No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Middle Tennessee State
3/18/16, 2:45 pm
A big surprise in yesterday’s tournament revealing was the fact that Michigan State did not get a #1 seed after winning the Big 10 Tournament over Maryland. However, the Spartans don’t really seem to care. “If they feel like we’re a two seed, go ahead and put us there. See what we do,” said Denzel Valentine. Many experts are picking MSU to win it all, despite being a #2 seed. Nevertheless, the Spartans cannot look past a first round matchup against the Blue Raiders from Middle Tennessee State. The last and only time the Spartans played MTSU was in December of 1977 at MSU, with MSU coming out victorious. MTSU won this year’s Conference USA Tournament by defeating Old Dominion 55-53 in the last seconds of the final. Blue Raider’s coach Kermit Davis looks to pull off the upset of the century when they face MSU in St. Louis on Friday afternoon.
Match-Up to Watch: Bryn Forbes vs. Giddy Potts
Out of players who have attempted 125+ three-pointers this season, Bryn Forbes from MSU (48.4%) and Giddy Potts (50.3%) from Middle Tennessee have the highest percentage from beyond the arc. Both of these players can shoot the lights out, but whoever makes more threes will potentially affect the outcome of the game. Bryn Forbes has gone cold recently, and MSU will try and create open looks for him to get back on track.
X-Factor for Michigan State: Senior Leadership
When top-seeded teams look at the bracket, it’s hard not to look ahead to the next opponent. However, MSU’s seniors need to keep the team grounded and focused on the task at hand. Valentine, Forbes, Matt Costello, and Colby Wollenman have all been to the tournament multiple times and have seen first-hand what happens when a team looks past an opponent. The seniors will come out strong and set an example for the younger players like Deyonta Davis and Matt MaQuaid on how to properly play a lower-seeded team.
X-Factor for Middle Tennessee: Focus on the Long Ball
The Blue Raiders will have to shoot a lot of threes if they want any chance of winning this game. They are a top 30 team in the country from beyond the arc, and players besides Giddy Potts will have to show the ability to shoot the three. Darnell Harris will have to play the game of his life to compliment Potts if MTSU wants any chance of staying in this game. If MTSU starts struggling from three, it could be an ugly loss for the Blue Raiders.
Key Stat: Blue Raiders Free-Throw Blues
Middle Tennessee has shot a dismal 61.7% from the line this season. That’s 347th out of the 351 D1 teams in the country. Michigan State is going to try and play a very physical defense knowing that Middle Tennessee has had woes from their free-throw shooting. If Middle Tennessee gets to the line, they need to make the most of their opportunities. Otherwise, the bus back to Murfreesboro might be warming-up at halftime.
Every year, it seems as though there is a game where a #15 seed that has a legitimate shot at beating a #2 seed. This isn’t one of those games. Denzel Valentine will flirt with a triple-double even after being pulled with 10 minutes left in the game. Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis will combine for more than 30 points en route to an easy victory.
Michigan State 93, Middle Tennessee 62
MSU Class of 2018