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Final Four Preview: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech.

A matchup of similarities ensures a Final Four thriller.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Michigan State vs Duke Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

After a nail-biting win over the number one overall seed Duke in the East Regional final, the Spartans of Michigan State are Final Four bound yet again.

Tom Izzo’s No. 2 ranked Spartans upset No. 1 Duke Sunday in a thriller that went down to the last second.

Michigan State’s star player Cassius Winston received the inbound and was able to dribble out the remaining five seconds of the game to seal the tenth Final Four appearance for Michigan State.

Winston had a team high 20 points and shot just under 40 percent from the field.

Michigan State was also able to find more contributions from some players that are usually overshadowed by Winston’s play.

Sophomore forward Xavier Tillman nearly doubled his season average points per game with 20 and Kenny Goins dominated the offensive glass which gave Michigan State an obvious advantage over Duke’s athletic core.

These key contributions will need to continue if Michigan State wants to defeat their next opponent of Texas Tech in pursuit of a 2019 National Championship bid.

-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • Time/TV: 8:49 ET - CBS
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-1)

While Texas Tech sits at a No. 3 seed in the tournament, many reseeding reports put Texas Tech as the strongest remaining team in the tournament after defeating both No. 2 Michigan and No. 1 Gonzaga in the West Regional.

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver will be the man to stop offensively for the Red Raiders. With similar play to Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, Culver leads Texas Tech in points, rebounds and assists.

More similarly, these two stars average exactly the same amount of points per game at 18.9.

Not only do the star players of each team play similarly, Michigan State and Texas Tech match up play style and statistically very similarly and at sometimes very creepily. Here are some of the basic stats for the two teams:

  • Michigan State averages 78.3 points per game and Texas Tech averages 73.
  • Michigan State averages a +13.2 scoring margin and Texas Tech averages +13.9.
  • Michigan State averages a .484 field goal percentage and Texas Tech averages .471.
  • Michigan State averages 38 percent from three point range and Texas Tech averages 36.5 percent.
  • Michigan State averages 12.7 turnovers per game and Texas Tech averages 12.3.
  • Both of the teams even have the same average height of contributing players at 6’5”.

Reading these statistics and examining the matchup between these two teams shows just how big of a matchup this is for both teams because they are essentially playing themselves.

To hopefully prevail and earn a National Championship bid, each team will have to exploit the few areas in which the truly hold a statistical advantage over their opponent.

For Michigan State it will be making Texas Tech turn the ball over. While their turnover numbers are similar, the Spartans’ turnover margin sits at -2.4 whereas Texas Tech’s is a +3.4. If the Michigan State defense can force more turnovers from the Red Raiders, it could mean the difference between wining and losing.

We saw Michigan State’s ability to capitalize on turnovers with 24 points off turnovers versus Duke. For Texas Tech it will be generating steals. The Red Raiders average two more steals a game than the Spartans and scored 17 points off turnovers against Gonzaga.

Overall, the winner of this game is going to come down to who can beat the other at their own game, who can take advantage of the little mistakes made by their opponent and who can shine under the bright lights of the Final Four.

No matter what, we’re in for a thriller.

  • Pick to Win: Michigan State