Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has his team rolling every year in March, but this year seems to be a bit different in a good way. The Spartans started off the season on a 13 game winning streak which featured wins over Kansas, Providence, Louisville and Florida. It seemed as if they already hit championship form in the early goings of the season. After demolishing Illinois in the Quarterfinals on Friday, the Spartans look to move on to the conference championship and move closer to a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
The Maryland Terrapins made easy work of No. 11 Nebraska, and will look to gain a spot in the championship game which could help boost their tournament seeding to the 2-seed line as some have projected.
Here are three keys point to this game, which is scheduled to tip off approximately at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
1. Can Jake Layman continue his hot shooting streak?
Jake Layman finished with 26 points and performed admirably on both ends of the court. His ability to step up in a big game setting and offer himself as the number one scorer in the first half created opportunities for Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. His lights out three point shooting made the potent Maryland offense even more dangerous.
Michigan State put a stingy defense on display against Ohio State, but will need the same stifling defense in order to cool down Maryland's balance offensive attack.
2. Maryland's defense needs to step up against the Spartans.
The Terrapins offense was virtually unstoppable against the Cornhuskers, but giving up 86 points to a team that won't make the NCAA tournament is something that will need to improve in such a short amount of time before facing off with the Spartans.
Michigan State is clearly showing they are one of the elite teams not only in the conference, but in the entire country. The offensive versatility of Denzel Valentine makes their complex offense just as complex for opposing teams to stop. The combination of Valentine and Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn allows the Spartans to have a dual-point guard attack essentially at all times. Sharpshooter Bryn Forbers is often the beneficiary of dribble drives as defense have to respect the driving abilities of the Valentine and Nairn.
Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. will have their hands full with Deyonta Davis and Matt Costello on the inside, so being ready to protect the rim and rebound long ranged Spartan shots will be critical if the Terrapins wish to move on to Sunday's championship game.
3. Can Denzel Valentine keep his offensive momentum against the Terrapins?
Head coaches across the country have yet to configure a formula when it comes to developing a game plan to stop Denzel Valentine from leaving his imprint all over the box score. Will Maryland coach Mark Turgeon have enough time to make adjustments on the Big Ten Player of the Year?
Maryland could mix up defensive assignments and put Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman on Valentine in various parts of the game. Sulaimon's quickness and Layman's length could serve as a formidable plan in slowing down the do-it-all Spartans guard. Valentine is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the country as he can create for himself and others. Maryland will need to be cognizant on who they sag off of in order to help contain Valentine's dribble drive attack.