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3/16 Big Ten Preview: Michigan State and Purdue Join the Party

The Spartans and Boilermakers conclude the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan State vs Michigan Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It is day two of the second round of the NCAA tournament. With two Big Ten teams playing yesterday, the other two take the floor today. It will be the two top-seeded Big Ten teams who are looking to move along in the big dance. First, they must unseat two upstart mid-major conference tournament champions. While these games may not seem as competitive as the Thursday contests, both of the lower seeds have something to offer.

Michigan State has arguably the hardest road to the Final Four out of any Big Ten team. If they were to make it to San Antonio, they will most likely have to defeat both Duke and Kansas along the way in a jam-packed Midwest region. On the other hand, Purdue is in control of their own destiny in the East region. Outside of a possible Elite Eight match-up with Villanova, their road seems relatively light. However, we know that the NCAA tournament is totally unpredictable.

Before all of that can take place, the Spartans and Boilermakers will have to defeat their respective foes today.

Game of the Day

#3 Michigan State Spartans vs #14 Bucknell Bison

  • Time/TV: 7:10 PM ET - CBS
  • Spread: Michigan State (-14)

Bucknell is a sneaky team coming out of the Patriot League. In fact, the Patriot League has a history of upsets in the NCAA Tournament. The most notable of these being Lehigh knocking off Duke in 2011-’12. Even Bucknell has flirted with upsets, almost defeating West Virginia last season and Butler in 2012-’13. After going 25-9 this season, the Bison coasted through the Patriot League season and tournament.

Though they lost all three of their match-ups against Power Five teams this season, they did hang around against North Carolina and Maryland. The Bison are led by senior forward Zach Thomas, who averages 20 points and nine rebounds per game on 46 percent shooting. Thomas also shoots a nice 37 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for Bucknell, Thomas will most likely be defended by Miles Bridges throughout most of the game. If they can limit Thomas in the scoring column, that will put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Bison’s other players.

For Michigan State, their advantage lies in their size differential. Bucknell really has no one who can match-up with Jaren Jackson or even Miles Bridges for that matter. Factor in the other Spartan weapons and the Bison may be overpowered from the outset. Look for Michigan State to take control early and never look back.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Michigan State

The Rest

#2 Purdue Boilermakers vs #15 Cal State Fullerton Titans

  • Time/TV: 12:40 PM ET - truTV
  • Spread: Purdue (-20)

Cal State Fullerton did not impress in their non-conference slate in relation to this game. They have a win against Harvard but have losses to USC, Georgia, and Saint Mary’s. So it does not bode especially well when you cannot defeat teams that made the NIT tournament. They also finished 10-6 in the Big West which was fourth in the regular season. Their saving grace was a great performance in the Big West tournament which ended with the Titans dominating UC Irvine in the tournament championship.

The Titans are led by junior guards Kyle Allman and Khalil Ahmad who combine to average roughly 35 points per game. However, this team has not seen postseason play of this magnitude in a long time. Cal State Fullerton last made the NCAA tournament in 2007-’08. So, the bright lights may be too much for the Titans.

Purdue obviously has the experience the Titans lack as far as NCAA tournament play goes. It is with this experience and all-around better talent that Purdue should take care of business. Cal State Fullerton also lacks the overall size to really compete with Isaac Haas down low. I love a good upset, but I do not think you will find that here.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Purdue