clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Matchup to Watch: #9 Michigan State Spartans vs. #1 Kansas Jayhawks

This game starts with a battle of star freshmen wings.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Michigan State vs Miami Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of Michigan State Spartans versus Kansas Jayhawks in the second round didn’t seem like something plausible in the beginning of the year, but here we are.

These teams got to this round by using unique styles of play but the thing they both have in common is that the teams won their first round matchups in dominating fashion.

Michigan State defeated the Miami Hurricanes by a convincing 20 point margin. The Spartans went into halftime leading by 11 points before eventually winning by the final score of 78-58. The team had three people score in double digits, with freshman big-man Nick Ward leading the way with 19 points.

The No. 1 seeded Jayhawks did what they were supposed to do as a top seed and put up 100 points against No. 16 seed UC-Davis. The Aggies never had a chance and from opening tip-off the Jayhawks controlled every facet of the game. Kansas’ five starters reached double digits, led by Frank Mason III, who added 22 points and eight assists, while nine of the 12 players that touched the floor scored a point.

These are teams at this stage of the season that know their identities and heading into this game are being led by two of the top freshmen the country has to offer. So let’s not sugarcoat it and let’s be honest, the matchup everyone will be watching is between Spartans Miles Bridges and Jayhawks Josh Jackson.

In their first round games, Bridges had 18 points and nine rebounds while shooting approximately 67 percent from the field and 50 percent from the three-point line. In just 23 minutes of action, Jackson did just as well by scoring 17 points and adding seven rebounds while also shooting about 67 percent from the field.

From the tip-off or through the flow of the game, these future NBA-level talents will be checking each other at some point and even when they’re not they’ll be the focus of the oppositions defensive scheme.

Also, the depth of the Jayhawks versus the inexperience of the Spartans will be something to keep an eye on because it has been a constant problem that’s plagued the Spartans all season long when matched up against top teams. The Spartans went 2-6 against ranked opponents in the regular season, taking losses to Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, Baylor and Purdue twice. Every team mentioned is a four seed or higher in the tournament.

On Saturday, Wisconsin proved they could make the game into their own and dictate the pace to upset the top seeded Villanova Wildcats. So, do the Spartans have it in them to do the same and bust a lot more brackets or will the Jayhawks talent and depth be too much to overcome?