ rating dropped to 99.9. Brooks was Michigan’s top 3-point shooter from last season, converting a team-high 52 3s.
Isaiah Livers is the Wolverines’ top returning scorer after averaging 12.9 points last season despite missing nine games due to injury. Livers flirted with the NBA Draft before ultimately deciding to return for his senior season.
Both Livers and sophomore Franz Wagner each made 41 3s last year, giving Michigan its top three 3-point shooters from last season. Wagner averaged 11.6 points for the year but started to produce more down the stretch, averaging 15.9 points over the final seven games of the season.
Together, the trio of Brooks, Wagner and Livers will likely lead the Michigan offense in the wake of Simpson’s absence.