The 7-10 matchup is always exciting to watch, and this game should be no exception. Both teams are historically strong, and they have similar squads this year, making for a closely contested first-round matchup. With Tom Izzo hoping to put a stop to his team’s poor tournament play and Andy Enfield looking to maintain his team’s strong tournament performance, this game promises to be intense and well-coached.
Michigan State Spartans (19-12)
Michigan State has not missed a tournament since 1997-1998. They have a deep squad with contributors from all grade levels, boasting a strong offense that focuses on creating good open looks from beyond the arc. MSU’s three-point shooting has been particularly impressive this year, with the team shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc, ranking fourth in the nation.
The Spartans, who possess +7000 odds to cut down the nets, are led by two seniors, Tyson Walker and Joey Houser. Although one is a guard and the other a forward, they get it done the same. Walker shoots an impressive 42% from three and averages 14.6 points per game, while Houser shoots almost 46% from beyond the arc, ranking third in the country, and averages 14.2 points per game.
In contrast, the Trojans rely on stout defense, rebounding, and strong performances from their stars. USC’s best non-conference win this season came against Auburn, 74-71. The team is led by senior backcourt duo Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson, and their success will be crucial if the Trojans want to advance to the round of 32 and beyond. Ellis leads the team with 18.0 points and 3.0 assists per game, while shooting a career-best 39% from three. Peterson uses his strength and height to overpower defenders, scoring 14.0 points and grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game.
Although USC sports an impressive defense, they don’t do a great job of defending Michigan State’s strength, three point shooting. The Trojans rank 156th in the country in defending the three and will have to consistently run the Spartans off the three point line in order to keep pace. With the Spartans ability to shoot threes and free throws at a high rate, we expect Michigan state to cover the -2.5 point spread as well as the total to go over 137.5 points.