There are not many teams in the country that are heading into the NCAA tournament hotter than the Michigan State Spartans. They won the Big Ten Tournament by beating some of the best teams in the conference like the Maryland Terrapins, and the Purdue Boilermakers. The Spartans have arguably the best player in the country in Denzel Valentine and he played extremely well in the Big Ten Tournament. Everything was going in Michigan State's favor heading into the NCAA tournament, until they received a two seed instead of a one seed. Obviously they were very deserving by putting up a 29-5 record, but they are now looking like one of the most dangerous two seeds in the tournament.
The Spartans first tournament game will be against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who won the Conference USA Tournament. The Blue Raiders did not really have any big wins this season, and the team ended up going 24-9 on the season and 13-5 in conference play. The Blue Raiders' best player and leading scorer is Giddy Potts, who averages 15.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and shoots 50.3 percent from deep.The Blue Raiders also have Reggie Upshaw, who is very good on the wing, but Spartans should handle the Raiders with ease.
Denzel Valentine and the Spartans are on a mission this season to win the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Spartans made it to the Final Four, but lost to the Duke Blue Devils, who eventually won the championship. Of course, many of the players from last year's run at also back this year, including Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, and Gavin Schilling and are certainly looking to repeat last year's success.
And giving the Spartans a No. 2 seed is going to make the team even that much hungrier.
However, the key piece for this Michigan State team is the playmaking ability of Valentine. He can score, leads the team in APG (7.6), and consistently gets other teammates involved. For the most part, Michigan State will go as Valentine goes and so far this season, they've both trended in the right direction.
One other player to keep an eye on in this game will be Deyonta Davis, who had a pretty good performance during Michigan State's run in the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans are going to need him to step up even more in the frontcourt if they want to make a deep NCAA tournament run.
The Spartans likely won't have to worry too much about the Blue Raiders, but they should keep an eye on players like Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts (which is like the coolest name in college basketball). Look for the Spartans to dominate the Blue Raiders in every facet of the game and keep an eye on Denzel Valentine, who will be the best player on the floor by far.
The game will take place on Friday at 2:45 PM ET and it will be played at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.