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Michigan State

vs.

Kansas

College Basketball

Pick

3/19/17

This maybe isn't the matchup Kansas wanted to see, but nevertheless is going to be the one it'll get. Tom Izzo has had Bill Self's number more often than not when the teams have met up in recent history, but it's never been a matchup like this, with a 1-seed against a 9-seed. Of course, another worrying number is that Izzo is a ridiculous 21-4 in the second round and Elite 8 matchups.

Like has been the case all season, Kansas will roll with its guard-heavy lineup led by Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and Josh Jackson. To make matters more interesting, Jackson was an Izzo recruit and is from the Detroit area. The Jayhawks had no problems in their first game and should be well rested for this one. According to the numbers, they'll have a decent edge offensively, but Michigan State played high-end defense against Miami in the first round and if it can do so again, could mean this is another close one.

Mason and Graham should be able to do whatever they want against the backcourt of Tum Tum Nairn, Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid. The Spartans switch on top so no one will truly be matched up with one of those guards all game. Jackson will likely draw Miles Bridges and that will be the matchup everyone wants to see with both likely headed to the NBA. Both are about the same height and extremely athletic, but Bridges has the bulk advantage and that could mean more rebounds and points in the paint. While the guards are extremely important for KU, this game will be decided by what the frontcourt of Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg do against Nick Ward.

Ward finished with 19 points and seven rebounds against the Hurricanes and that was after a bad foul in the first seconds of the game. As long as he doesn't get into foul trouble, Michigan State will have a path to keeping this game close on the scoreboard. What helps is that Kansas doesn't often use its big men on offense with Lucas and Bragg there for rebounding and defense. Still, Lucas has been better in recent games and if he can keep Ward active defensively, then that will give Kansas at least some positives.

While Ward is extremely important, the Spartans also need to get production from their guards, which is what happened in the first round with Josh Langford (13 points), Matt McQuaid (7 points) and Alvin Ellis (7 points). But maybe the more important piece is point guard Cassius Winston, who finished with seven points and five assists off the bench. The problem for Winston is that he's a bit slower on his feet and that could lead to trouble defensively against Mason and company.

Kansas is the obvious favorite as the No. 1 seed and that's mostly due to having one of the best backcourts in the nation. But there's a reason they've been in so many close games this season and that's because they can get beat in the paint. If Bridges and Ward have success down low, this could be yet another game that gets decided in the final couple minutes with the Jayhawks barely escaping.

Our Pick - Michigan St +8

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