Middle Tennessee: 90, Michigan State: 81
It is not an exaggeration to say that this may be the biggest upset in March Madness history. Michigan State was picked by many analysts and fans alike to win the national championship. In fact, they were the 2nd most picked team to win the entire tournament by ESPN bracket makers. However, Middle Tennessee proved that a team should never look past a first-round opponent.
Middle Tennessee played a fantastic basketball game, and they should be commended for doing so. The Blue Raiders got off to a 15-2 lead to start the game and never looked back. Whenever the Spartans would try and make a comeback, Middle Tennessee would push even harder and shut them down. Kermit Davis had his team focused, and that ultimately led his team to 90-81 victory.
X-Factor of the Game: MSU’s Lack of Energy
It didn’t seem as though Michigan State came with nearly the amount of energy they should have for a tournament game. With three senior starters, Michigan State should have come out hungry and dominated MTSU from the very start. Instead, they looked care-free and disorganized, and the blame should be placed on the seniors. Hopefully, Tom Izzo puts a photo of the game score in full display in the locker room next year as a reminder to “never get ahead of yourselves.”
Why MTSU Won this Game: Focused on their Strengths
MTSU’s strengths are 3-point shooting and an above-average defense. They focused on those strengths and that’s why they ultimately won the game. The only person that could figure out the Blue Raider’s defense for Michigan State was Matt Costello who had 22 points. Other than that, Middle Tennessee forced MSU to make bad decisions, which ultimately led to poor shots and turnovers.
MTSU shot nearly 58% from three and it seemed as though they couldn’t miss a shot the entire game. Every single one of the Blue Raider’s starters was focused and locked into their game plan. They worked as a team, and no one on their team tried to play hero ball.
Star of the Game: Reggie Upshaw
Reggie Upshaw played the game of his life and will forever be immortalized on the campus of Middle Tennessee State. He had 21 points and 3 blocks for the Blue Raiders and was the reason they won the game. He kept on wearing out Michigan State’s big men down low, and the Spartans could never find an answer for him.
Dud of the Game: Denzel Valentine
Sadly, many fans are going to remember Denzel Valentine for this game in his college career. They are going to forget about the uncountable number of times he took over a basketball game and was unstoppable, like against Kansas earlier this season. However, even though Valentine had 13 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds, he didn’t play well. Whenever the team needed a shot tonight, he missed it. He also had 6 turnovers which were a key part in the defeat.
Stat of the Night: MSU’s 22 Fouls
MSU had 22 fouls compared to MTSU’s 13. MTSU kept on putting the Spartans out of position, which led to them fouling a lot. Denzel Valentine was in foul trouble pretty early on, which led to MTSU taking advantage of his absence.
MTSU played from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. MSU didn’t. If MSU played Middle Tennessee 10 times, they might win 9. Fate had Middle Tennessee winning this matchup though. Middle Tennessee played the best game their college has ever seen, and did something that only a handful of other #15 seeds have done: win a game. Middle Tennessee will face #10 Syracuse on Sunday.
Michigan State Class of 2018