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Michigan State started slow, but they eventually got things going and actually led by 23 points against Valparaiso with 10 minutes to go in their second round game. After taking their foot off the pedal, they almost let Valpo cover which just shows how unpredictable basketball lines can be. With the line currently Michigan State -5.5 at 5 Dimes Sportsbook in the Round of 32 game between Memphis and Michigan State, it's a little more friendly for the bettors.
Memphis also had a good showing in their opening-round game against Saint Mary's, but like the Spartans, kind of let up in the end. In fact, they were a last-second missed three-pointer away from losing. The Tigers don't have many wins over Big Six teams this year (one win over Tennessee), but their physicality and tempo will be a test for Michigan State.
Not many had faith in Memphis entering the tournament even though they sported a 30-4 overall record. Competition in Conference-USA was not very good and whenever they played someone tough out-of-conference, they usually lost (VCU, Minnesota, Louisville, Xavier). Now, it may be a little different as Memphis looked pretty good in their win over the Gaels, even if they fell apart at the end.
Unlike Valpo, the Tigers will actually have some strength down low in Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin to deal with the MSU bigs. While Adreian Payne had a rough opening game (seven turnovers), Derrick Nix had possibly one of the best games of his career tabbing 23 points and 15 rebounds (nine offensive). The battle in the paint is going to be much more intense on Saturday than it was on Thursday for Michigan State. Brad Waldow managed 17 points in the paint for Saint Mary's, but he was their only player that was successful against Memphis.
Possibly an even bigger matchup will be at point guard with Joe Jackson of Memphis and Keith Appling of Michigan State. The two lead each of their teams with almost identical stats on the season. The difference is that Jackson has been stroking his shot this year, a full 10 percent increase from last season. Appling still struggles at times, but he may be a better slasher. Of course, with the ball usually in their hands, turnovers come about which is something these two have problems with from time-to-time. It should also be noted that Appling aggravated his knee tendinitis in the Valpo game which may be something to look out for in Tom Izzo's pressers.
The x-factors in this game may come from the Spartans bench. Neither Denzel Valentine nor Travis Trice has been able to do all that much lately to contribute offensively. Valentine is a guy that can be a game changer off the bench with his size at the guard position, but his two tourney (Big Ten and NCAA) have resulted in just eight points along with five fouls and seven turnovers. Trice is 0-for-6 from the field with zero points in those two games. Chris Crawford of Memphis can also be thrown into that group of valuable bench players as he is a bigger guard that scores ten points per game.
Keep in mind that this game is played in Michigan so a lot of Spartans fans will be in attendance which can give an added boost. Of course, there will also be Wolverines fans there cheering on Memphis. The Tigers will need to play their best game of the season if they want to win this one.
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