Things didn’t always look pretty for the Michigan State Spartans this season, but as the league heads to New York City, the team finds itself as the one seed. Michigan State won the outright Big Ten title and will now up to build on that in Madison Square Garden.
But can the Spartans get the job done? Let’s take a look.
As the one seed, Michigan State figures to have a pretty manageable opening round game. Wisconsin took down Maryland on Thursday afternoon and the Badgers will now move on to face the Spartans on Friday.
Interestingly, this is a matchup that actually happened last Sunday. While it’s rare to see teams face off so shortly after the original game, it isn’t unprecedented. Michigan State will be looking to replicate its road win in Madison on February 25th on Friday.
Given Michigan State’s performance so far this season, KenPom likes Michigan State to win rather comfortably on Friday. In fact, KenPom gives the Spartans an 83 percent chance to win and projects a final score of 72-61. Just about any statistical analysis is going to favor Michigan State in this matchup.
However, Wisconsin has been playing some improved basketball over the last month or so. The Badgers were actually the second-most efficient team in the league (behind Michigan) during the final month of the regular season and have won four of the team’s last five games. As such, this game could be a little more interesting than it looks on paper.
The key for Michigan State will be controlling Ethan Happ upfront. Happ had 13 points and six rebounds in the last meeting. Brad Davison also had a great game and finished with 30 points against the Spartans last Sunday.
-If They Advance
Should Michigan State take care of business on Friday, it will move on to face either Michigan or Nebraska on Saturday afternoon. The Huskers are the four seed in this year’s Big Ten Tournament and the Wolverines are the five seed.
On paper, Spartans fans should be hoping for the Huskers. Michigan State crushed Nebraska in the lone meeting between the two teams earlier this season and Nebraska’s advanced stats profile is much weaker than Michigan’s this season. Add in that Michigan beat Michigan State earlier this season and it’s easy to see why a matchup against Nebraska looks better for the Spartans on its face.
However, there’s little debating that Spartan fans will want some revenge against Michigan for the loss earlier this season. Moreover, Michigan State needs quality wins to have a shot at a one seed. Beating Michigan will do more from an RPI perspective than beating Nebraska. Of course, Michigan State would be favored against either.
Should Michigan State advance past Saturday, it would likely be looking at Ohio State or Purdue in the championship game. The Spartans lost to the Buckeyes, but beat the Boilermakers earlier this season. Expect a tight game where Michigan State would be a mild favorite before tipoff.
Michigan State sits in pretty good position heading into the Big Ten Tournament. That’s not surprising considering that the Spartans are a one seed, but it is important, nonetheless. The Spartans will face a team with a losing record on Friday and could very well face another team (Nebraska) rated outside the top 40 on KenPom on Saturday.
That’s a pretty manageable route to the championship game, on paper.
But it’s called March Madness for a reason. Every game figures to be a battle for the Spartans and we will see if the team has enough to live up to expectations in New York City. A one seed will hang in the balance.