(1) Michigan State vs. (16) Long Island: West Region
Michigan State 27-7, 13-5 Big Ten (Regular-season and Conference Tournament Champions)
Long Island 25-8, 16-2 NEC (Regular-season and Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 9:20 p.m. Friday
Location: Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio
Winner will face: (8) Memphis or (9) Saint Louis, Sunday
Michigan State No. 5 AP; No. 4 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Michigan State 3
Line: Michigan State -20 (O/U 154)
Players to Watch
Michigan State: F Draymond Green, 6-7 Sr. (16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.6 apg); C Derrick Nix, 6-9 Jr. (7.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 55.6% FG); G Keith Appling, 6-1 So. (11.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.2 spg). Green was the Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the conference in rebounds and finishing fifth in steals, sixth in scoring, eighth in assists and 10th in blocked shots.
LIU: F Julian Boyd, 6-7 Jr. (17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 55.7% FG); F Jamal Olasewere, 6-7 Jr. (16.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 57.7% FG); G Jason Brickman, 5-10 So. (9.7 ppg, 7.3 apg, 40.5% 3s). Boyd was named Northeast Conference Player of the Year after finishing fourth in the league in scoring, second in rebounding, seventh in offensive rebounds and seventh in field goal percentage.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Michigan State: The Spartans do a lot well, starting with an outstanding coach in Tom Izzo, who gets his team to the Final 4 with regularity. This year’s Spartans are shooting 47.6 percent from the field and averaging 72.1 points per game, while holding opponents to 37.8 and 59.1, respectively. MSU is out-rebounding opponents by 7.7 per game, including 7.6 against a tough Big Ten field. It averages 15.3 assists to 13 turnovers per game.
LIU: The NEC is underrated and Long Island is a very good 16 seed. LIU has gotten challenges all season from different styles and passed nearly every test, having won 11 of 12 and 20 of their last 22. The Blackhawks can score with anyone, averaging 81.9 points per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field. Brickman is an excellent floor general and LIU have made 217 3s and are shooting 36.8 from behind the 3-point line this season.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Michigan State: At times, the Spartans have stood around and watched Green try to take over games. The Spartans don’t shoot often from behind the 3-point line. They force just 12.9 turnovers per game and get just 7.3 steals. Appling has done a decent job, but MSU doesn’t have the same kind of floor leader that usually leads it deep into the tournament. The loss of Branden Dawson for the season will also hurt.
LIU: The Blackhawks surrender 77.3 points and 44.5 percent from the floor. They have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (0.92-to-1) and a negative turnover margin minus-2.4). Those are scary number heading into a game against Michigan State.
The Bottom Line: Michigan State will win. The Spartans have the overall superior athletes. However, a 20-point spread is way too much against a team that can shoot, score, run and rebound like the Blackhawks.
The Pick: Michigan State 77, Long Island 59
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6 (Through Tuesday, March 14)