#8 Miami Hurricanes vs #9 Michigan State
8:50 pm, TNT
Player to Watch: Davon Reed (15.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg)
Davon Reed is one of only two seniors on the young Miami squad. “Mr. Dependable,” as he is known by his teammates and coaches, has been a team captain since his sophomore year. The 6’6” guard has had quite the senior season finishing in the top 15 of the ACC in minutes played (35.3), 3-point shooting percentage (39.9), and free-throw percentage (83.3).
X Factor: Get to the rim
Miami is not a great shooting team. The Hurricanes finished ACC play in eleventh place in both overall field goal percentage (43.6) and three-point shooting percentage (35.9). In order to be competitive Miami cannot get caught up in a three-point shooting contest. They have to play to their strengths and attack the rim.
Michigan State Spartans
Player to Watch: Miles Bridges (16.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 apg)
Miles Bridges was one of the top names among freshman coming into this college basketball season, and he has certainly lived up to the hype. Bridges finished seventh in the Big Ten in scoring. He is known for his athletic finishes at the rim, but really does it all for the Spartans as he can handle the ball and is a serious threat from deep.
X Factor: Interior Defense
Miami’s poor shooting, as highlighted earlier, could be a huge issue for them in the postseason. With that said, Michigan State should look to expose that part of their game. The Hurricanes only take an average of 6.4 threes per game. Big men Nick Ward and Kenny Goins should look to be aggressive defensively down low and create issues for Miami’s big men. If MSU can force the Hurricanes to kick the ball out and take more jump shots the Spartans will hold a huge advantage.
Match-Up to Watch
This 8-9 match-up will feature a couple of very talented freshmen. Although different positions, Bruce Brown of Miami and Nick Ward of Michigan State will be guys to keep an eye on. Bruce Brown was a highly touted recruit out of high school and has been a huge contributor for coach Jim Larrañaga this season. The 6’6” guard is third on the team in scoring, and second in rebounds and assists. The freshman has proved his maturity in his ability to shine in big games; Brown averaged 20 points in the two match-ups with Duke and 25.5 points in the two games against North Carolina this season. On the other side for Michigan State is their freshman big man, Nick Ward. Ward has been forced to step into a larger role with the absence of MSU’s senior, Gavin Schilling. He has been impressive all season and has really found his stride down the stretch scoring double digits in eleven out of the final 12 games of the year. A lot of people thought Nick was snubbed from the B1G All-Freshman Team. Ward, along with Bridges, will be exciting to see square off with the other talented freshman, Bruce Brown.
The young stars are fun to watch, but their inexperience leads to quite a few turnovers for both teams. Miami averages 13 turnovers per game while the Spartans average 14. Taking care of the ball has been an issue all season as both teams finished in the bottom three of their respected conferences. Both teams should look to be aggressive on defense. Not just limiting their own turnovers, but taking advantage of their opponent’s turnovers will be crucial in this contest.
Prediction: Michigan State 73, Miami 68
The 8-9 match-ups always make for difficult decisions when filling out your brackets. This one is no different and really could go either way. I give the advantage to Michigan State because I think they create more threats offensively. Although Miami does have a great defense I think their offense can stall at times. I do see the game being very competitive and I think Bruce Brown and Miles Bridges will not disappoint, being the leading scorers of the game. The Spartans will then have the pleasure of playing one of the best teams in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks, to advance to the Sweet 16. That is if the history of a 16 seed never beating a 1 seed continues.
Indiana University | 2020