NCAA Tournament Preview: Michigan State v. Harvard - Payne Looks to Follow up on Career Outing

Harvard pulled off a big upset of Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament, setting up a battle with Michigan State to reach the sweet 16.

By The Numbers

Michigan State Team Harvard
27-8 Record 27-4
Big Ten Conference Ivy League
12-6 Conf. Record 13-1
4 Seed 12
18 RPI 46
11 KenPom 32

March 22, 2014 - Spokane Arena - Spokane, WA

8:40 PM ET - TV: TNT

The Skinny

Adreian Payne flexed his muscle in Michigan State's first tournament game. Payne scored 41 points on 10-15 shooting, including 4-5 on three pointers. He was also a perfect 17-17 from the free throw line. Payne's 41 points was a school tournament record and the first 40-point game in the tourney since Steph Curry dropped 40 against Gonzaga in 2008.

Delaware kept the game interesting for awhile, trimming the lead to single digits early in the second half, but the Spartans had too much fire power. MSU broke it open and never looked back. Travis Trice scored 19 points on 7-8 from the floor. Branden Dawson and Gary Harris added 10 points each as well. The Spartans dominated the boards, 42-24, and held the Fighting Blue Hens to 36.4 percent shooting en route to the victory.

Harvard maintained control of the game throughout their upset of Cincinnati. The Crimson led by as much as nine in the first half and held the lead for the entire second half, eventually defeating the Bearcats 61-57. Guards Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard all finished in double figures, and the Crimson held Cincinnati to 36.8 percent shooting from the field on the day.

Michigan State is definitely considered the favorite in this one, if not in the entire region of the bracket. The Spartans are hot, but the second round of the tournament proved absolutely anything can happen in March. Cinderella can come from anywhere. Harvard will find out if the slipper fits Saturday. The winner will move on to the sweet 16 and face the winner of Virginia and Memphis in Madison Square Garden.

Projected Starting Lineups

Michigan State Position Harvard
Keith Appling G Siyani Chambers
Denzel Valentine G Laurent Rivard
Gary Harris G Wesley Saunders
Branden Dawson G/F Kyle Casey
Adreian Payne F/C Steve Moundou-Missi

Key Players

Adreian Payne - The guy who dropped 41 points in his last outing is probably one to keep your eye on here. Payne has a definite advantage on Harvard's pair of 6'7" forwards Kyle Casey and Steve Moundou-Missi. Payne is proving what a force he can be on the floor. He's playing defense, rebounding, knocking down free throws and being the senior leader Tom Izzo expects him to be.

Gary Harris - Some consider Harris to be the most talented Spartan and perhaps their best draft prospect. He fouled out against Delaware after playing just 25 minutes. Harris will be looking to rebound from the subpar performance and show that he's come to play in the postseason.

Siyani Chambers - The 6'0" point guard and 2012 Minnesota Mr. Basketball is the engine that drives the Crimson. He averaged 11.1 points and 4.7 assists per game this season. Chambers had a lackluster shooting performance against Cincinnati, going 2-10 from the floor, but he helped hold Sean Kilpatrick to 18 points. Chambers will need to create for his teammates and score one his own to give the Crimson a chance in this one.

Wesley Saunders - Harvard's leading scorer, with 14 points per game, had a pretty average night in his first game of the tourney. He scored 12 points on 4-9 shooting. The Crimson will want more from Saunders against a physically superior and much more talented Michigan State squad.

Prediction

Michigan State is playing with a chip on their shoulder. They know they are better than a 4 seed, and their seniors want to finally reach a Final Four. Harvard certainly was impressive against Cincinnati, and the analysts barely considered it an upset. The Spartans are simply too talented and too athletic for Harvard though. Payne is so big and strong that no one in the Crimson lineup will be able to handle him. Expect Branden Dawson to have a big day on the boards as well and Gary Harris to bounce back from a mediocre performance against Delaware.

Michigan State 84, Harvard 71

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