No Big Ten team had a better time in this year’s Big Ten Tournament and the Michigan State Spartans are hoping to take their momentum from that event into the 2019 NCAA Tournament. However, with a tough region, fans are wondering whether the team can deliver on the hype.
So, can Michigan State get the job done? Let’s take a look.
As a two seed in the East Region, Michigan State figures to have a pretty manageable opening round matchup. The Spartans will face off against Bradley on Thursday night at 2:45 p.m. in a game that looks very unbalanced on paper.
Bradley enters the game ranked 165th nationally on KenPom and with an underwhelming 20-14 overall record. The Braves only have one win all season against a top 100 team on KenPom, which came against Penn State in late November.
For Bradley to pull off the upset, it’s going to need a huge performance from Darrell Brown in the backcourt and a hot shooting night from Nate Kennell on the wing. It’s also worth noting that the Braves rank 88th nationally in three-point percentage, so the team can get hot on certain nights. It will certainly take that to upset Michigan State.
If They Advance
Should Michigan State take care of business on Thursday afternoon against Bradley, it will face off against either Louisville or Minnesota on Saturday. Both project to be far more capable opponents than the team’s first round matchup.
The Spartans actually played both of these teams during the regular season, dropping a game to Louisville in November and beating Minnesota in February. Given this and the fact that the Cardinals are roughly 30 spots higher on KenPom, there’s little debating that Spartan fans will be hoping Minnesota advances out of this game.
After that, Michigan State projects to play LSU, Maryland, or the winner of the First Four game between Belmont and Temple in the Sweet 16. However, what’s interesting about this grouping is that none of these teams really stand out at the moment. LSU is reeling with off court issues, Maryland lost its Big Ten Tournament opener, and who knows how Belmont or Temple will come out of the First Four game. Those teams are always wildcards.
On paper, LSU looks like the most dangerous team, but how do you evaluate a team without its head coach? After that, I actually think Belmont is the most dangerous team in the group. Maryland has a ton of talent, but the Terps have already shown difficulties in beating the Spartans. Meanwhile, Belmont is an offensive firehouse. The Bruins can heat up at a moment’s notice. Not a recipe any opponent likes to see.
Should Michigan State advance to the Elite Eight, that’s when things could get really difficult. Duke sits on the other side of the region and projects as the favorite to advance to the Elite Eight. Other potential candidates include Virginia Tech and Mississippi State.
However, it’s the Blue Devils that stand out in this area. Duke is the number one overall seed in the bracket for a reason. The team is absolutely loaded and very arguably the most talented in the entire field. Michigan State will need massive performances from Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman to beat the Blue Devils. The key will likely depend on Duke’s three-point shooting, which has been inconsistent.
If the Spartans manage to make the Final Four, it’s anyone’s guess who would serve as potential opponents. Michigan State is on the same side as the West Region, so Gonzaga or Michigan project as the most likely Final Four opponents. Potential national championship opponents are Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Despite being placed in the same region as Duke, things are actually pretty manageable for the Spartans moving forward. Louisville could be tricky in the Round of 32, but nothing else looks too daunting prior to the Elite Eight.
Whether Michigan State can get past Duke remains to be seen, but the path to a matchup with the Blue Devils is definitely there. And the Spartans have plenty of firepower to make it a game. So, buckle up, and get ready for some magic.