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Michigan State

vs.

Miami

March Madness

Pick

3/17/17

These teams don't face each other often, but they met five years ago in the ACC/Big Ten challenge with Miami winning in Jim Larranaga's second season as head coach. Eleven years ago these coaches faced off in the 2006 NCAA tournament with Larranaga's George Mason taking down Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the first round. As expected, the spread is small, with the Hurricanes opening as -2 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

These teams have had similar seasons to a certain extent. The only reason MSU has more losses is because of the non-conference schedule it played, losing to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke. Miami lost its two toughest games against Iowa State and Florida, so there isn't much of a difference there. They both finished with 10-8 conference records, losing their final two road games of the season, winning their first conference tournament game and then losing the next. There's a reason these teams are in the 8-9 matchup because based on schedule, they mirror each other.

They also mirror each other on the court, both using the same kind of lineups. The difference from the outside is that the Hurricanes are a bit more athletic and lengthier, which may be what decides this game. The Spartans are coming off a game in which they struggled to score consistently because Minnesota's guards could defend them on the perimeter. Miami has the same formula with Ja'Quan Newton, Bruce Brown and Davon Reed. Going further, Anthony Lawrence can at least keep up with Miles Bridges physically, while Kamari Murphy has the size and length to deal with Nick Ward.

And that's the issue for the Spartans as they scored just 58 points in the loss to the Gophers. While Bridges and Ward could match their season averages, if they don't get anything from the rest of the lineup, mark this up as another loss. The key will be keeping Cassius Winston on the court, but if he can't stay in front of Newton on the defensive end, it could be problematic. Elsewhere, someone like Josh Langford, Alvin Ellis or Matt McQuaid will have to create and make shots.

But that's not to say Miami is an excellent offensive team, because again, they kind of mirror the Spartans outside of having a go-to guy in the post. The 'Canes run through their trio of guards and if they aren't hitting shots, then it could be trouble a la the 53 points scored against UNC. Newton can get to the hoop as much as he wants, but it'll come down to if Reed, Brown and Dejan Vasiljevic shoot well, which is also the case for MSU. With Lawrence not being a viable option offensively, it wouldn't be surprising if the Spartans switched defensive assignments up a little bit and moved Bridges to Reed. Reed is Miami's best shooter, but with the athletic Bridges on him, that could give him problems.

At the end of the day, this is as even of a matchup there is. Michigan State could get an edge if Ward finds early success against Murphy down low, but then Miami will have an edge with Newton and Brown at guard. Larranaga is 2-0 against Izzo, but both times Larranaga was the underdog. Now as a favorite, will that change for the Hurricanes?

Our Pick - Miami -2

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